This isn’t some unheard of story. Apple customers have been known to bring home brand new MacBooks, open the perfectly wrapped box, start typing on the keyboard for a few minutes and find that a key or two is already stuck.
It is a minor annoyance that can turn into a big deal quickly, especially when you depend on your keyboard, like typing Gizbuyer Guide articles.
In early 2016, Apple launched its new “butterfly” keyboard design with a slimmer mechanism that allowed them to build thinner laptops. Although it looks stealth, these keyboards have been known to have random keys that stick with just minor bits of dust, skip, or not even type at all. So how can you unstick MacBook butterfly keyboard keys?
Open the clamshell and tilt the MacBook keyboard so that it is almost vertical at a 75 degree angle. Using a can of compress air, gently spray across the keyboard keys in a sweeping left-to-right motion. Rotate the keyboard to the right and to the left and repeat the same sweeping spray procedure. Do not use any liquids or harsh cleaning chemicals to clean under the keyboard.
Having stuck keys on your MacBook keyboard can be a real project killer. Gently cleaning the butterfly keyboard yourself can save you some money and from an unnecessary trip to the Genius Bar at the Apple store and having them fix a potentially easy DIY issue.
Below, I explain in more detail on how you can dislodge your MacBook butterfly keys further, and some ways that you can prevent sticky keys from happening to you in the future.
Which MacBook Models Are Affected?
In order to make new MacBooks smaller, lighter, and thinner, Apple launched a fresh keyboard design in early 2016.
Using a “butterfly” mechanism, Apple was able to design a thin key that can travel far less on a spring in order to hit the pad than the existing regular “scissor” design key that older models used.
The benefit of having a keyboard where the keys have less travel is that more room could be freed up to make the body of their laptops slimmer.
However, the 1st generation butterfly keyboard had notorious problems right out the gate because there was a lack of protection between outside elements and the sensitive mechanism below the keyboard surface.
This lead to many customers noticing keys that would stick, double tap, skip, or not work entirely.
To combat this initial design hiccup, Apple launched a 2nd generation spring mechanism for the keyboard, and a more recent 3rd generation that included a silicone barrier to protect the underside from the outside environment.
Despite Apple’s efforts, the notorious “sticky key” issue can be found across all MacBook models from early 2016 all the way to the writing of this post for the latest 2019 models, including the New MacBook, Air, and Pro units.
How To Fix A Stuck MacBook Keyboard
Before beginning, you want to make sure you have the right tools for this job, which are fairly easy to find.
First, you want to grab a compressed air canister, preferably one that has an included nozzle attachment. Since you’ll want more than one to stay ahead of the game in the future, you can grab this 4 pack of air cans from Amazon for under $20. These dusters also include nozzle attachments so you can direct air in the trouble spots that matter most.
Then you’ll want to have a dry lint-free cloth handy to wipe away any debris that may come out of your MacBook.
When trying to unstick your keys, you want to take the least aggressive approach first and then work your way up. Taking this route reduces the risk of harming any sensitive mechanisms, and further repairs that will lead to an Apple store visit.
Follow these steps in order so that you gently dislodge and remove any particles that may be the sticky key culprits:
- Open the clamshell and tap all or just your problem keys to crush and dislodge any stuck particles
- Carefully turn your keyboard upside down and tap again softly from the backside
- Check your keys to see if the tapping fixed the issue. If not, proceed to step 4.
- Lift the keyboard so that it is almost vertical (Apple recommends a 75 degree angle) and grab your air duster
- Gently spray over and around the crevice of the keys in a sweeping left to right motion while working your way downwards
- Rotate your keyboard to the right while angled and repeat the same sweeping motion while spraying with your air canister
- Rotate your keyboard one more time to the left and repeat the same sweeping spray procedure again
- Lastly, wipe any remaining particles or dust away from the keyboard with a dry lint-free cloth
What If My MacBook Keyboard Is Still Stuck?
Tapping the keys and using the air canister to blow the particles out from underneath should help unstick any keys that you found, especially if you have a 2nd or 3rd generation design.
Sometimes the keys are more stuck than we think, and it requires a more thorough look to fix the issue.
If that is the case with your MacBook, your next step should be to take it to the Genius Bar at the Apple store so that they can do a deeper clean, repair, or replacement of your keyboard.
If you find that using the air sweep procedure didn’t work, you should not try to remove any keys yourself or use harsh liquid cleaning chemicals.
This can harm your keyboard beyond just a deeper clean, and can result in a more costly repair at your local Apple store.
How To Prevent Your MacBook Keyboard Keys From Getting Stuck
Once your MacBooks keyboard keys are clean and stuck-free, you want to make sure that the problem never happens again.
Following these steps will certainly help save you money down the road and keep your MacBook running in top shape for years to come.
First, you should maintain a regular cleaning routine for your MacBook at least once a week. This includes wiping outside and inside surface areas of your laptop with a dry lint-free cloth and using your air canister to gently remove particles that may have dropped inside.
You also want to keep your MacBook away from dusty or dirty environments as much as possible. This will keep your computer clean from any foreign debris and make your weekly routine that much easier.
Just like renting a book from the library, you also want to keep food clear from your MacBook, especially food that’s known to drop crumbs. Dust is one issue when it gets underneath these sensitive butterfly keys, but spills or debris from drinks and food can make the matter a whole lot worse.
Believe it or not, our hands also carry various forms of debris, including crumbs from that dinner you just ate, grease, and (yikes) even dead skin cells. It’s best to keep your hands as clean as possible while your using your MacBook keyboard so that debris from your fingers and palms don’t make their way underneath.
Keeping a regular cleaning and preventative maintenance routine will extend the life of your MacBook tremendously, and save you any costly visits to the Apple store. Remember to keep that air duster handy.