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Posted on March 11th, 2009 by Jonathan Bray

How to fix a sticky laptop keyboard

WD40 - miracle cureAll laptop owners will experience at some point in their lives the sinking feeling, and calamitous consequences associated with a major drink spillage. If you haven’t, you soon will; it’s inevitable – a technological rite of passage, if you will.

It’s happened to me several times (I must be unlucky) and I haven’t always been able to blame it on the kids. First time out, a hot cup of tea and a twisted phone cord was to blame.

Either way, the result was one very dead laptop; I’m afraid I failed to act quickly enough and my dear old ThinkPad T20 went pop. There’s nothing much you can do about that sort of particularly disheartening outcome apart from go out and buy a new laptop – or, as in my case, order a new one from IT – but if you do manage to yank the power cord out and eject the battery before the offending liquid oozes its insidious way to the more sensitive parts of your portable, there are other consequences to think about.

After my two-year-old daughter managed to spill apple juice all over the keyboard of my trusty Asus A8 a couple of years ago, I thought I’d got away with it. But, as time went by a sticky P key and Page Up and Page Down keys that responded as if glue rather than a healthy fruit drink had been involved began to irritate and irk. Apple juice, once dry, is very sticky stuff.

I tried various methods to fix the problem, but none of them worked. I soaked cotton buds in isopropyl alcohol and ran them under the keys – this worked for about half a day before the stickiness resumed. I attempted to prise the keys out, one by one – but decided this was too risky when the first key I tried failed to click back into place properly. Frankly, I’d given up and, until a couple of months ago, the laptop was languishing in a corner doing nothing.

Then, all of a sudden, it hit me: why not try WD40?

This is the closest thing the modern world has to a miracle cure. Unlike those dubious remedies peddled by travelling con-artists in the old wild west, though, it’s is the genuine article. It loosens, it lubricates, it cleans, protects and helps you start the car. Could it fix broken laptops too?

In one final, desperate act, I soaked the keyboard in the sweet-smelling lubricant (my laptop now smells like a new bike as a result), mopped up the excess and waited for it to do its stuff. I wasn’t hoping for much if I’m honest, and even if it did work I thought that a few weeks down the line it would most likely have eaten away at the internals of the keyboard.

But no. A few hours after the initial application, all the afflicted keys were moving freely and without restraint. And they’ve continued in this unfettered manner to this very day, with nary a hint of claggy drag or foot-in-the-muddedness. “Hallelujah!”, “Eureka!” and other assorted euphoric exclamations followed.

Of course, if you take my word for it and treat your own afflicted laptop in the same way I won’t be held responsible for the consequences. Suffice to say it worked for me, and I’ll always remember to keep a can to hand – just in case of emergency.

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15 Responses to “ How to fix a sticky laptop keyboard ”

  1. Nick Says:
    March 11th, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    One evening, I tipped a mug of tea over my then new laptop. I had just enough time to think “Rats” (stronger words may have crossed my mind) before everything went blank and very quiet.

    I quickly dashed over to another computer and googled for my laptop’s service manual. With the aid of the service manual and swiss army knife, I had the laptop down to its component parts in a matter of minutes.

    After arranging all parts nicely on the window sill (it was a hot summer night), I reassembled them the following morning, pressed the power button and miracle of miracles, it started and has worked without any issues ever since (two years ago!). In fact, I’m writing this message from it. There are, however, some tea stains on certain keys!

  2. Paul B Says:
    March 12th, 2009 at 1:18 am

    I’ve just fixed (I say I, it was really my Dad) a stubborn, stiff, door with the help of WD40. As you say, it really is a modern miracle. Shame it can’t be used on the human body, as I have a creaking left hip that needs lubricating :)

  3. Jeev Says:
    April 1st, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Jonathan
    I spilled some beer on my laptop keyboard last weekend…I have since removed it and removed each key to clean underneath and then left it and the open laptop to dry next to a fresh air vent…but still I have a few keys not working…
    Based on the WD40 method…how did you soak the keyboard…did you immerse it completely or did you spray the keyboard and left it to settle? Also did you spray the ribbon as well?…thanks for your help.

  4. Mack Says:
    November 19th, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    When an unexpected splash of root beer bathed part of my wife’s Toshiba laptop, she was ready to write it off. My first thought was WD-40. Wifey was dubious, so I checked the web. Sure enough… WD40 was the answer in many places.

  5. Roy the red Says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Just about to send back my laptop under warranty thought I’d use very small amount WD40 “perfect”.
    The number of times this product has helped me out “hundreds”

  6. Roy the red Says:
    May 10th, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Sorry forgot say the prob was sticking i key

  7. Tony Says:
    June 26th, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Far better than WD40, try Isopropyl Alcohol spray. It disperses liquid – the “smelling like a push bike” comment refers to the residue left with WD40. Failing that most keyboards are quickly replaced – try or for new ones.

  8. adnj Says:
    December 25th, 2012 at 12:58 am

    WD40 is packed with solvents that removes many types of sticky residue. After the lappy had been sitting there for a while, using WD40 was sheer genius.

  9. Chuck Says:
    October 13th, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Do you soak the keyboard over night w/WD 40? Is it a simple spray, or a major soak?
    Also, I assume power must be off, but what about the battery- should I take it out?
    Don’t know what happened- one day keyboard worked fine, next day about 70% of keys stick or dont work- does Humidity make a difference? We have a cold fron coming through!

  10. Lorent Says:
    January 18th, 2014 at 9:39 am

    I was drinking tea and i accidentally hit it and it was over my keyboard i immiedately took the laptop head-down and i waited until there was no tea droping anymore , and it worked perfectly today i got up and 5 keys are sticking .. does wd40 or isopropyl alcohool works on it ?

  11. Keltie Says:
    January 24th, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    On the left side of my keyboard, CAPS LOCK, SHIFT, CTRL & FN keys were sticking. Without thinking, I did the tiniest of sprays with WD40 on the SHIFT key. It was more than I wanted, so I got a Q-tip and sprayed the WD40 on the cotton, then went under and around the sticky keys.
    I can’t believe how well it worked! I was almost at the point of removing the keys, but I know how hard it is to snap the keys back on.

  12. Darlene Says:
    February 11th, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    When I boot up my laptop the screen is black and say’s key 40 stuck.
    I used the air spray, which is key 40 so I can raise it and clean under it? Help !

  13. Aaron Says:
    February 24th, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Will the liquid from the wd not ruin the keyboard? I’m scared to try this but gotta do somethin!

  14. Robert Says:
    August 22nd, 2014 at 9:52 am

    Regarding the comment about using wd40 on the body an old friend used to spray his knees with wd40 it warmed them up he had arthritis

  15. Skeldon Says:
    September 20th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    I had a really sticky right shift key and I just had a thought and got some wd40 and sprayed it under the keyboard and yet again it was brilliant!! It works perfectly. Isopropyal alcohol will work to (in theory) but sadly I have none in stock at the moment.


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