Cleaning a 2021 MBP M1 Pro keyboard

The Apple site doesn’t have any really great resources for keyboard cleaning the 2021 MBP M1 Pro keyboard. The only page I could find was help in cleaning an unresponsive keyboard. And that article was written in 2017.

My keyboard works just fine (it’s only 3 weeks old) and to the naked eye it looks clean, but if I look through my iPhone camera up close I can see there is dust and tiny particles and even slight smudges all over the place.

I’m worried about things getting under the keys too, since there is space where you can see light leakage.

What’s the best way of cleaning the keyboards? I’ve been spraying with an air duster, but that still leaves all the stuff I mentioned.

Last time I checked, Apple’s recommendation was “a damp cloth.” I’ll occasionally use compressed air too, but I feel like there’s a danger in too frequent/vigorous cleaning of making the problem worse by chasing stuff deeper into the keyboard mechanics than it otherwise would have gone.

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Note that 2017 was smack in the middle of the “Butterfly” keyboard debacle (introduced in 2015 and ended in 2020). Other keyboards should not start failing simply due to dust.

I wouldn’t worry about smudges on the key-caps. They’re purely cosmetic. When that gets bad enough to bother me, I use a slightly-damp paper towel to clean them. Don’t use any kind of solvent, since that may damage the paint and/or plastic.

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Is this different from your previous MBP? Did that keyboard have any problems?

Over the long term, yes. The first keyboard I had replaced just at the end of my three year AppleCare because keys were wearing down. It worked well though.

The second one I replaced last April because of battery bending issues and keys wearing down and the keyboard wasn’t working well.

Currently the keyboard on the old MBP works well, but two keys are wearing down already.

Maybe instead of an air duster some tiny vacuum might be better, to prevent pushing stuff under the keys?

I meant, did the keyboard on your previous MBP have problems due to dust or dirt getting under the keys?

I could be wrong, but as far as I know, this has never been an issue with any Mac laptop except for the ones with the butterfly keyboards.

I’ve seen those. Sounds like the least intrusive solution.

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Not as far as I know.

I agree with @Shamino have always used one slighthly damp paper towel and one dry to collect moisture right after. If I get something very sticky, I use a small drop of mild hand soap on the slightly wet paper towel.

Apple does recommend against using paper towels. See How to clean your Apple products - Apple Support for Apple’s specific cleaning recommendations, including the advice to avoid using paper towels.

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Paper towels are abrasive when dry. Not so much when wet. I wouldn’t use them on the screen, but they should be fine on the keyboard or body as long as you use a bit of common sense.

For getting grease or other dirt off the keys themselves, I recommend KeyboardCleanTool which is a free app by the same developer who wrote Better Touch Tool. It’s a very simple app that temporarily turns off (and back on when done) the keyboard so that you can rub the keys (gently!) without having to shut down the computer. It’s available at - Great Tools for your Mac! It runs fine on Monterey (and earlier versions) and on an M1 Mac as well as Intel.


Agreed that vacuuming seems better than blowing, but the vacuum is sucking air and dirt from somewhere.

PS. I don’t like grubby keyboards. So maybe every few months I use the the old damp rag approach. Not paper though as paper is more likely to shred. And old rag since it’s less likely to have loose fibers. Rags are usually less abrasive than paper too. I used to use a wet sponge, but I did destroy one keyboard that way.

Unplugging or turning off keyboard helps. I’ve used KeyboardCleanTool, but can’t always remember what it’s called or if I still have it installed.

Yes. It’s sucking air and dirt from your keyboard!

I would, however, look for a vacuum cleaner designed for use on computer keyboards. A large vacuum (like you might use on your floors and furniture), with its high power and large hose could suck loose key-caps off the keyboard.

I’d also be worried about static discharge from it. Once upon a time, office supply catalogs used to advertise keyboard vacuums as being anti-static, but they seem pretty rare these days. The only “ESD safe” vacuum cleaners I found on Amazon start at $110 and can get very espensive - a bit overkill if you don’t have an electronics lab you want to keep clean.

Great idea.

For my desktop systems, I disconnect the USB keyboard to avoid spurious keystrokes.

For laptops, I lock the screen (if I don’t want to shutdown) - the computer beeps a lot during the cleaning, but the keystrokes don’t do anything until I enter my password to unlock the screen. I think KeyboardCleanTool is a much more elegant solution to this problem.

This really should be built-in to all devices these days, but so far I’ve only seen a “screen cleaning” mode on a Honeywell thermostat. You go through a menu to enter this mode, and the touch-screen locks-out all keystrokes for 60 seconds, giving you plenty of time to safely clean it. I think Apple (and Google, and everybody else) should provide a feature like this on devices with touch-screens.

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Excellent! Just downloaded & used it. Thank you for the pointer!

We have a battery operated one bought off ebay. it is really small, was cheap, & not very powerful, but powerful enough to get at the bits around the keys (My Wife often has crazy deadlines & has to eat at the Desk!)

I don’t want to sound sarcastic, but with a brand-new MacBook Pro, you got 90 days of hardware support from Apple. Why not call Apple at 1-800-APLCARE and get the official answer?

I’ve had terrible luck with Apple support for over a year now. The support system seems to have gone downhill. Most of the time I end up explaining things to them, or they simply go hunting for links I already know about and send me those. Nobody seems trained at all.

If you live near an Apple Store, Best Buy or other big box electronics store, you can book a face to face Genius appointment. You do have to go through something resembling the third degree on the phone to book the appointment, but if you stick to your guns you should get one. I’ve found the in person help from the stores to be better than the phone help, though I have gotten stuck with some awful ones. But given the state of the pandemic, you might have to book an a few days in advance.

But I have found the caliber of Geniuses overall to not be what it was a few years ago.