How to fix a sticky laptop keyboard

11 Mar 2009

All 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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