Unless you live in a plastic bubble, the chances are that your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro will quickly accumulate smudges, dirt, and debris. This can impact even the most conscientious MacBook owners — the sort of folks who wash their hands thoroughly before they get anywhere near their keyboard and never touch their screen. Most of us aren’t nearly that diligent, and after a week or two of regular use, you’ll be dealing with oily keycaps, dust, and dirt in between them, and smudges on your screen resulting from closing it against that keyboard. However, the good news is that it’s pretty easy to keep your MacBook looking pristine, and you don’t even need any special equipment or cleaning solutions for this. Read on for five tips for cleaning your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro.
Avoid Cleaning Wipes
In most cases, simply dampening a microfibre or other lint-free cloth in a little bit of warm (not hot) water should be enough regular maintenance to keep your screen and keyboard clean! You’ll probably be surprised at how well this works.
You often don’t need to use any cleaning solutions, although a little bit of mild detergent can be handy if you’re dealing with a more persistent smudge or stain.
Apple also says you can “moisten the cloth with a 70-percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution,” but make sure that’s all you’re putting on it. So avoid cleaning wipes entirely unless you are sure they contain nothing other than a 70 percent IPA.
Many cleaning wipes contain hydrogen peroxide or bleach, which can damage the finish of your MacBook’s aluminum surfaces and eat away at the anti-reflective coating on the screen.
Similarly, Apple says to stay away from “aerosol sprays, solvents, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide that might damage the finish.”
Don’t Spray Anything on Your MacBook
Avoid the temptation to use a spray bottle on your screen or keyboard — even if it just contains water. That liquid can seep into your MacBook, damaging the internal components.
This is true even if your MacBook is powered off. Technically speaking, a MacBook is never truly “off” unless you open it up and disconnect the battery. There’s always power circulating inside, so don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because you’ve powered down your machine.
Instead, moisten (don’t saturate) a lint-free cloth under some warm water, and then wipe down your MacBook with the damp cloth. Distilled water is even better if you have it, but ordinary tap water is usually fine; just make sure it’s not too hot.
Lock Your Keyboard for Easy Cleaning
Apple’s M1 MacBooks like to stay powered on. They’ll turn on so easily that it’s a nuisance to clean them. Even though Apple recommends that you “shut down your computer and unplug the power adapter” before cleaning it, that advice is virtually impossible to follow with an Apple Silicon MacBook Air or MacBook Pro since pressing anything on the keyboard will power it back on.
That’s not such a big problem for cleaning the screen, although if you have a Touch Bar equipped MacBook Pro, you’ll need to be careful not to accidentally touch that with your cloth, as even the Touch Bar is enough to wake up or power on your MacBook Pro.
For cleaning the keyboard, however, this will quickly get downright annoying. It’s pretty hard to clean a keyboard without pressing any keys, especially when trying to clean between them. You could run your battery down to zero to ensure your MacBook stays off, but fortunately, there’s a better way.
The free KeyboardCleanTool utility is designed with this exact purpose in mind. Fire it up, and it will lock down everything on your keyboard except your trackpad until you click the button to unlock it again.
You don’t need to worry about cleaning your keyboard with the power on as long as you’re not spraying liquid directly onto the keys, which is a bad idea anyway. Use a damp cloth to wipe down your keys and clean between them, and you’ll be fine.
Lay Your Screen Flat
One trick that will make it really easy to clean your MacBook screen is to tilt the computer back 90 degrees so that the screen lays flat and the keyboard is upright where the screen would typically be.
We recommend laying down a soft cloth below the screen to avoid scratching the lid. Since all the weight is on the keyboard side of the MacBook, you’ll need to keep it closer to a 90-degree angle — and you may also want to prop the bottom against something for stability.
However, you’ll find it’s much easier to clean your screen uniformly in this position. You also don’t need to worry about water rolling down the screen and into the hinge area.
Just wipe it gently with a damp, lint-free cloth. If you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, be careful not to tap that while cleaning, or your MacBook will wake up or boot up. You won’t damage your MacBook by cleaning it while the screen is lit up, but it’s much easier to see smudges and dirt when it’s dark.
Don't Be Afraid to Vacuum Dust and Debris with a Soft Brush
If you have an appropriate small brush attachment for your vacuum cleaner, you can use it on your MacBook to eliminate any dirt, dust, or debris that may have accumulated between the keys or in the recessed hinge area.
Don’t be afraid to use a vacuum on your MacBook keyboard, but just make sure that you’re using a soft, smaller brush designed for more delicate surfaces — and of course, use a light touch.