41

I don't have any cleaning product right now at home, and the only alcohol I have is vodka.

Can it be used to clean my keyboard and trackpad, or will it damage my laptop? (I think that alcohol is often used to clean computers, but I'm not sure that it's the same kind of alcohol)

  • 46
    Are you in such a hurry to clean your keyboard? – nohillside Jan 9 '17 at 12:49
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    Due to college I can safely say do not spill half a bottle on it, it will damage it. – DasBeasto Jan 9 '17 at 14:25
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    Better drink the stuff until you wear "wodka" goggles, then recheck if your keyboard/trackpad really needs cleansing... – klanomath Jan 9 '17 at 14:35
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    Had you had any vodka to drink when you thought of this question ;) – jlars62 Jan 9 '17 at 16:47
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    Only if you use iVodka, which requires a special dongle known as the iSpout , available from Apple for $ 79.95 . – Carl Witthoft Jan 10 '17 at 14:32
59

The type of alcohol is less important than what other contaminants are in it.

Even strong vodka is 50% water and unknown contaminants.

After many comments & other answers on what may or may not be in vodka -
From The Chemistry of Vodka – Structure, Additives, and Impurities

The final factor is additives. Though we think of vodka as just ethanol and water, it’s actually permitted in a number countries to add small amounts of other additives. Mostly, these are to improve the smoothness of the vodka, so they’re likely to be found in higher amounts in cheaper vodkas containing more impurities. Compounds used for this purpose include citric acid, glycerol, and sugar.

I'd wait until you have something better to clean it with, like perhaps a micro-fibre cloth [3 for a pound/buck/shekel in any supermarket] Get the general purpose fluffy ones with little loops of fibre rather than the smooth ones specifically for glass, as they're a bit hard for plastic.

Wet under the cold tap, then wring out as dry as you can possibly get it. It should be dry enough that you can barely tell it wets the surface... no dribbles.
Wipe gently, repetition is better than force.

Cheaper than vodka too... & you're even less likely to want to suck the cloth afterwards ;-)

See also Will alcohol or soap damage plastic or rubber? from Chemistry Stack Exchange for another good reason I recommend nothing more than water & a micro-fibre cloth.

  • 1
    What country considers vodka to be strong at 50%? – Stephan Bijzitter Jan 10 '17 at 20:03
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    "market strength" vodka is 40%... in old-style, 80° proof. I'm not sure that when I first answered this question that there would be so much discussion on the quality of the vodka, & frankly, it's completely unimportant. My message was to not clean your expensive computer with random chemicals. I'm now waiting for someone to post a question asking if tequila would be better or worse... :/ – Tetsujin Jan 10 '17 at 20:10
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    @Tetsujin tequila is always better at initially solving the problem it generally makes things worse in the long term though. Many rustic ballads have been written as a result of scientific experimentation. – Freiheit Jan 10 '17 at 21:50
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    +1 for "you're even less likely to want to suck the cloth afterwards". – Akash Agarwal Jan 12 '17 at 10:22
12

Vodka is distilled, the fermented sugars are left behind from distilling. There are zero sugars in vodka. I don't know where "Tetsujin" got his statistic that it's 50% unknown contaminants. Vodka is mostly ethanol alcohol plus water and a bit of glycerol.

There are different kinds of alcohol produced from fermenting. Ethanol alcohol is the most drinkable kind. There's other alcohols that can be poisonous or give a rough taste, but the amount is very small. The better vodkas have been filtered to remove these, so they taste smoother. However for your purposes, this doesn't matter.

It's probably better than water for cleaning. Find out for sure by spraying/wiping some on glass, and see if there's a residue. The alcohol is a bit more of a solvent, and will evaporate faster than plain water.

  • 16
    See: compoundchem.com/2016/06/08/vodka Quote: "it’s actually permitted in a number countries to add small amounts of other additives... ..Compounds used for this purpose include citric acid, glycerol, and sugar." I think Tesujin's intention was to say that 50% (up to 60%, really) of most vodka is not ethanol but composed of a mixture of water and other substances in an unknown proportion. – Todd Wilcox Jan 10 '17 at 3:37
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    "It's probably better than water for cleaning" No, it absolutely isn't. Try this experiment. Slop some vodka on your nice shiny kitchen surface. Put a couple of glasses on the spillage. Wait until it's completely dried. Try to lift the glasses. If there is any resistance whatsoever to you picking them up, then you don't want that residue in or on your expensive computer. – Tetsujin Jan 10 '17 at 20:15
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    Um if you put glasses on a counter wet just from water this is likely to happen too. – Mr. Boy Jan 11 '17 at 12:38
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    @Mr.Boy If water on a kitchen counter can stick glasses to it when it dries, either the counter needs cleaning or the water shouldn't be drunk or cleaned with. – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 19:07
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    @Mr.Boy It takes quite a while for enough potable water solutes to accumulate. One spill of water, dried, shouldn't adhere anything to anything. Many hard alcohols, on the other hand, will stick glassware to a counter with a single dried spill. – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 21:29
4

OF COURSE you can clean your keyboard with vodka. However, the keyboard may show ill effects after the treatment just like anyone having vodka, and - if excessive amount is applied, the keyboard (and notebook) will die.

In contrast with humans, the keyboard won't suffer so much from the alcohol within the vodka. It is the water, sugars and other constituents of vodka, that have ill effects on keyboards.

For cleaning keyboards, the best is to use a paper towel or cloth, damp (never wet or dripping!) with very mild detergent, and light cleaning movements. If you have patience, then after 3-5 minutes of such cleaning, you'll have a shiny keyboard.

I hope this helps!

3

Vodka still contains a significant amount of water - and while water is good for you and alcohol not so much, the reverse is true in case anything gets into the computer.

Be aware that some apple products contain water damage detectors that could be used against you in a warranty case even if you didn't cause the actual problem with your cleaning.

3

I once tried cleaning a keyboard from a white MacBook, circa 2008 vintage, with alcohol (not sure if ethanol or isopropyl). This irreversibly damaged the key contacts and half the keyboard stopped working, which was only fixable through replacing the keyboard.

A lightly water-damped cloth is a safer bet.

2

50% isopropyl alcohol works great, but it does have high water content so try not to let too much run down the keys into the keyboard. You can try 90% isopropyl to reduce the amount of water for the aluminum base and/or stubborn stains on the keys.

1

In general, no, you should not use vodka on your lappy. You probably should even be careful using isopropyl alcohol solution on laptops, too, given that it can destroy certain rubbers and plastics.

You really ought to use a product designed for this purpose. I mention such a product over on Retro in an answer for cleaning edge connectors, but it is safe and suitable for any electronics with or without mechanical parts.

The brand name I am most familiar with is "CRC QD Contact Cleaner". To quote the datasheet:

Ideal for telephones, PCs, relays, edge connectors, tape heads, buss bars, circuits, contacts, printed circuit boards, switches and circuit breakers

But I've worked at places where it was used to clean keyboards (for example, on PCs or CNC machines on a shop floor), too. You spray liberally and let the excess boil out (it has a much lower boiling point than alcohol) taking all the gunk with it.

Similar products are found industry wide, and your Mac was probably sprayed with, or dipped in, something like it several time during manufacturing and shipping. If you must use some sort of solvent on electronics, this is the stuff to use.

There is a variety that has a light lubricant used for wipers and potentiometers, which you don't want. Other than that, any of the well-know industry standard solutions, now easily fetched from online stores, will work. 

  • I have no idea why someone deleted my perfectly reasonable answer, so I expanded on it. The answers the question posed and goes on to tell you what the entire industry that makes electronics -- including Apple and Foxconn -- uses for this exact purpose. – user169352 Jan 12 '17 at 3:35
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I don't know is it possible to clean or not, but with VODKA answer for sure is NO. It's not worth it ;)

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protected by Tetsujin Jan 10 '17 at 17:30

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