The grease stain on a black keyboard looks awful. What are the recommended steps to remove the grease?

I have found some posts online suggesting pure alcohol as a solvent. (one such CNET forum)

Is this advice trustworthy?

  • Yeah, that happened with the unibody macbook's keyboards. I'm still got the nice keyboard from the non-unibody :-)
    – gentmatt
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 9:26
  • Actually, I don't see how alcohol is supposed to help here. Isn't the soft surface rather the result of rough surface being taken off as fine dust? Cleaning would only help if grease stays on the keyboard. But when you look sideways at the keyboard, do you see that the keyboard has a little - very little - dent where it's smooth? That would confirm the first thought.
    – gentmatt
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 9:31
  • Which model MacBook Air? Backlit keys or no?
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 12:04
  • Oh .. no backlit keys
    – ajreal
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 12:17
  • Once you clean it, I suggest you get the Moshi Clearguard. Not only it keeps the keyboard clean (I have one), it's also easy to clean and it keeps water and other liquids outside (from accidental spilling). I got one when my kids where old enough for spilling but still to young to understand they have to keep away from my laptop. It's great!
    – Gio
    Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 16:34

5 Answers 5


The ideal solution (that I've found after years of cleaning Apple products) is not to use alcohol directly. Instead, mix it with water. The proportion to mix is simple:

  • Three parts isopropyl alcohol
  • Seven parts water

I use a bottle cap, fill it with alcohol three times then the same cap with water seven times (you can use something bigger if you want more).

With that solution, you're safe to clean all your mac and the alcohol presence guarantees a slow but secure grease removal without leaving the typical alcohol stain/residue that occurs when you use pure alcohol. Also the low concentration makes it safer against things that may get damaged by the usage of pure alcohol like rubber compounds or human skin.

For occasional cleanup you can use the simple, free and excellent Keyboard Cleaner. All it does is make your screen black (so you can clean it better) and lock your keyboard so you don't trigger accidental keys while cleaning. Of course, you can always shutdown the computer too.

Regarding products like iKlear and such, they are ok, in fact I'd recommend you always get a bottle of iKlear around, it's good to have and their small wet towels are very handy for quick clean. Remember never to use toilet/kitchen paper, use instead any "approved" cloth (like iKlear, TomBihn, etc.) the "micro fibers" are designed to not scratch your surface.

I wouldn't use pure alcohol.

  • I have had my macs cleaned at several Apple genius bars where the cloths were dampened by only pure alcohol. It is very hard on skin, but I don't think it would be problematic anywhere but on a screen. They then followed up with iKlear or water on a clean cloth to remove any additional residue so perhaps your one step process is easier?
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 8, 2011 at 23:59
  • I have tried using non-alcohol wet towels, the grease stain can be easily wiped, seems to be a good solution so far.
    – ajreal
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 1:53
  • @bmike I've found that diluting the alcohol in water gives you the best of both worlds so give it a try and tell me the difference :) I usually have a hard time removing alcohol marks and such so yeah, this is kinda a "hard water" or "soft alcohol" thing. Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 18:08
  • I hear you and Sorbin on the discoloration so I certainly won't say you aren't seeing it, just my experience is using these TechSpray anhydrous isopropyl wipes at 99.8% alcohol content for years and never seen a cosmetic or other issue. You might be right about it being a water hardness issue.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 18:22
  • I have a 2014 MBP and no matter how hard I scrub or how long I leave them on, the alcohol solution didn't really do anything. What can I do?
    – tyteen4a03
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 11:34

Alcohol is the best answer; it dissolves grease. Power down, soak a cloth with isopropyl (at least 70%), and gently rub the keys until clean. As an added bonus, the alcohol will kill the germs on the keyboard, which are notorious for collecting them.

As you can see in the article How to clean Apple products, alcohol and ammonia based cleaners are specifically not recommended for displays and iOS devices, but not listed as problematic on portables and desktop machines.

Update: Note sorin’s comment below. I’m not enough of a chemist to assess it, but it’s something to bear in mind.

  • 2
    Alcohol is always bad for plastic, it does permanently affects it in a visible way. Stay away from alcohol.
    – sorin
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 0:02
  • I personally (at home) always start with water, then iClear or a home solution of 10-20 parts water and 1 part dish soap, and finally alcohol. I've been in a work environment where alcohol was used multiple times daily on MacBook Pro keyboards and never once had that cause discoloration or premature failure, visual discoloration or wear of the top case / keyboard.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 18:17
  • I used alcohol, and a Q-tip, the key board has not worked properly for two days, some must have got into the openings.
    – user54477
    Commented Aug 4, 2013 at 20:24

Try a silicone keyboard cover from kbcovers.com. These work great with typing, keep dust and debris from getting between keys, and also prevent the keys from getting greasy.


I've just removed one of those sillicon covers that I bought to leave the keyboard pristine in order to resell it, but it left a sticky residue that I'm now here looking for how to remove it, because the apple recommended cloth + water didn't make the job.


The recommendation from apple website is to use a wet wipes (for clean kitchen, etc) ;) I am using, and it works great!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .