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I have an Apple wired (external) keyboard (model A1242). Some small amount of water was spilled on it, and the Z, X, C, V, B, N, M, and left command keys were rendered unresponsive. All other keys work without issue. I have spent days to sufficiently dry the keyboard, but with no luck.


                    esc F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9 F10 F11 F12 ⏏ 
 `   1   2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  -  =    delete 
 tab    Q  W  E  R  T  Y  U   I   O  P  [  ]  \  
*caps     A  S  D  F  G  H  J  K  L  ;   '      return 
 shift           Z  X  C  V  B  N  M  ,  .   /             shift 
 fn ctrl optcmd                                              cmdopt  ↕  

                     Affected keys in bold. Adapted from a stone arachnid. Feel free to improve.


It's possible that I can open up the keyboard and repair the traces. I'd prefer to wash the keyboard, in the dishwasher, or in a liquid bath, possibly in alcohol, because that's much easier. But I don't know if the washing is generally safe, or if there's some risk for damage. I also don't know if washing would even do anything, since the corrosion may not dislodge/dissolve in a washing liquid.

Question: Is washing/soaking safe, and what method would you recommend?

N.B. This answer on ifixit.com says that any liquid could dissolve the traces on the keyboard's plastic sheets (the key matrix)!! However, other people are clearly soaking/washing their keyboards in water without issue, so it seems possible. Is it a matter of luck/chance? Maybe there's no way to know if it's safe...?


Further explanation:

There are numerous internet sources saying that water contacting the internal plastic membrane can cause corrosion of the metal traces when the keyboard is electrically active. I have spent a few days drying the keyboard, even in the oven for a few hours at about 140 °F (60 °C).

There are also numerous sources showing that some models of wired keyboards can actually be cleaned in the dishwasher (without soap, other dishes, or heated dry), as long as they aren't electrically active (e.g. a battery). There are other sources saying that certain electronics, including keyboards, can be soaked/washed in very high concentration alcohol (rubbing alcohol and possibly ethanol, as long as it doesn't have other ingredients/adulterants). Acetone is bad, however, as it can dissolve adhesives and damage plastics.


For any future reader, this may be useful for removing Macbook keys: https://www.thebookyard.com/images/manuals/keyreplace.pdf

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  • With water damage, I found that the board with the copper contacts needs to be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol as water residue still conducts electricity. You may of blown the keyboard controller chip but this may be replaceable by a donor unit Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 8:54

2 Answers 2

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I have spent a few days drying the keyboard, even in the oven for a few hours at about 140 °F (60 °C).

Try using a hair dryer to blow warm air into the keyboard for a day or so. Heating from natural convection alone—e.g., sitting stationary inside a warm oven—is far less effective at removing water molecules compared to forced air heating.

During the drying process, periodically reposition the keyboard's orientation--e.g., on one edge, on a different edge, on its back, etc. to help the moving air reach into all the nooks and crannies between the various subassemblies.

Also try jarring the keyboard lightly (e.g., give it a few light raps with your hand) during the drying process to help dislodge water residue trapped between two or more surfaces.

If forced air heating doesn't help then I would beleive that the keyboard is probably toast.

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I would consider the keyboard dead and just bring it to an e-waste facility for disposal.

Sad but true, but keyboards like Apple’s A1242 model are essentially disposable. Unlike earlier models of Apple keyboards where—if you had the time, energy and skills—you could open them up, dismantle them and physically clean parts, the A1242 is pretty much sealed so if water got inside, water got inside. That’s that.

That said, you ask this…

“Would the washing method be safe, and if so, likely effective?”

While you state only a small number of keys no longer work, if Z, X, C, V, B, N, M, and the left command keys are dead, the whole keyboard is essentially dead. So my recommendation?

If you have nothing else to lose, just wash it.

If eight keys on a keyboard are dead, the keyboard is effectively useless so one last ditch attempt to restore it by washing it in a dish washer can’t make your overall situation worse.

Sure, it might damage more keys… But it might also clear up the issue. If you have nothing else to lose—since the keyboard is effectively useless—just toss it in the dish washer and see if things improve.

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  • I guess that my question is if I can wash the keyboard in water or alcohol to remove built-up corrosion without causing more damage. If not, I'll have to proceed with Option 1. Difficult - Tear down the keyboard, and attempt to repair the metal traces. Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 4:51
  • If there are no metal traces, then what is the key matrix made out of? Are there no standard plastic sheets, like in most other keyboards? Are there specs that can be found online? Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 5:04
  • (Sorry to jump in here...) And DO NOT use isopropyl alcohol (IPA) or other organic solvents, nor anything abrasive, to clean the plastic sheets with the conductive material. Distilled water (or de-ionized water if you can get some) is the recommended/best cleaning agent. Avoid using water that's been treated by a salt-based water softening systems, or "hard" water (e.g., well water with lots of minerals) as it will leave salt residues behind that could make things worse. (NOTICE: Never drink de-ionized water. Distilled water, however, is okay to drink.) Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 16:44
  • Perhaps a refinement: yes, you have nothing to lose, but that's only helpful if you take an action with a chance of fixing the problem. You could take this to an extreme by saying if I whack it with a hammer just right it could fix it, so there is nothing to lose pounding it with a hammer if you're going to trash it anyway. What you have to lose is the opportunity to potentially fix it with a procedure that has some chance of succeeding. Disassembling the keyboard and cleaning and drying it has some small chance of working. Running it through a dishwasher has virtually no chance of fixing it.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 22:05

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