How to Lock Your MacBook Keys for Cleaning

Laptops pick up dust, grease, and grime since they’re constantly in contact with your hands. But due to the way modern MacBooks are designed, cleaning them isn’t a simple case of turning the machine off.


What’s the Problem?

Once upon a time, you could turn your MacBook off by clicking Apple > Shut Down and clean your keyboard without waking the machine up. Those days are gone, with any keystroke on a modern MacBook causing the machine to boot up. You can’t even open the lid without waking a Mac up anymore!

That makes it hard to give your MacBook a good clean, which is something you’ll probably want to do often to prevent oil and grime from building up. So what’s the solution?

Use the Lock Screen to Disable Most Keys

If you click on Apple > Lock Screen you’ll be taken to what looks like the login window, where you’ll need to input your account password or use the Touch ID button to unlock. Unlocking your Watch using your Apple Watch won’t be immediately available unless the laptop sleeps and wakes up again.

Lock your Mac for cleaning

This gives you a golden opportunity to grab your Apple-branded cleaning cloth (or an alternative polishing cloth) and give your keyboard a good clean. As long as you don’t graze the Touch ID button with your fingertip or accidentally type your password, you’ll stay on this screen without composing gibberish emails to your boss or loved ones.

This won’t disable the media keys at the top of the keyboard, so you’ll still be able to turn the brightness up and down or mute the volume. Keep this in mind if it seems like your screen is off after cleaning since you’ve probably just turned the brightness down.

Using the lock screen is the best way to clean your trackpad too since there’s nothing to accidentally click.

If the imperfect logging out method isn’t good enough, the free app KeyboardCleanTool might be a better choice. This app locks every key on your keyboard, including the top row of media keys and the Touch ID button. It doesn’t disable the trackpad though, since you’ll need some way of clicking the button to disable the lock.

Authorize KeyboardCleanTool to control your Mac

To use the app you’ll need to whitelist it under System Preferences (System Settings) > Security & Privacy > Privacy. First, click on the padlock in the bottom-left corner of the screen and authenticate, then click on the Accessibility section and check the box next to KeyboardCleanTool.

Lock MacBook keys with KeyboardCleanTool

You can now use KeyboardCleanTool to lock your keyboard without logging out to give your MacBook a good clean. The author (who created powerful customization app BetterTouchTool) says the app also works great with toddlers and cats.

Safely Clean Your MacBook Screen Too

If your keyboard is dirty, your screen must be in a pretty bad state too. It’s important to never use household cleaners on a laptop screen since you could remove protective coatings and cause permanent damage.

Learn how to safely clean your laptop screen and get rid of the dust that’s building up inside it too.

Related: How to Clean a Laptop Screen

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