Best Ways to Clean a Keyboard

If you spend a lot of time working at your computer like we do, your keyboard is going to get dirty. From dust and germs to late-night snacks, it’s actually pretty amazing that some keyboards last as long as they do.

Working lunches and late-night writing or gaming can lead to quite a messy buildup between your keys and cause them to stick, not to mention the greasy build-up on the key caps.

So, if you’ve decided it’s time to give your keyboard a good cleaning or you managed to bathe it with your morning coffee, we’ve got some tips to see you through without causing further damage.

Disconnect Your Keyboard

Whether you’re routinely cleaning your keyboard or have had a spill mishap, the first thing you should always do is cut all power to it. Disconnect the cord or remove the batteries. By leaving it connected, you can cause further damage.

 

Routine Cleaning

The best way to get your keyboard thoroughly clean is to remove the keys. This needs to be done carefully as to not damage them. For desktops, a butter knife or screwdriver can be used to gently pop off the keys. A laptop’s keys can usually be removed with just your fingernail. Several newer keyboards come with a key puller for easy key replacing and cleaning.

Before removing the keys, make certain you can easily replace them. Unless you know your keyboard like the back of your hand, draw a quick diagram or snap a pic. But, if you do happen to mix up the key placement, you’ll realize it soon enough.

Once the keys are removed, you may find enough food crumbs to feed dinner to a family of four. Turn it upside down and gently shake loose the debris over a trash container or in an area that can be easily cleaned.

There are two ways to remove stubborn debris. You can use a hand-held vacuum or the brush attachment of a larger vacuum or use a can of compressed air. You may even have to use a cotton swab to gently remove food particles that the vacuum or compressed air won’t remove.

Once you have removed all of the dirt, use an old rag, cotton swab, or paper towel and barely dampen it with an electronics-friendly cleaner or isopropyl alcohol. We do not recommend ethyl as it can remove the letters/numbers. Gently wipe down all areas and allow to completely dry before replacing the keys. Remember, do not soak the rag/paper towel and never pour alcohol or cleaner directly onto your keyboard.

While you’re waiting for your keyboard to dry, you can gently wash your keys in warm soapy water or you can wipe them down with the isopropyl alcohol. If you have stubborn grime on your key caps that simply won’t wash off, you can use an old toothbrush to gently scrub the keys. Others have suggested using a pencil eraser to remove built up grime, but the keys need to be dry before trying that method.

Once everything is completely dry, simply place your key caps onto the keyboard and press down until you hear/feel a snap. For keyboards with metal bars, be certain they are properly attached to the keys and the ends line up.

Now, your keyboard should look and perform like new! Read on for tips on disastrous spills and ways to frequently maintain your keyboard to keep it from getting to this point again.

Spills

The only thing that even closely relates to spilling liquid onto our keyboard is dropping our cell phone. Don’t flip out just yet, we’ve got a plan for you to follow to get everything back in its right working order.

First, act quickly, not ‘the house is on fire’ quickly, but don’t spend time moaning and groaning. As always, disconnect the keyboard or remove the batteries. Dump excess liquid and then clean up what you can with paper towels. Carefully, remove all keys and set them aside as they will be perfectly fine.

Using a rag or paper towel start gently dabbing every visible spot dry. You may need to grab a few cotton swabs to reach certain places. Then repeat the steps above for routine cleaning.

Wash the key caps in warm soapy water and allow everything to fully dry. Once the keyboard and key caps are dry, replace the key caps just as we described above. Yes, it’s unbelievably annoying, but these things do happen. If you follow these steps, it should work just fine.

 

Disinfecting

During cold and flu season, it’s important to remember to routinely wipe down your keyboard. We don’t recommend spraying a disinfectant spray directly onto your keyboard because like we discussed above, you may sit down and have lunch while you’re working.

While it won’t kill all germs, wiping down your keyboard with isopropyl alcohol once in a while certainly is better than nothing. It also probably wouldn’t hurt to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk.

 

Frequent Maintenance

The best way to keep your keyboard clean and working like it should is to use a soft-bristled brush and brush over the keys. Even keeping a hand-held vacuum or a can of compressed air nearby is a great idea for using every few days.

One last option is a cleaning kit that Amazon offers. For under $10, it includes a scrubbing tool, 4 finishing cloths, and a safe cleaning solution. It’s a great item to keep close by especially in an office setting where vacuums, isopropyl alcohol, and cotton swabs may not be easily accessible.

3M Keyboard Cleaner Kit, White (674)

Crumbs and spills are inevitable, but we hope we’ve offered easy solutions for routine cleaning and mishaps. Our best recommendation is to frequently brush or vacuum out dust and food particles and wipe your keys down every once in a while to keep those pesky germs away. This will keep your keyboard working like it should. We hope you have found this guide helpful.