Mechanical keyboards are a worthy investment that can change the way you use your computer. While they may look like your standard peripheral, the typing experience these unique keyboards offer is second to none. Plus, they’re solidly built and capable of lasting for decades with the proper care.
However, there is one caveat! Mechanical keyboards are notorious for collecting dirt and grime. Thanks to their distinct design, everything from accumulated dust to accidental spills can leave your keyboard looking less-than-stellar. Not only that, but the intricate mechanical key switches are easily affected by dirt.
Luckily, cleaning these keyboards isn’t difficult. All you need is a bit of knowledge and some key cleaning products.
In this guide, we’re going to teach you how to clean a mechanical keyboard using a few different easy methods. Some of these techniques can also be used with simple membrane keyboards. Check out our list of recommended cleaning tools and products below to stock up on the essentials.
The first keyboard cleaning method we’re going to go over is regular maintenance. Like all of your gear, it’s a good idea to give your keyboard a bit of TLC every once in a while. Frequent light cleanings can keep your keyboard looking good and operating smoothly.
There’s a good chance that your keyboard is bombarded with messes pretty frequently. Food crumbs, dust particles, and oil from your skin can quickly build up on your keys and keyboard plate. Taking care of those issues regularly can help you avoid any major problems and give you more time in between deep cleanings.
Here’s what you’ll need:
A dry microfiber cloth
A damp microfiber cloth
Handheld vacuum cleaner
First things first, unplug your keyboard! No matter how light your cleaning will be, it’s always a good idea to unplug your keyboard to ensure that your actions don’t affect your computer. The last thing you want to deal with is locking your computer up due to random keystrokes.
Next, use a vacuum cleaner to pick up loose dirt from the keyboard plate. Any vacuum with a handheld hose will do. However, we recommend investing in a dedicated keyboard vacuum that you can keep on your desk.
When vacuuming, press the tube over the keys to get the dirt out of those tiny crevices. Slowly press down on each key to get as close to the plate as possible.
Now, use the dampened microfiber cloth to wipe the surface of each keycap down. Don’t use a paper towel. While paper towels are great for cleaning up other messes, they tend to shed tiny bits of paper in the process. Those small paper towel remnants will only make things worse.
Once you have finished wiping everything down, use a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
Even with regular maintenance, there’s going to be a point when you need to provide a slightly deeper clean. At this point, you can usually feel the effects of built-up grime when you use the keyboard. Not only that, but oil from your skin may be casting a light sheen over your precious keycaps.
A mild cleaning can take of light messes. It’s a bit more involved but very manageable. We’ve broken this cleaning method into two separate sections. One is for taking care of the plate while the other is for polishing up the keys.
Here’s what you’ll need
A key puller
Handheld vacuum cleaner
A damp microfiber cloth
A dry microfiber cloth
Like before, the first step is to unplug the keyboard. This cleaning process is a bit more detailed, so you want to make sure that you completely disconnect the USB cable and an accompanying power supply if you have one.
After everything is disconnected, you can use a key puller to remove all of the keys. Key pullers are specifically designed to pry the keycaps off safely. You may have some issues with the big keys. They are usually reinforced with some extra wire stabilizers, so exercise caution.
You can set your keys aside for now. We’ll be taking care of those in the next section.
At this point, you can probably see some grime around the keyplate. To remove it, use a dry Q-Tip. A small brush with soft bristle works well too.
Just use your tool to loosen any messes that have adhered to the plate. Be extra careful around the key switch stems. Avoid pushing dirt into the switch.
When you’re cleaning, remove any messes from your tool frequently. Particulates can dirty up your cleaning tool very quickly. For this reason, we prefer using cotton swabs. You can toss them out and grab a new one once the fibers start getting dirty.
Now, turn your keyboard upside down. While the manual cleaning process from the previous step is meant to get rid of stuck-on messes, there’s bound to be some remnants left behind. Turning the keyboard over lets the dirty bits fall out naturally.
Turn your keyboard back over and grab your handheld vacuum. Use a simple tube attachment with no rollers. Rollers could damage the switch stems.
Use the vacuum to pick up any loose debris that may be hanging behind.
Examine your keyboard closely and see if there are any “gooey” bits. Spilled sugary drinks often leave behind sticky messes that need a bit more elbow grease to take care of. Dampen your cotton swab and clean those stubborn messes. Avoid getting moisture into the key switches as you clean.
Take your damp cloth and give the case a good cleaning. Follow up with your dry cloth to remove any excess moisture.
Set your keyboard upside down while you turn your attention to the keycaps. Doing so will prevent airborne particles from falling into the switches.
Cleaning Your Keycaps
The trickiest part of cleaning keyboards is dealing with the keycaps. These small components have a lot of nooks and crannies where dirt can hide. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend time wiping every piece individually. There is a quicker method to get things done!
This technique can be done while you’re cleaning the base.
Here’s what you’ll need:
A large bowl
Dish soap or denture tablets
Large microfiber cloth
Place your removed keycaps into the large bowl. When you do this, examine each piece to see if any keycaps need some special attention.
Cover your keycaps with hot water. Then, add dish soap or two denture tablets.
Any dishwasher liquid will do. The soap is specifically formulated to remove grease, so it’ll tackle skin oil just fine. The same goes for denture tabs. However, denture tabs have the added benefit of sterilization!
Whichever solution you choose, add it to the water and give the keys a good mix.
Let the keycaps soak for up to 6 hours. Giving the components time to soak ensures that you don’t have to do any hard scrubbing.
If there are any keys with stubborn dirt, now is a good time to take care of that problem. Just use a cotton swab or a soft brush to remove particulates.
After soaking, rinse the keycaps in soapy water. Take your time when rinsing them off. Soap can leave behind a sticky residue once it’s dry. So, you need to make sure that all of the soap is rinsed off before you move forward.
Place the keycaps onto a large microfiber cloth to dry. Arrange them so that air can circulate between the keys. They should be placed with the stem up.
Give the keys plenty of time to air dry. It may take some time for all of the water to evaporate, but it’s the best way to ensure that they are completely dry.
Now, you can replace all of your keycaps back on the plate.
Knowing how to give your keyboard a safe deep cleaning is essential. Whether you’re a gamer, a creative professional, or a typist, major messes are bound to happen at some point.
Deep cleanings take care of all grime and can make your accessory look like a brand new keyboard.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Handheld vacuum cleaner
As always, disconnect your keyboard from your computer. This is especially important with this cleaning method.
Using your keycap puller, gently remove each key individually. We recommend taking a picture of the layout prior to doing this for reference later. Set the keys aside, as you’ll be wiping them down individually with some heavy-duty cleaner.
Now, it’s time to clean the base. Use your vacuum cleaner to pick up any loose dirt. Then, take advantage of compressed air to blast away any dirt that is not budging. You can use a can of compressed air or use a heavy-duty compressor to get the job done.
At this point, you can sterilize the plate and remove any excess oils or grease. To do this, use a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol. Also known as rubbing alcohol, this cleaning solution can break down oils in a matter of seconds. It’s affordable, readily available at most stores, and evaporates very quickly.
Dip the cotton swabs in the alcohol and wipe down every surface of the plate.
Use the same technique to clean each keycap. The alcohol will remove any finger oils from the surface of the keys. Pay close attention to the underside of the keycaps and large keys. The spacebar and enter keys are prone to collecting dirt. Once you’re done, set them aside to dry.
If dirt and grime have made it past the plate, you may need to disassemble the keyboard a bit to get everything. Use your screwdriver to take the housing apart. Be very careful with this step and take ample photos to help you during the reassembly process.
The screws are usually located on the bottom of the keyboard. Removing them will separate the bottom half of the case from the bottom.
Set the PCB aside and examine the case halves. Using the same cleaning methods as previous steps, remove any dirt that you see. You can also use your microfiber cloth to get rid of dry dust. Be very gentle and use a cotton swab to take care of stubborn issues gently.
Once everything has dried, you can slowly reassemble your keyboard. Use those photos you took earlier to make sure that everything is placed where it should be.
Must-Have Cleaning Products and Tools
ColorCoral Keyboard Cleaner
This gel-based cleaner is a unique tool that can be used for regular maintenance. It’s capable of grabbing onto dirt particles in hard-to-reach spaces. That’s because it conforms to whatever shape it’s in. Just place the putty onto your keyboard and apply some light pressure. It will move into the crevices between the keys and remove grime.
The putty is completely safe for your keyboard. It doesn’t leave behind any residue. Plus, it’s made of biodegradable ingredients. The best part is that you can use this thing multiple times. Just knead the putty anytime it starts to get a bit dirty. Good as new!
Made of biodegradable materials
Safe for keyboards
Easy to use
YUEVAN Keyboard Vacuum
Despite its small size, this vacuum cleaner packs a powerful punch. It’s a battery-powered unit that can run for up to an hour with a full charge. Thanks to its compact size, you can easily keep this device on your desk for regular keyboard maintenance. It even comes with a USB cord for charging.
There are two accessory nozzles to use. The crevice tool is great for getting those hard-to-reach spots. Meanwhile, the brush attachment allows you to dislodge dirt and get rid of light dust.
60-minute run time
Comes with two nozzles
Bagless dust canister
Falcon Dust-Off Electronics Compressed Air Can
No keyboard cleaning kit is complete without a can of compressed air. This pack from Falcon is a great option that makes quick work out of dirt. It comes with an attachable straw that’s perfect for directing air. The straw acts like a precision nozzle to get into tiny crevices.
The great thing about this product is that it’s safe. Not just for your keyboard but also for the environment. It doesn’t produce any moisture when you use it. Plus, it’s free of CFCs, HCFCs, propane, and other harmful ingredients.
Comes in a pack of 4
OXO Good Grips Sweep & Swipe Keyboard Cleaner
This cleaning tool from OXO is compact enough to keep in your desk drawer. However, it has multiple tools to keep your keyboard clean. On one side, there’s a dense brush that can wipe away dust. It’s fully retractable, ensuring that the bristles stay safe and mess-free.
On the other side is a microfiber pad. You can use it to wipe down the surface of the keycaps. Alternatively, it’s great for polishing screens!
Includes soft brush and microfiber pad
Can be used on all types of electronics
Anti-Static Computer Keyboard Cleaning Brush Kit
Looking for a set of versatile cleaning brushes to help you keep your keyboard clean? This kit has everything you need to get the job done. It comes with a set of 6 plastic bristles with nylon brushes. You also get some tweezers to help you during the cleaning process.
Each brush is uniquely designed. There are wide brushes to remove dry dust particles, fine brushes for getting in between the keyboard switches, and a heavy-duty brush for scrubbing hard-to-remove stains.
Set of 6 brushes
Comes with plastic tweezers
Durable nylon bristles
Sky Organics Cotton Swabs
These cotton swabs from Sky Organics are great for helping you get a clean keyboard. The fibers are densely wrapped around the paper stems. This reduces the number of stray fibers that will be left behind as you clean.
They’re double-sided and feature soft cotton. Because it’s organic, you don’t have to worry about any residue. The cotton is completely free of chlorine and fragrance.
Pack of 500
Chlorine and fragrance-free
Solimo Isopropyl Alcohol
From Solimo is this bottle of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol. It’s a no-frills product that’s designed with multi-purpose use in mind. While you can use it for first aid and sanitization, it works very well for keyboard cleaning.
The bottle is sealed for safety and comes with a durable cap for easy storage.
16 fluid ounces
99 percent alcohol
Kuzzy Microfiber Keyboard Cloth
The Kuzy microfiber cloth makes a great addition to your cleaning arsenal. It’s a large cloth that can be used with or without warm water. The microfiber material is incredibly absorbent on its own, allowing you to pick up 7 times its weight in liquids.
However, it also does a decent job of picking up oil and grease without any solution. It’s designed for electronics. As a result, it’s made to provide some antibacterial properties. The cloth is simple, efficient, and affordable.
Measures 11.5 inches long by 7.8 inches wide
Made of optical-grade microfiber material
Absorbs 7 times its weight
Knowing how to keep your keyboard clean is essential. Mechanical keyboards don’t come cheap. Unlike standard OEM keyboards that come with modern computers, these accessories have a lot of intricate parts that you need to take care of. Give these cleaning tips a try. With some time and a selection of useful tools, your keyboard will be looking brand new.
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