Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and dirt in your keyboard. You could be a stickler for cleanliness, but if you do not know how to clean a keyboard properly, the satisfaction you long for will remain a mirage.
Grime, dirt, and dust are inevitable, and the only way to free your keyboard from them is to have a reliable and efficient cleaning method.
To be clear, you don’t have to stop eating lunch from your desk or cover your keyboard every single time you leave your workstation. However, you also shouldn’t throw caution to the wind and spill fluids or leave food crumbs to fall in between the keys. You can do better.
I know cleaning this accessory may sound like a tedious chore, but it’s actually likely a lot easier than you think. The good news is there are actually various ways to clean your keyboard, and I’ll quickly walk you through all of them below.
To start you off, I’ll list the things you’ll need for this task and then go over the steps for cleaning mechanical keyboards and laptop keyboards.
Cleaning A Keyboard: Things You Will Need
- Dedicated keyboard cleaning brush
- Cotton swabs
- Sticky note, toothpick, tiny brush, or a piece of tape
- Rubbing alcohol
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Can of compressed air
- Portable vacuum
- Safety goggles
- Microfibre cloth
- Dust mask
- Anti-static gloves
- Cleaning slime or gel
Long list, huh? Just make sure you have all these things. You will thank yourself later.
How To Clean A Keyboard (Mechanical) – Wired & Wireless
Let’s start with the simplest method for cleaning mechanical keyboards. It requires very little effort or time, and the supplies needed are inexpensive and easily accessible.
First, Turn The Keyboard Upside Down
Step 1: Unplug the keyboard or remove the batteries if it’s wired.
Step 2: Turn the keyboard upside-down. Gently tap the bottom with your fingers and shake everything out.
Step 3: Hold the keyboard at various angles as you shake. If the keycaps are removable, get them out of the way so nothing’s left lingering in those hidden spaces.
Step 4: Use a brush to sweep the dirt into a dustpan.
This may not be enough to get all the grime out of mechanical keyboards, so keep reading if you aren’t quite satisfied with the results.
Next, Introduce A Cleaning Brush
This is where we reach into the spaces in between the keys to make sure there are no crumbs, hair, and other stubborn debris present.
It’s recommended that you use a dedicated keyboard cleaning brush such as the Hagibis Cleaning Soft Brush Keyboard Cleaner. You could also use a toothbrush or baby bottle brush if you don’t feel like spending money on a special brush.
Run the brush through the keyboard’s underside parts. If the gunk is too stubborn to detach from the keyboard, try a stiffer brush. Alternatively, you could just use compressed air, which I’ll cover in a bit more detail below.
Spray Keyboard With Compressed Air
Canned air is available in most retail stores and from online marketplaces such as Amazon. Dust-Off Disposable Compressed Gas Duster remains a trusted option for many.
Once you insert the little tube nozzle into the can, aim it at any areas you feel still need more cleaning. It should blow out all the adamant gunk and other forms of unwanted dirt stuck between the keys.
Don’t bring the nozzle too close to the areas you’re blowing because this might leave pools of moisture that could seep into your keyboard and damage it. It’s best to wear a dust mask and safety goggles for this step because there will be lots of particles flying around.
Another alternative to compressed air is a dust vacuum. It’s a little bit more aggressive but still safe to use.
Alternatively, Use A Dust Vacuum
Like canned air, portable dust vacuum cleaners for keyboards can be found in electronics, retail stores, or online shopping platforms.
If possible, find a kit that comes complete with a keyboard cleaning attachment. KOONIE 15000mAh Cordless Air Duster & Vacuum is a perfect example.
Run the vacuum over any areas you feel need a thorough cleaning. Make sure none of the parts, including your keys, are loose because they could be sucked into the vac.
This is where we make the keyboard shiny and good as new. Gather the following:
- Cleaning slime or gel
- Disinfectant wipes
- Cotton swabs
- Microfiber cloth
A cleaning gel, disinfectant wipes, or a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol will pick up any dirt left up to this point. Leave no part unattended; clean the underside of the keyboard and the outside surface, including the keys. Just don’t scrub too hard, as you could damage or wipe off characters from your keys.
Bonus Step: Clean Under Keycaps
Finally, if your keycaps are removable, you can also follow the additional steps below to clean under your keyboard’s individual keys.
Step 1: Take a picture of your QWERTY keyboard so you know where to put the keys back after you are done cleaning them.
Step 2: Carefully remove the keycaps. Some keyboards allow you to do this with your fingers, while others will need a special tool.
Step 3: Soak the keycaps in a container filled with soapy water and allow them to soak for 20-30 minutes.
Step 4: Scrub them gently with a brush or rag and then air dry them until there’s no moisture left.
Step 5: Fix the keycaps back into their rightful places and use a microfiber cloth to polish the keyboard.
By now, you should have a sparkling clean keyboard!
Please note this method isn’t limited to your regular keyboard alone. Follow the same steps if you do not know how to clean a gaming keyboard or ergonomic keyboards.
How To Clean A Laptop Keyboard
Unfortunately, laptop keyboards can’t be cleaned the same way as mechanical keyboards because of how they are set up. While the latter operates on its own, separate from the pc, the former is connected to the laptop.
Before you start cleaning your keyboard, you’ll first need to check what the manufacturer recommends as the proper way to clean your laptop’s keyboard. Apple, for instance, advises MacBook and MacBook Pro owners to blow compressed air through the keys while holding their laptops at a 75-degree angle.
That said, let’s now look at the best way to clean a keyboard that’s been built into a laptop.
Step 1: Shut down the laptop and unplug it from power to avoid causing damage as you clean it.
Step 2: Turn the laptop upside down. With the keyboard facing the surface, shake out all the grime you can, but don’t do it aggressively. Tilt at various angles to release all the loose debris.
Step 3: Use a narrow brush, toothpick, piece of tape folded into two, or sticky note to clean the spaces in between the keys, and then turn the laptop upside down again for the dirt to fall out.
Step 4: Hold the laptop upside down and aim your canned air’s nozzle into the spaces between the keys. This should blow out any lingering dust.
It’s advised that you wear a dust mask and safety goggles because there will likely be lots of dust and other debris flying into the air!
Step 5: If you have cleaning slime or gel, press into it the keyboard to pick up any hidden dirt.
Step 6: Apply isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab or microfibre cloth and then clean the keys carefully. You can also use disinfecting wipes to clear any grime or dirt you see lingering around the keys. Finally, air dry the laptop before you switch it on.
How To Clean Under Keyboard Keys – Bonus Tips
- For laptops, avoid using rubbing alcohol, soapy water, or liquid cleaners that might wet the keyboard surface.
- Some laptops have removable keys, while others don’t. If your model allows it, follow the procedure mentioned earlier to clean them. Air dry them properly before you replace them.
- Never dip your mechanical keyboard or laptop into a dishwasher (unless you are tired of it and not sure how to destroy it)!
- Don’t use steel wool or other cleaning agents not available on our list to clean the keys unless you trust your memory and don’t mind wiping off the characters.
- Wear anti-static gloves to avoid instances where grime sticks on your hands and is replanted back onto the keyboard as you clean, making your efforts counterproductive.
Frequently Asked Questions: Cleaning Keyboards
How often should I clean a keyboard?
This will depend on a number of factors. For example, if the environment you operate from is prone to dust, then it would be best to clean the keyboard after every use.
You can reduce the frequency to once or twice a week if you don’t use your PC or laptop often. However, if you share it with friends or workmates, it’s best to clean it at least three times a week.
What happens if you don’t clean your keyboard?
Keyboard bacteria can actually be dangerous if you leave it to accumulate for too long. When you fail to clean your keyboard properly, this bacteria can build up and even spread infections and illnesses to others.
Your laptop’s performance could also drop, making you less productive. Dirty mechanical keyboards, on other hand, are prone to failure. You might even end up replacing it, and the cycle will continue if you don’t clean it properly.
Overall, your health and productivity will be at stake if you fail to take good care of your keyboard. You will also end up incurring unnecessary expenses.
Final Word On Cleaning A Keyboard
Now that you know the best way to clean a keyboard, it’s time for action. Ensure you have gathered all the supplies I listed earlier. Do not use any other tools or cleaning methods unless they are recommended by a professional.
More importantly, remember the following:
- Laptop and mechanical keyboards have their own unique cleaning methods
- All forms of keyboards need regular cleaning
- Unclean keyboards are a health hazard and a threat to your productivity
My last request is don’t hesitate any longer. Clean your keyboard today! Start right now if you can.