Learn How To Clean Your Keyboard! It’s Really Dirty!

Dust isn’t just unattractive. You may already know that because of it, you have to deal with dust mites, clean your home’s blinds and radiators, but did you know it can also harm or even destroy some components of your computer? If you frequently use your laptop, your keyboard is probably one of the dirtiest areas of your house. It’s not your fault, though. Whatever you touch regularly will naturally accumulate residue over time. Although keyboards are designed to survive heavy use, enough dirt can ruin the keys and sensors. 

Man with blue shirt hand on keyboard

Now, cleaning your electronics can be a stressful experience. We get it! Fortunately, you aren’t the first person nor the last to do so. No matter what type of keyboard you have, there are several simple ways to clean it. Here’s how to clean your keyboard and remove dust, debris, and grime from your keys.

Is it essential?

To begin with, computer keyboards aren’t always the cleanest items in your house or office. Lots of crumbs from snacks get stuck between the keys and accumulate underneath them. So, turning a keyboard upside-down can expel some nasty remnants from the past. 

It’s so nasty that germs may find a haven on your keyboard in the long run. It is estimated that around 27% of mechanical keyboards have an ATP count of 300 or above, indicating “high levels of contamination,” allowing bacteria to thrive on and around the keys.

How to remove debris from the keyboard

Learn how to make your keyboard look its best by following these simple steps:

1. Shake out any loose material

Remove as much loose debris as possible by flipping your keyboard. When shaking the keyboard, be gentle. The majority of food crumbs, dirt, pet hair, and other debris will immediately fall out. When they do, get your vacuum and clean the area.

To drive out any lingering debris, tilt the keyboard in different ways and tap it a little. If you’re cleaning a laptop, keep the screen open while using your other hand to support the computer’s base. You can also use a deep cleaning gel to get rid of debris from between the keys.

2. Blow dust and dirt out of the keys with compressed air

Get a can of compressed air and hold the canister at a 75-degree angle while pointing it at the keys after attaching the plastic straw to the nozzle. Using controlled bursts of air, sweep the nozzle across the keyboard in a left-right motion. Always keep the nozzle 1.5 cm above the keyboard.

A hand sweeping dust from laptop keyboard using air bulb

Sweep up any hard-to-remove dirt using a dust vacuum. Most persistent junk stuck between the keys will be lifted away by the suction power of a dust vacuum. Use an ordinary vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment if you don’t have a dust vacuum with a hose. 

Examine the entire keyboard, paying particular attention to the areas around the keys. The majority of the stiff debris becomes trapped inside. Clean around the keys using a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol. To avoid getting too much moisture behind the keys, softly dampen the swab

Wipe away any remaining dust or oils from each key. Rubbing alcohol can remove the letters, numbers, and symbols printed on each key, so be extra cautious and don’t use too much force. 

Scrub the keyboard with an alcohol-soaked cloth. To avoid introducing additional particles, use a lint-free duster or paper towel. A screen-cleaning cloth or eyeglass cloth made of microfibre is an excellent option. After dampening the towel, make sure it isn’t dripping at all. To remove any leftover dust or debris, wipe the top part of all keycaps

Now, polish the keyboard using a lint-free cloth. Wipe the keyboard down one more time to remove any remaining dust or moisture. Once you’re finished, plug the clean keyboard in and try it out.

How to treat liquid spills

Whatever you drink, some of it will land up on your desktop keyboard, so what should you do next? Follow these steps to avoid dead keys or an utterly dead keyboard:

1. Shake the liquid out of the keyboard 

Bring the keyboard near a faucet, rubbish bin, or towel to clean it. When you hold it upside down, the liquid drips back out rather than sinking further into the keyboard. Shaking it can get rid of any tenacious drips stuck between the keys. Carry on like this until the keyboard is no longer dripping. 

Then, dry the keyboard using a microfibre cloth. While doing so, turn the keyboard over and wait until you’ve wiped up as much of the spill as possible. Paper towels and tissues can leave particles behind, so if possible, use a lint-free cloth

If the situation is urgent and you don’t have time to look for a suitable cloth, you can use a dish towel, paper towels, or even an old T-shirt.

Hand with gloves and microfibre cloth cleaning a computer keyboard

2. Dry

Allow at least 24 hours for the keyboard to air dry, and then turn the keyboard upside down to drain any remaining liquid. Place a towel underneath it to catch any drops of liquid. You can safely turn the keyboard over after it has had time to dry. 

The majority of spills dry up in around 24 hours, but it is always a good idea to give it more time to dry if you are in no rush.  Examine the keyboard for any evidence of damage, such as sticky keys. If you’re using a wired keyboard, reconnect it or turn on your laptop. 

Take a look at the keyboard and see what you can come up with. To make sure that all of the keys operate, press them all down. You may have to remove individual keys to clean them. 

Unless you used plain water, some of the keys are likely to be sticky. Take the keyboard apart to give it a thorough cleaning. If you have an expensive laptop, be extra cautious. Laptop keyboards are far more fragile and complex to keep clean than standard keyboards. 

How to clean inside the keyboard

Remember always to shut down the computer and unplug your keyboard before cleaning:

1. Remove the keys

If the keys are removable, use a screwdriver to take them out. Do not attempt this unless you are sure that the keys can be removed. Otherwise, you may damage your device. Most non-laptop or wireless keyboards include keys that fit over little clips and are easy to remove. 

Lightly push a key up with a flathead screwdriver or butter knife wedged below the corner. Then, with your fingers, try to pull the key straight up. To get it off its clip, you may need to wriggle it or prise up the opposite side. 

Before removing the keys, take a snap photo of the keyboard using your phone. It will assist you in rearranging the keys in the correct order afterwards. A wire keycap puller can also be an easy way to remove the keys. If possible, unscrew the keyboard and pull it apart. 

Person remove the keys from a keyboard

Look for screws on the other side of the keyboard. Faceplates are connected to some keyboards. Remove the bottom faceplate if it has screws so you can wash it separately. 

Look beneath the labels on the keyboard for hidden screws. If you can’t get the keys out, you can typically get the faceplate out. If possible, remove the keys afterwards to give the faceplate a more thorough cleaning. If you’re using a laptop, look up your specific model online for proper keyboard cleaning

2. Clean the keys

Place the keys in a colander, fill it with warm water to wash them, and place a towel next to the sink. As you collect the keys in a colander, run warm water from the faucet. Then, while holding the colander under running water, gently swirl the keys around to rinse them.

The majority of the water and dirt will be quickly rinsed away. Once you’re finished, place the keys on a cloth to dry. Then, clean up the empty faceplate with dish soap and water. Place the faceplate in a colander or a dish to drain and rinse it with water

You will need to remove any tenacious debris using soapy water and a microfibre cloth. Set the faceplate aside to dry once you’re finished. If your keyboard is very dirty, use a disinfectant wipe to clean the keys or soak them in soapy water for more than 7 hours. Once you’re done, scrub and rinse everything.

Wipe the opposite side of the keyboard with isopropyl alcohol and a cloth. Scrub the remaining faceplate as thoroughly as possible to remove any debris. Go around the stems that hold the keys in place. 

Make sure the cloth isn’t soaking because moisture could get into the electronic components. You can also use cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to clean the key stems. Wipe away any remaining material on the keyboard to complete the cleaning process. 

Also, wipe the faceplate clean around the stems to remove any debris. Then, clean the top of each stem with cotton swabs or disinfecting wipesAllow a day for the keyboard to dry. Place some towels on the table, then put the components on top of them. Dry out the pieces by exposing them to fresh air.

Hand holds a cotton swab to clean keyboard

3. Put it to test

Reassemble the keyboard by following the same techniques you used to disassemble it. The faceplates must be connected first on most keyboards. Set the keys on top of the clips or stems after screwing them back together. To snap the keys in place, usually, all you have to do is slip them onto the clips.

You now have a better understanding of why and how to clean your keyboard. It naturally collects dirt, and it is never a good idea to overlook this when doing a general computer cleaning! With this guide, all you have to do is follow the simple steps, and you’ll be good to go!

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