Hardware

Five tips for keyboard cleanup

A clean keyboard works better, lasts longer, and is more pleasant to use than a grubby snack-spattered device. These tips and resources will help you stay on top of this maintenance chore.

Cleaning is an essential part of any regular system maintenance schedule -- and that includes the poor, beleaguered keyboard, with its propensity for accumulating crud and harboring germs. Here are some suggestions for ensuring that your users' keyboards (as well as your own) stay gunk-free.

Note: These tips are based on the article The worst foods to eat over the keyboard (and the best ways to clean it up).

1: Keep the canned air handy

Canned air is brilliant for removing dry particles from the keyboard. Have a dog nearby to eat the crumbs as they are blasted into space.

2: Use a vacuum cleaner -- carefully

A dust vacuum cleaner can achieve the same result as canned air -- but make sure your keys are firmly attached. It's just no fun digging through a bag of grot searching for the missing keys.

3: Take on grubby keys with screen wipes

Be sure to power off the computer first (pressing a key repeatedly as you clean could have some undesired results). Individual keys can be removed and scrubbed with hot, soapy water for a more thorough cleaning.

4: Try the dishwasher

As strange as this may sound, some people advocate the use of the dishwasher for thorough keyboard cleaning. Tech support blogger Joe Rosberg shared his experience with this trick.

5: Cover it up

For dirty or dusty environments, it may be worth investing in keyboard covers, although these do tend to make typing a less pleasant experience.

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About

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.

23 comments
philw19642002
philw19642002

I do not think I will place my $150 keyboard into a dishwasher however these are some really great tips to keeping this awesome keyboard clean and working forever. Thanks!!

davej
davej

The bathtub and washing powder, then out onto the outside washing line

Gemmz
Gemmz

You mention vacuum cleaners - when tidying up my son's train set, and slurping up tiny (useless) things, he suggested putting something across the nozzle so that anything special could be caught instead of slurped. I used an old handkerchief, of the cotton variety, and it worked wonderfully. As long as the cloth is not too finely woven, will catch things whilst allowing dust to filter through to its intended destination.

gcapp99
gcapp99

Seriously though, I buy & sell laptops at a local flea market and there's no doubt that clean machines get more money. My formula for success cleaning laptop keyboards is as follows: Materials needed: Compressed air, a soft bristle hair brush, bottle of Fantastic, bottle of Windex, Bounty of other lint-free absorbent towels. Procedure: I put a dish towel on my bench, open the laptop and stand it on its side; Spray the keyboard with air to remove any loose debris; then spritz the hair brush (NEVER spray liquid on the laptop itself) once or twice with Windex or Fantastik depending on how filthy the keyboard is- DO NOT USE TOO MUCH FLUID! Laptops are VERY sensitive to liquids! Once the brush is damp- not wet- I brush the keys as if I were brushing teeth, re-wetting the brush sparingly as needed. There is some finesse needed to avoid popping off key caps, but overall excellent results are achieved. By keeping the laptop on its side, any debris falls onto the dish towel and not deeper into the laptop. The hairbrush technique can also be used on the entire laptop- including touchpad- to give it a showroom appearance. Once I'm done with the hair brush, I dampen (damp- NOT wet) a Bounty with Windex and wipe everything down; then use a dry Bounty to make sure all is dry. Optional: Use Pledge or other spray furniture polish- again sparingly- applied to a Bounty to wipe down the entire laptop. You'll wind up with a laptop that looks like new! NOTE: If your laptop has sticker residue, use Goo Gone to remove it. DO NOT USE GOOF OFF- it's corrosive to some finishes. Cheers, Gene

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I used the dishwasher once for a really dirty keyboard and it worked fine, but since then I've found that simply allowing the keyboard to soak for a couple hours in a tub of warm water and dish soap works pretty well too. I even did that with a laptop keyboard (removed from the laptop, of course) that had a sugary beverage spilled on it.

mickames
mickames

When I was working for the UK MOD, designingand providing kit for the Army, a lot of worrying went on in higher places about dirt getting in to keyboards and computers. I went to have some tyres fitted, (tires for those in the USA), and my bill was processed by an IBM PC, a very old one. I looked at the keyboard and asked when it was last cleaned or replaced. The as=nswer to both parts of the question was "never". It was absolutely filthy with dust and oil and, I bet, coffee and tea, (this is England, damn it all). It was still working though. So, my advice is, clean if you must but don't get too hung up about dirty keyboards.

bboyd
bboyd

Don't feel safe doing this then take off keys, put in garment bag and wash separately the keyboard body. Take off a couple of keys to allow it to drain easier. Remove light duty paper labels. Tie up cords. Remove batteries. Don't wash with dishes that have food waste on them. Do NOT use drying cycle. Use a hand cloth and a shake to get most water off/out of keyboard Let air dry at least overnight. Expect to throw away keyboards that have a can of coke or other harsh acidic liquids penetrate them. Hair does not remove completely during most was cycles but its no longer sticky so will blow or shake out easily afterward. Dish washing will remove the light lubricants that keep space bars and other larger keys from squeaking. Depending on the model you can re lubricate them with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).

rbnst
rbnst

the link to 10-point cleaning checklist for keeping equipment healthy seems to be broken thanks for what isn't broken reuben

bgreenfield
bgreenfield

Gotta be careful with the canned air... it CAN push stuff futher in... I like using CyberClean goop to get stuff up from between the keys.

mickames
mickames

I've got a Little Henry vacuum cleaner specifically for cleaning keyboards. I don't know if you can get them on your side of the pond, but if you can, buy one. It's driven by three AA batteries.

scairns
scairns

Depending on the age/model of the vacuum cleaner, some have facility to blow air, not just vacuum. Stick the "get dust out of behind things" attachment to the end of the hose and you have your very own industrial strength canned air. Just remember to carry out this work in a non clean room environment, and don't place nozzle too near the k/b. This also works spectacularly well for cleaning out PCs.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Was looked on as something shocking, But now, God knows, Anything Goes. Try pantyhose. [Cole Porter's lyrics with an extra rhyming line.] A stocking or pantyhose leg over the end of a vacuum cleaner nozzle will pull up dust and light debris, but won't let larger objects through. That's also good for finding small screws or diamond rings that have dropped into a carpet.

jon4t2
jon4t2

I'm a fan of basic KeyTronic keyboards. (Variations on Model E061101D201-C.) Only 9 screws hold everything together. Once the screws are out, I remove the circuit board, foam contact strip and switch membrane. I put all of this hardware in a safe spot far, far away from the dishwasher. The keys are mounted in a single plate that keeps them from getting loose and clogging up the plumbing. A regular dishwasher cycle with plates, bowls, etc. cleans the keys and external shell halves. Anything that doesn't come off in the dishwasher usually succumbs to a little persuasion with a scrub brush and dish washing liquid. Air drying in front of a fan finishes off the cleaning process. To replace the lube on the spacebar, enter/return key, etc. pivots, I use Radio Shack "Needle-Tip Precision Lubricator" (Cat. # 64-2301A). If you keep enough spare keyboards around, you can always swap out "Old Crusty" for a fresh one and do the cleaning at your convenience.

BFellows
BFellows

My background in chemistry hooked me on purified (distilled and/or deionized) water. After any other washing, I give electronics an appropriate spray with it to sluice out the calcium salts from the regular water. The item then dries with very little residue. May help prevent inhibition of the conductivity of metal contact points on a keyboard. It's available in gallon bottles at most markets.

lgelber
lgelber

I routinely wash keyboards in our office dishwasher, something I started after reading about it here at Tech Republic. I haven't ever had a problem doing it; the only trick to it is letting them dry for a good long time. I lean them against a cabinet or somesuch, key side down and long axis to vertical, and then turn them the following day, and let them dry overall for a week. A little rust sometimes forms on the screws on the bottom of the keyboard, but blotting these with a paper towel early in the process stops that from happening. It really freaks out the cleaning crews.

mike
mike

In my experiemce and with the low cost, if it can't be cleaned quickly then replace it. I suppose replacement may not be much of an option unless really bad if it is an expensive keyboard. At $85.00 and hour replacement rapidly becomes cost effective!

jacobus57
jacobus57

I use a business card to clean between keys. It is gentle and removes stunning amounts of gunk. I always, however, invert the keyboard and sharply tap it first to dislodge seeds, hard crumbs, paperclips, etc. Canned air is death, especially if used before these clean-up techniques.

John Niven
John Niven

why not try the cleankeys www.cleankeys.co.uk

Firedrake
Firedrake

... Q-tips and vinegar to clean almost all surfaces of my computer components. Generally works very well.

bboyd
bboyd

I always have a keyboard ready to replace the one going in the dishwasher. It is so little effort to do the cleaning that I now prefer it. Plus its one less piece of plastic junk in a landfill. As a side note I have recovered phones using the same method. Toilet dunking is evidently not a good thing for them. :) Of course it needs a removable battery, and after drying used desiccant to make sure it was completely free of humidity.

Refurbished
Refurbished

I have always started with inverting the keyboard and shaking it. In fact, unless something appears to be caught, or a key seems to be sticky, that may be my entire cleaning process.

SirWizard
SirWizard

Small Post-it notes are great between the keys for grabbing hair, small particles, &c. The adhesive grabs crud, and when it gets full enough, throw it away and use another. Go along each of the major rows and up/down the number-key columns. Four or five notes do a great job.

Dzmitry Z
Dzmitry Z

I'd rather buy a new $10 keyboard every month!

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