Hardware

A crazy idea -- put those dirty keyboards in the dishwasher

It's been shown that keyboards hold more germs and bacteria than just about any other surface in the home or office. How do you clean them - or do you clean them at all?

It's been shown that keyboards hold more germs and bacteria than just about any other surface in the home or office. How do you clean them -- or do you clean them at all?

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The Four Germiest Surfaces:

• Phones

• Desks

• Computer keyboard

• Computer mouse

I don't want to paint a picture of myself with an image of being a germaphobia kind of guy (accurately known as mysophobia), someone like Howard Hughes, because that's not me at all.

mysophobia (noun): abnormal fear of or distaste for uncleanliness or contamination.

Like I said, that's not me, but I sure do think about all the crud that builds up on keyboards around the office, especially when I have to sit in front of someone else's to fix a user issue. I don't pull out the latex gloves, but I have intentionally washed my hands after using another person's keyboard. Besides, those dirty and grungy keyboards just look bad, don't you think?

When keyboards became cheap enough, they actually became a throw-away item just to get somebody a clean one. This was especially true when a new employee was given another person's computer -- I'd always provide a new mouse and keyboard. After one such instance, however, instead of throwing one away, I decided to put it into the dishwasher to see what would happen. I was amazed at how clean the thing got. It actually looked brand-new.

I turned it upside down, shook the heck out of it so all the excess water would run out, and then placed it upside down onto some paper towels so it could further drip-dry. Every once in a while, I'd shake it again and place it in a slightly different position to make sure all the water would drain out of it.

When I tested it a few days later, I made sure to plug it into a computer that was expendable; if it trashed the computer, I wouldn't care. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that the keyboard worked perfectly -- and it looked great. Since then, I've washed about a dozen keyboards in the dishwasher, and I haven't had one issue with any of them.

It's interesting to do an Internet search with the key words keyboard dishwasher. Most major keyboard manufacturers, like Microsoft and Logitech, only recommend cleaning them with the can of air or a damp cloth, but I'm obviously not the only one who's had success putting them in the dishwasher. In fact, I even ran across one manufacturer who marked their keyboard dishwasher safe.

Disclaimer: Put your own keyboard in the dishwasher at your own risk.

I remember an instance that happened years ago (about twenty years ago) when I was working for an architect who was so tight with a dollar that he'd snap someone's head off at the mere suggestion of spending any money. I laughed when a coworker actually bought another keyboard with his own money after he spilled a can of soda onto it. This was twenty years ago, mind you, when keyboards were more sensitive and much more expensive. I think it set the guy back almost one hundred dollars. Perhaps he should have tried the dishwasher experiment first.

Okay, we seem to like polls around here, so let's ask the question.

148 comments
rroberto18
rroberto18

I have enough trouble getting my dishwasher to wash itself, let alone dishes. If I use the drying mode, it only bakes the dirt on -- not just the dishes, but the inner walls of the appliance too. The drying mode, at least in my case, would kill any keyboard the same way. To answer the obvious, yes, I've tried just about every make there is out there. At this point, I just settle for one that doesn't empty the water out onto the kitchen floor.

newtode
newtode

Actually, I've never had to do this because when I bought my keyboard in 1993 I also bought a keyboard skin for it. It has worked flawlessly ever since, even when having cats with their hair. The skin is easily disinfected. I do realize that this probably won't be a good idea for anyone who is not a touch keyboardist.

computer-computerservicesplus
computer-computerservicesplus

I had one that had pop spilled onto it and dried. Tried to remove keys and hand clean it but that was not very good. Keys would still be sticky. I bought a replacement and then placed the dirty one under warm running water to clean it out. I shook all the water I could and then dried it on a cloth towel for a few weeks, shaking it once in a while. I am using it now on my system without problems.....knock on wood.

Jimb49
Jimb49

Any one try wireless keyboards ?

reisen55
reisen55

How to clean a keyboard by Martha Stewart Get screwdriver, take keyboard apart carefully. Wash plastic components in hot water if necessary and set aside to dry on paper towel. Let sit 30 min. Use Isopropyl Alcohol on any connects that need cleaning. Hair dryer for blowing out dust, etc. Reassemble carefully and test. If works, OK If no work, OK and go to Microcenter. Second trick: dusty computer? Take outside, open up and use a leafblower on it. Guarantee to remove every single piece of anything inside of the computer.

meldick
meldick

Yes, tried it. It works. The result is a pristine clean keyboard which you could eat your dinner off ( which was the cause of the problem in the first place ) Have subjected no less than three keyboards to the splish splosh bish Bosch. Drained and stood on edge in warm airing cupboard for 3 days. I have only plugged one of these sparklingly clean keyboards into my puter so far, I am typing on it at this moment (Tiny 1995). I found there was still some muck but mainly hair and fluff hiding under the keys which I removed with the vacuum cleaner and some extra clngy grot by prising off a key or two. I recomend it to the house. Ps Tiny labels stayed on Packard Bell did not.

bmankoff
bmankoff

I never put one in a dish washer but I spray glass cleaner on it and rub all of the crud off with my hands and then I run warm water all over it for a while to wash all of the stuff under the keys off. Then I stand it on one of the corners on paper towels for a week and then put it back on the shelf and I have never had a bad keyboard and they all looked new.

g3po2
g3po2

This is an old trick, used back from the days of mechanical typewriters. There are a few problems: first and foremost, the technology used in making keyboards varies between models and brands. The chemical bath that is used in a dishwasher can be injurious to some of the components. Putting the keyboard under the kitchen faucet and just using a brush and common dishwashing soap may be a better solution--but even that method will trash a lot of keyboards. So I would conclude that there are far too many factors involved to make this a "good" practice, although it may work some of the time on some keyboards. Prior to reading your post I tried the under the faucet with soap and brush method on two keyboards. One died totally, the other worked, but had the tendency to have keys "stick." Both were trashed. Perhaps you could revise your original post to include information such as the brand and model of your dishwasher, and the brand and type of detergent that you used??? These may be important variables. Also, did you let the keyboard go through the entire drying cycle, or did you pull it out before the drying cycle began? I have always "sun-dried" my washed electronic products for at least three days, and find that to be a better method. (By the way, this method works well on many other types of components, such as motherboards, etc. So I remain curious...

kehoffman
kehoffman

Not only keyboards but also optical drives and floppy drives. I took the cases apart and did them in the dishwasher. As long as the item is 100% bone dry when you try it - it may work. Biggest problem? My wife when she saw what the inside of the dishwasher looked like when I was done. Keith Hoffman

docotis
docotis

I spilled a whole glass of orange juice in a 10M transmitter and washed it the bathtub and sprayed it to get all the pulp out. After a few day to dry, it worked fine. Hair dryer might speed it up some.

tehurley
tehurley

I've not put the entire keyboard in the dishwasher, but with an electric screwdriver, I've taken dozens apart and scubbed the part you see and touch. Putting back together is a lot faster than messing with trying to get the water out. I think that I have messed one up once many years ago taking it apart but it was not working before, so nothing lost.

hran/tech
hran/tech

I first tried washing keyboards after I read a Jerry Pournelle column in PC Magazine in the early 90s. I wash the keyboards in the shower, then blow dry them. If the keyboard is worth the effort (original IBM, wireless, or something special) I will disassemble the keyboard and spray it with contact cleaner and wipe all contacts before reassembly. Only 1 has malf'd on me after this treatment in 15+ years. I'll have to try the DW with an extended rinse and dry soon!

EagleKen
EagleKen

I am a computer trainer. I was training at a large company about 3-4 years ago when I walked into the employee lunch room and saw a dozen or so keyboards in the sink. I asked a service tech about it; he told me they always wash their keyboards in the dishwasher. I'm sure less quality keyboards would be questionble to do so this way.

Bret Fox
Bret Fox

I haven't tried the dishwasher yet, but I do know that you can spill water on the keyboard, let it dry, and then plug it back in to a computer and it will work flawlessly. So, a dishwasher shouldn't be any different.

jeff.litteral
jeff.litteral

I haven't put one in the dishwasher, but if a user spilled soda on a keyboard, I have sprayed it full of windex and let it sit on its side until it dried out. That usually works. The dishwasher idea is pretty good though.

DougC-3
DougC-3

Lenovo tech gives advice for cleaning laptop keyboards, including dishwasher. See item 7), and also remember to switch off the heat during the post-wash air-drying cycle: http://lenovoblogs.com/insidethebox/?p=62 My spill wasn't serious enough for the dishwasher. I spilled black coffee(no sugar)on my Lenovo 3000 N100 keyboard (no drain holes). I opened it out and let it drain upside down, then removed keyboard to check for internal moisture, found very little. I actually can't remember if I gave it a tap water rinse or not, since it was just black coffee, but I slung and drained it and left it on top of the water heater as a heat source for a day or so and I'm typing on it now :)

best_tech
best_tech

I think door knobs will be shown to be the dirtiest germ covered things around, closely followed by elevator buttons. If you want to have an excuse to wash your hands, do it after you have touched all the door knobs and elevator buttons and stair banisters and hanger-straps on public transport etc etc etc. A filthy keyboard is way cleaner than what you routinely touch just to get to work and home again. Get over it.

not.in.bora-bora
not.in.bora-bora

This was actually a question on my A+ certification test. Along with Pine trees can intefer with wireless transmission. Please take note this only applies to wired keyboard -- USB and the old PS2 connections. This will not work with a wireless mouse or keyboard

smhoffmann
smhoffmann

My son left a laptop in the back of my truck and it rained like crazy leaving the laptop submerged in the water. We took it in the house, took the screen apart, dried it with a dryer, put it back together and let the rest of laptop dry out naturally...the laptop worked great until mold started growing between the screen layers!!! Sharon

wdunwoody
wdunwoody

While I haven't ever used a dishwasher, I have washed a number of keyboards. I have a bad habit of leaving my coffee cup next to the keyboard, and every couple of months or so will somehow knock the coffee cup over towards the keyboard... I immediately disconnect the keyboard and head for the sink; rinsing it in cool water to remove any coffee, milk and sugar before it can do any damage. I shake the keyboard out and let it dry for a day or two, changing it's position so any water can drain out. I'd say that I have had success 9 out of 10 times with this method, although you do have to have access to a 2nd keyboard.... The most recently "washed" one becomes spare for the next time it happens!

jboardman
jboardman

Well, I don't have a dishwasher, but how about hand-washing??

Mystacina
Mystacina

Oh god if you could see some of the keyboards here. I have actually toyed with the idea of carrying a USB keyboard and mouse around in a bag when i go to fix a problem just so I don't have to touch the ones at my co-worker's desks. I really hate when my fingers stick to their keys. It's disturbing and disgusting.

blanchoid
blanchoid

Have done it on laptop and desktop keyboards, not in dishwasher though just a nice clean bucket of water, just let then dry out for ages. DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME... Sounds really daft but this will work on monitors as well, found out by accident, in the good old days I had a 15" facedown in the boot of the car, had a leaky tailgate and it got soaked when I lifted it out a stack of water drained out. The only choice we really had was to pop off the rear cover and left it in front of a fan heater (not too hot) for a couple of days. When we eventually put it back together about a week later. Turned it on and it worked perfectly! Needless to say the boss was happy that he didn't have to fork out for anew one. B

mousejn
mousejn

I have done this for over 20 years. Back in the 80's keyboards used to cost more than $100 each and I did it more often. The main secret is to let it dry completely, also use no or very little soap.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

I've only put a keyboard in the dishwasher once, and it worked fine afterwards, but since then I just fill up my kitchen sink or a plastic tub with some soapy water (dish soap) and let the keyboard sit in it for a few hours. That even did the trick for a couple of laptop keyboards that had coffee (with sugar) spilled on them. I'm sure it's been mentioned already, just make sure they air-dry completely before hooking them back up to a computer. (A hair dryer can help with the drying process, or set the keyboard in front of a fan.)

uftr
uftr

Sounds just as crazy as keyboards in dishwashers, but I'm wondering if anyone has put an "about to be recycled" laptop into a dishwasher to see if it works any worse after than before? It might be something to do with that cheap new Vista Home edition laptop that you bought before you discovered that Vista Home edition is worse than useless.

reisen55
reisen55

And the hot water warped the plastic of the keyboard, destroyed it. As it was a corporate keyboard, he wanted a replacement. Go figure. No, we did not give him one either.

mailboweb
mailboweb

Crazy idea, thats sure. :) What you can do in just open it and take it apart. its not "that" complicated in there. Give it a good scrub, wipe dry( or use hairdryer)make sure that most moist is gone, put it back together and your done. Your favorite keyboard is now as good as new.( Not taking in account, those 10 year old cigarette burns) and other damage) I like to add that some years ago i put my jacket in to the laundry. The jacket which contained a little bag with my USB sticks and SD and MMC memory cards went trough some hot cycles. When I found out that they to had been through these cycles, I feared they would be lost. Never the less I put them to dry for an day in a warm place, an was very satisfied to find that they still functions as perfectly as before. All data still available to. That was interesting and money/work saving adventure.

notaneer
notaneer

Just one question - what wash cycle do you use?

sthomas
sthomas

A few years ago, a client came to me with an interesting dilemma. A PC that he had installed a water cooling system into had malfunctioned, and as a result, leaked automotive coolant all over the inside of the unit. I removed every component from the system except for the hard disk. I then hand-washed the motherboard, memory, video card and other assorted items in warm dishwater. After a thorough rinse, I then hung them all from a ceiling drying rack and left them dry out for almost a week. After reassembly and repair of the water cooling system. I hesitantly fired up the machine and had no issues whatsoever. Later, I bought this PC from the client, removed the water cooling system, and my son uses this as his gaming PC to this day.

jterribili
jterribili

works great! Top tray, no heated dry, no high temp wash, dime size of liquid, leave it out to dry for a few days on some paper towels and shake every so often

TheGratefulNed
TheGratefulNed

Coke (soda, not nose candy) works as a pretty good cleaning agent too. I used to clean old grimy keyboards by popping the keys off (or the key caps on some models) and soaking them overnight in a large cup of Coke. Clean them thoroughly with warm soapy water the next morning and reattach them. The keyboard itself I'd take apart and wipe down with alcohol inside and out, except the circuitry (unless it really needed it). If it was particularly grungy under the keys and the holes in which the keys fit were sufficiently raised, you could also pour a very thin layer of Coke around them and let it stand overnight. You have to make sure it's not so thin a layer that it would mostly evaporate and/or start to crystallize/congeal by morning or you're left with an even worse mess.

PVBenn
PVBenn

Did it once and it worked fine a few years ago. Many years previous I have an engineer spill his V8 on the keyboard and I trashed it. The Pads on the old keyboards where not sealed like the modern ones. Worst I ever saw was when they allowed smoking in offices and I had a chain smoker call me complaining of Sticky keys. After dumping the loose ash from KB vacuming the remaining ash and clening all the pad contacts I felt in need of a shower. I politely told the customer, a crusty old pitbull looking lady who worked for a society that works with female convicts, that the keyboard was clean for now but she should refraing from smoking by the computer. She gave me an angry one eyed squint look and with a cigerett that was mostly ash gingerly clenched in the lips said, "What do you mean I can't smoke over the F#$%^n' keyboard. I'll smoke where I d@#$%well please." The ash, alsmot the entire cigerett now, remained intact.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

In the survey, I'd have selected "have seen done but not ready to try personally". Other components can also be washed under the sync provided they are left to dry thoroughly so a keyboard is not unreasonable.

Tink!
Tink!

Some keyboards you can just remove the circuit board and then wash the rest. I did that (although not with a dishwasher) when a user spilled her can of Coke on her keyboard. You can towel dry the parts and put back together. Provided there are no weird pockets where water may be trapped, the user can use the keyboard again right away.

Mr. Fix
Mr. Fix

I used to meticulously remove all desktop components to clean them, right down to the cooling elements. Then one fine morning I got lazy, placed my desktop out on the garden wall and in just a New York minute I blasted every speck of dust away from every nook and crany with my leafblower, which has a small nozzle attachment. I've been using that technique ever since with great success.

Lizzie_B
Lizzie_B

... but Martha is? I wouldn't use a leafblower to clean out a computer case, nor would I use a shop vac - there's too much static generated by those monsters. The dishwasher method is more efficient than hand cleaning and disassembly if you have several keyboards that need cleaning. Otherwise, it is faster to clean them by hand.

rusty.tyson
rusty.tyson

Back in the day when I did desktop support for a school district, I used to recommend Friday night dishwashing treatment to teachers who loathed a filthy keyboard. Then some regular shaking over the weekend near the basement dehumidifier. A final Monday morning tryst with the hairdryer, and back to school. If it didn't still work, they should call the HelpDesk to say "I came in this morning, and my keyboard just doesn't work today!" We never had any new surge of Monday morning keyboard calls after I began making this recommendation regularly...

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

There is grease on a lot of the moving parts and I thought the dishwasher would wash it away. Interesting to hear this worked. Bill

EBradford
EBradford

So a few years ago, I came across an original Atari 2600 gave system at a yardsale. The owners said it hasn't worked for years, so they'd sell the box of games and controlers for a buck, but that I'd have to take the console too. So I smacked down my Washington and made off with the box. When I got home, I popped it open to see what was wrong. It had a brown sticky residue all over it, which amazingly still smelled of rootbeer. So, I ran the circuit board through the dishwasher, no dry cycle. I let the board air-dry for several days, then reasembled the machine. It worked perfectly. Still does, as far as I know; I sold it a year or so ago for a couple Hamiltons.

Mystacina
Mystacina

Not really something I can get over. But I can say that I do carry around napkins and such to open doors and other things of the like. Maybe it's a bit extreme but I really hate getting sick.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I would be good to remove all drives and moving parts. Anything that moves would probably have a problem with water (bearings and things like that. Hard drives are not completely sealed so they would likely take on water that would cause problems with the internal mechanics. Bill

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I have found that the washer is fine, but the dryer will often kill the usb drive. Bill

stan_nospam
stan_nospam

Coca-Cola contains sugar and/or a diluted syrup which will usually leave a sticky residue when the liquid evaporates. I don't think the consequential degraded responsiveness ("action") of the keys would be desired. My method of a reasonably thorough cleaning of keyboards: I use a household vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment on the hose to remove debris (dust, pet/human hair, etc.) NOTE: Using this type of vacuum cleaner without the brush attachment could result in key caps, etc. being sucked off into the bowels of your vacuum bag! Then, I use isopropyl alcohol and/or Clorox Spray cleaner to clean and sanitize keyboards. Either should leave the keyboard free of germs and sparkling like new! Neither product leaves an undesired residue or eroded key labels which could be a problem with stronger chemicals. Putting the keyboard in the dishwasher seems a bit extreme to me, but whatever floats your boat...or keyboard!

TimH.
TimH.

Don't forget and drink the glass of Coke the next day !!!

PVBenn
PVBenn

Not too sure how they're made now but in the old days, IBM PC Vintage, I had a client who had a leak over Christmas due to a frozen pipe. There was a PC directly under the leak and when I got the to investigate it was full of water. We cleaned it out and let it dry for a week and then powered it on. Worked for a while, 2 or three days I think and then things started to fail. In in the end we could see the water has soaked in along the edge of the circuit board and was causing the board to swell in some locations, the PC was a write off.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

The length of time under water may have been the issue. That's where a dishwasher really stands out in my opinion. It gets sprayed but doesn't really sit under water the whole time. Bill

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