How to clean a desktop keyboard
Keeping the keyboard clean is an important part of PC hygiene. A clean keyboard is also more likely to work without errors. Below we look at some ways to clean the keyboard to ensure that it does not spread bacteria and works in top condition.
If you are a particularly cluttered or accident-prone person, there are spill-proof keyboards available, which can save you money and downtime. However, most people will hardly notice the slow build-up of dust, lint and crumbs in a keyboard before performance is affected or it becomes clear that a cleaning job can no longer be postponed.
There are several ways to clean a keyboard. You can use a stationary vacuum cleaner if it suffers from pure dust buildup. At the other end of the scale, you can remove all the keys and wash them in warm soapy water, clean the chassis, and then you have a very fresh keyboard. We are going to take a middle ground; vacuum, remove the dirtiest keys, and eliminate dust and grease marks where visible. Here’s how to do it.
- A PC keyboard
- A key cap removal tool
- Alcohol wipes
- A microfiber cloth
- A soft toothbrush
- A vacuum cleaner with detail nozzle
- Thoroughly wipe the keyboard
- Remove keys, one cluster at a time, for cleaning with wet / dry cloths
- With keys off, you can also clean the back with a brush and vacuum cleaner
- Use alcohol wipes and a soft brush to remove ingrained dirt on the keyboard
Pull the keys away from part of the keyboard for cleaning
Disconnect the keyboard from the computer and take it to the area you have prepared for the cleaning task. Take a picture of the keyboard before you start removing any keys, for later reference.
After a quick drying with a microfiber cloth, we began to remove groups of keys, in areas that showed signs of dirt on the hard-to-reach edges. However, we worked with groups of keys, approx. 10 at a time, to make the job a rolling replacement task that is harder to mess with.
Removing the keys gives you very easy access to the mounting plate where the key switches are located and connected via the cross fasteners to the key cap. You can tilt and press the keyboard to make dust and crumbs fall to this exposed area and quickly vacuum it up.
Wet wipes, dry wipes
Take the dirty keys and rub them around with an alcohol swab, then a microfiber cloth – they should look nice and clean. You should work in groups with switches, and set them aside in the same layout on the desk as they had on the keyboard. Work with as many parts of the keyboard and keys as you want.
Some brushing and drying of the keyboard cover
Some other areas of the keyboard probably need attention. In our example, the logo at the top right and the LED status light area had ingrown dust dried with alcohol and then lightly brushed. Some oily / greasy surfaces around the keyboard cover were also dried and cleaned.
Last dry drought
Once you have worked across all the areas of the keyboard that need attention, the keyboard should look much cleaner and fresher. We wiped down the entire finished job with the microfiber cloth once more. This was not really necessary, but there were still some “wet” areas from the alcohol, and it made the finished image look better.
Frequently asked questions
The mechanical keyboard we used came with the key puller tool shown, so it is easy to remove the key covers for cleaning around and under. If your keyboard is the same, you will be able to follow the same process. Note that there are some very different keyboards out there, so check with the keyboard vendor / manual / website to see how to remove keys for cleaning.
Laptops are also sometimes very different, and you should check with all the documentation regarding your laptop model before doing anything more than a quick wipe with a microfiber cloth.
If you forgot to take a picture of the keyboard before you started, look for a picture of the keyboard on a web page; from the manufacturer or dealer, perhaps.
There are many online retailers that sell keychains, especially for “standard” cross-mounted keychains. If you are lucky, your keyboard will have some spare parts in the box. For the two mechanical keyboards in the author’s possession, both came with a selection of extra blank keys – not ideal, but better than a missing key. If your keyboard is quite old, but you love it, it may be worth buying a cheap used one from your local auction site (s) – then you have spare parts.