Computer keyboards need consistent maintenance to prevent the buildup of grime that occurs from constant use. In addition, being sat on top of your desk, a keyboard is prone to collecting dust which can cause issues with the keys. Nonetheless, good quality keyboards can last for several years, if maintained properly.
As a result, we have created this guide covering a few methods of cleaning a mechanical keyboard. It is best to alternate these methods to ensure that we clean our keyboards in an out. Do keep in mind that the first step in all these approaches is to disconnect the keyboard from the computer.
Frequently Dust & Wipe
First of all, dusting, wiping and making sure that grime doesn’t collect can go a long way in increasing the life of a keyboard.
A particularly nasty habit that we develop over time is having our meals in front of the computer. Tiny food particles can settle in the gaps between the keys and the board. I remember one such incident. I began typing on my keyboard, only to find that something was stinging.
It was a horde of angry ants which had made a cozy home inside the keyboard! That’s when I realized how much of a gap is present, which allows small particles to pass through and get lodged between the keys. The gaps between your keys may vary depending on what type of keyboard you have, you can learn more in our mechanical vs membrane keyboard guide.
Steps for regular keyboard cleaning
- Turn the keyboard upside down and tap it. Big particles lodged between will fall out.
- If you have a vacuum cleaner at home, you can try this step. A thin nozzle vacuum cleaner extension is a great boon. Use it tactfully. We should be careful about the vacuum pressure as keyboards have delicate circuits.
- Using a slightly wet piece of cloth, wipe the keys slowly. Make sure you cover all gaps between the keys.
- Do not use a cloth with loose fibers or tissue paper to wipe the keyboard, since they will leave a residue behind. An old cotton shirt or microfiber gym towel are good options.
The Spring Clean
If left unchecked, grime grows quickly on keyboards. As a result, it gets harder to clean them if they dry up and remain untouched for many months at a stretch. The keyboard can also turn into a breeding ground for microorganisms.
Steps for occasional keyboard cleaning
- Follow the steps for the frequent approach first.
- Using a keycap remover, gently unfasten all the keys which are of the same size. Usually, the special keys such as spacebar, Enter and Shift will be firm. The letter and number keys, which are of the same size, are easier to tackle first.
- After pulling out all the keycaps, it is best to soak them in a homemade cleaning agent. A little detergent or dish wash soap in warm water are effective options. Let the keys soak in for a while.
- Scrape off the grime on the keys using a sharp tool. This is easy after the keys have soaked for a few hours. Put the keys to dry on a mat.
Once in a year
If you have never cleaned the keyboard from the time you bought it, or it feels very dirty, it can take a while to do so. Apart from grime, a variety of oils from our skin, food oils and dust particles can form layers on the keys. To revert the condition of the keyboard to its original state, here are a few steps.
Steps for cleaning the keyboard after a long gap
- Begin by soaking the keys in a homemade cleaning solution, as explained in the previous set of steps.
- Dismantle the keyboard. Unscrew the nuts and bolts holding the frame together. This is a difficult task, owing to the sensitive nature of keyboard parts. Take as much time as you need for this step. All cables, circuits and boards should be kept carefully.
- Moisten one end of an earbud. If available, you can dip it in an alcoholic cleaning solution. Check that the solution is not too strong, as there is a risk of circuits getting fried. Similarly, use a stiff brush to sweep out dust particles that may have remained.
- Finally, reassemble the parts after they are dry. This is the most important step. Make sure all the wires are in place and the keycaps have gone back to their position. You may consider using anti-static wrist straps for this too.
In the case of spills, if the liquid penetrates the keyboard, we have found that you need to immediately disconnect the keyboard. You can either wait to for it to dry completely before reconnecting it or play it safe and also clean it before reconnecting. If that doesn’t work, you will need to call tech support for assistance.
Consequently, cleaning the keyboard once in a few months is the best approach to take, and can be done at the same time as cleaning your mousepad and mouse. Certainly, we are busy individuals and may not have time to do it often. But ignoring it for over a year makes our job harder later. Happy cleaning!
If you are looking for a compact mechanical keyboard, then see our best tenkeyless mechanical keyboard buyers guide.