General discussion

What is the best way to clean a keyboard?

Aug 4, 2017 5:30PM PDT

Hello, I love reading the valuable help offered on these posts. Today I have a question: Much like the ray of light illuminated the location of the Ark for Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark on that special day, today the sun shone on my keyboard to illuminate all the disgusting grunge sitting under the keys.

I panicked and banged on it repeatedly over the tub, but when I brought it back, there was still a considerable amount of grunge still in there. I spent a half hour picking out yuck with a bent paper clip alternating with vacuuming and then wiped it all down with a disinfectant wipe. I know there is still stuff in there, but for the sake of my sanity, I will have to pretend I got everything... for now.

I once tried washing my keyboard after reading a recommendation in an article online. It was supposed to be safe and effective at removing grunge. That was the keyboard before I suddenly needed to buy this one. Just what is a "sufficient amount of drying time" for electronics, anyway?

It occurs to me that keyboards should come with crumb trays -- like toasters. Or that the manufacturer should specifically describe how to clean safely. So what is the best way to clean a keyboard? Are there models that are easier to clean than others?

Inquiring minds want to know! Thanks for reading my question Happy Kindest regards.

--Submitted by Lynda B.

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Crumb trays
Aug 4, 2017 7:15PM PDT

Great idea!!!

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Need more information
Aug 4, 2017 7:33PM PDT

Crumb trays go under a toaster. How would they be used to keep a keyboard clean?

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The crumbs and dust that fall between the keys
Aug 6, 2017 9:52PM PDT

If the keyboard had a tray sitting below the keys and was removable, it can be emptied like a crumb tray in a toaster oven. Does that make sense?

Post was last edited on August 7, 2017 10:25 AM PDT

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Aug 11, 2017 5:47PM PDT


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Aug 11, 2017 9:29PM PDT

I can't imagine what a state your toaster must be in. Grin

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"Crumb" tray
Aug 16, 2017 5:02PM PDT

I understand that. I mentioned the plastic covers that used to be available. They fit the standard MS boards. The tops of the caps not covered, cutouts.

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Depends on the keyboard
Aug 4, 2017 9:33PM PDT

A friend used to work for a company that refurbished computers. She said they would wash keyboards in the dishwasher, and had a high success rate. I don't recommend this.

For a desktop keyboard, I have vacuumed it, then carefully popped off the keys, a few at a time. I washed the keys in mild soap and water and dry them well. I clean the base area with denatured alcohol on a swab. Of course I disconnected the keyboard first. The keys snap back into place easilly. It is time consuming and I didn't do it often.

My day to day trick for both desktop keyboards and laptop is to vacuum, then use the sticky part of a Post It Note to remove crumbs. I have also purchased some stuff at an office supply store that resembles play dough, that you can use to remove crumbs. If I get something sticky on the keyboard I wipe it off with an alcohol wipe, the kind I use before giving my insulin shots.

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Important-few at a time
Aug 14, 2017 7:42AM PDT

One time I took all of the keys off to clean the keyboard. Should have taken a picture of the keyboard first!

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Canned Air
Aug 4, 2017 9:39PM PDT

Blow it out with canned air. Hold the keyboard over your head, use the little straw on the canned air and go all the way around each key. It helps if you wear glasses or a pair of those Minion goggles. Keep your mouth closed. Oh, and a head lamp is handy to peek in the crevices.

If that doesn't get all the crumbs, dust mites, pet dander, mucus, dead skin, plankton and microscopic coral out of there, then get a friend to hold the keyboard over your head. Fill a syringe with isopropyl alcohol. With the syringe in one hand and the can of air in the other hand, squirt just a bit of alcohol on the mucky bits, poke them with the needle just enough to dislodge them, then blow them away with the canned air. Keep the canned air going until the alcohol has dried. Oh, and a shower cap along with the goggles, mouth closed and head lamp. And don't smoke.

That should take care of everything but the bacon jam, DNA, fried chicken grease, massage oil, pizza cheese, C4, blood and dust from the spent fuel rods. For those, you need either a commercial dishwasher or a stiff scrub brush, Dawn dish soap, Lysol, bleach, and a sink full of hot water. You should know that your keyboard may not survive this extreme cleaning.

If you have a commercial dishwasher, run the keyboard through on the Pot Scrubber and Sanitize cycles. If not, soak the keyboard in hot water and Dawn for about 15 minutes to loosen things up. Scrub it thoroughly with the brush, rinse, and spray with bleach. Be sure to get in all the nooks and crannies. Rinse, spray with Lysol (for the viruses, you know) and rinse again. Shake dry. You can also use a clothes dryer, gas or electric, on the delicate cycle. If the dryer has a cycle for electronics, use that.

When the dryer cycle completes, your keyboard should be factory clean. Test it to see how much better it works, now that it's clean. What's that? Dead, you say? Oh, well, nothing seems to last as long as it used to. Remember to throw it in your neighbor's trash late tonight. Best head down to the electronics store to get another one, And while you're out, go to the home improvement store and get one of those plastic drop cloths to put over the key board.

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Aug 12, 2017 7:41AM PDT

Now that was one hilarious post! I think the gist of what you were saying is why not just go buy a new one if its that dirty?

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New keyboard.?
Aug 16, 2017 5:05PM PDT

More fun to clean it. Hehe

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I use a Bloodhound.
Aug 16, 2017 6:00PM PDT

I point him at the keyboard and say, "get him Nigel". He then sucks all the crumbs from the keyboard. Simples!

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Paintbrush or cover
Aug 4, 2017 10:26PM PDT

Hi Lynda,

Most times on desktop ype keyboards, I use a painter's long bristle paintbrush, about an inch wide and a ruler. I get the brushes, unbranded from a local D.I.Y. store. the long bristles will easily slip under a row of keys, if you use a ruler to hold the adjacent down. Regular brushes don't work so well, the bristles aren't flexible enough or long enough.

I stert at the top row, far side, round the sides, near side, always brushing towards the palm rest. Supplementing the brushing with canned air, where necessary, gets my keyboard clean. Rubbing alcohol or liquid glass cleaner (not the cream sort) will take care of the tops.

This technique, unfortunaely doesn't work on chicklet key that you find on most laptops these days, though they are tight enough to prevent all but fine dust slipping through.

Alternatively, if you can cope with them, from a business supplies company, you can get flexible transparent plastic keyboard covers that fit over the top of the entire keyboard. I don't like them personally because they take too much 'feel' out of the keys but if you can live with them, they are a great option on a clean keyboard and also protect against spilt drinks.

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re Paintbrush or cover
Aug 13, 2017 1:01PM PDT

I used a cover (or as I used to call it, a "Keyboard Condom") for YEARS on my work 'puter's (separate) keyboard, and I was astounded at how quickly it got really nasty. The upside is that as soon as I saw it getting noticeably nasty, I could take it off and simply wash it with soap and water and of course dry it well. The downside was that as you note, it took a while to get used to it, but since these covers are tailored to specific models of keyboards, they really do fit pretty well, and it takes less time than you'd think to get used to them. If you think you'll never get the hang of it, think on how grungy it would be if you did NOT use it, 'cause it's not always obvious until it's REALLY bad. That first cleaning cycle will make you a true believer! Elaine in Charlotte

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Depends on the keyboard
Aug 4, 2017 10:54PM PDT

Some keyboards can be opened up easily. The mechanical bits can be separated from the mat with the traces. The portion can be washed safely. I would do it in the sink with a mild cleaner. A soft bristle brush can get the grunge from between the keys. Dry well before reassembly.

If you spill something on your keyboard, and it gets onto the traces, then you'll have to wash that, too. If you do that, be sure not to bend it too much, or you'll break a trace. And, when you're finished, use a hairdryer on medium to get it nice and dry before it has time to corrode. Be conservative. Take much longer than you think you need. Make sure it's really dry.

There are also inexpensive pen-shaped devices labeled "Electronic Cleaning Brush" which actually do a surprisingly good job of grabbing the dust and hair that has dropped below the keys. At least, if you do it routinely. If it's a coupla years between cleanings, then even this is going to require a lot of work.

Drake Christensen

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Time consuming, but worth it!
Aug 5, 2017 1:16AM PDT

I have been faced with this dilemma before, with my previous keyboards. One was wired, one was wireless. I found out that the solution to both was exactly the same.

It involves gently applying some force to pop each key off the keyboard, then using a vacuum to clean up all the little bits of dust and dirt that have fallen off under the keyboard. If the dust is only slight, running across the top of the keyboard with a vacuum nozzle may work - though the best way is to vacuum the inside of the keyboard, by removing each key to get access.
If needed, use a duster to dust off each individual key before placing the keys back on.

Oh, and if you're unsure where the keys go on return, make sure to screenshot an image of the keyboard before, so you know where the keys go Happy

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NOT meant for a lot of keyboard
Aug 11, 2017 7:27PM PDT

I don't suggest people do this on one like mine. the Keys are like a laptop and are a nightmare to replace. I spent an hour replacing one of mine on my illuminated Logitech and I watched the video many times where that #$%^ made it look so easy. I hate him and bless him for that video.
Most laptops have the same type of keyboards.My suggestion would be blow it out before it gets to the point you need to power wash it.
Before you go picking keys off, make sure you can afford to replace it.

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Check-out Various Cleaners and Reviews on Amazon
Aug 5, 2017 2:31AM PDT

Over time there will always be ground-in dirt.

There are many forms of keyboard cleaner on Amazon including gels and sticky stuffs - I use Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster and compressed gas

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If it's a $10 walmart special
Aug 5, 2017 3:33AM PDT
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Only if your KB is a cheap one
Aug 12, 2017 1:46PM PDT

Toss and buy will work if you are using a cheap KB. However, I have a $150 gaming KB with programmable macro keys. I'd just as soon toss it in a cloths washer followed by a tumble in the dryer. Then I could go out and buy a new one.

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Too much work
Aug 5, 2017 8:08PM PDT

Every 30 days or so I just tip the keyboard over and tap it 8-10 times.

Amazing the amount of stuff that falls out.

Yes I can still see stuff between the keys but I'm not about to pull off every key cap.

Surface wipe the thing with some glass cleaner and a paper towel or rag.

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Cleaning the keys
Aug 14, 2017 7:44AM PDT

This will depend on the particular keyboard. If the letters appear to be stencilled on then coated with a protective layer, as some are, then don't try this, use a water based cleanser.

I use isopropyl alcohol (91%), that is used as a disinfectant, and sold at most drug stores. It;s the same stuff that is in hand sanitizers. It is not friendly to all plastics, or painted bits, so try a bit with a paper towel on a hidden part of the keyboard. if the colour doesn't come off when rubbed, you should be good. Wet a paper towel and gently clean the keys, in between as well. I keep the stuff on hand for cleaning a lot of grungy stuff. But, as warned, it can dissolve some plastics so test first.

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Keyboards are QWERTY_v2.0
Aug 6, 2017 7:54AM PDT

Hi Lynda

The CNET SpamBot ate a portion of the original version of this post with helpful links to YouTube videos on cleaning a keyboard. Although I have removed the links I strongly urge you to check out the many and varied videos available to you via YouTube. While the advice the members have given thus far is sound it doesn’t hurt to have a visual reference. There’s also the possibility that you may find a how-to video on the exact same keyboard you are using or at the very least one that plays to the same product family. Cnet needs to develop a smarter algorithm for it’s SpamBot. JMO. Wink

Lynda, Yours is a question/task that everyone has most likely had to address at one time or another. There are IMO two types of cleaning…Surface Cleaning (requiring canned air, brushes and wipes etc.) and Teardown. The latter will use some of the techniques employed in Surface Cleaning but also involves disassembly and should not be taken lightly. It requires that you know where to begin and how.

First, rule in a Teardown cleaning take a picture of the keyboard before you begin to know where each key goes during reassembly.

A handy tool to use versus a screwdriver or other metal object to minimize potential damage to the keys and other plastic parts is a Spudger. Spudgers are typically made with industrial strength nylon that has a wide flat-head screwdriver-like end that extends as a wedge, used to separate pressure-fit plastic components. They are relatively cheap at $3 - $4 and come in various sizes (head portion) and lengths. I’ve even seen homemade Spudgers made of wood.

Keyboards are somewhat generic in build but each may have a slight variation. Keyboards with tall keys are easier to remove (with a Spudger) and most often has a generous space between them. As the keys become shorter the difficulty level to remove them becomes more of a challenge not to damage the under pinning’s and quite often the space between them lessens.

Since you are asking for advice in this forum I believe it safe to say that you are leaning toward a Teardown Cleaning. The only question being how far do you want to go with that process. Most have talked about removing the keys as a starting point. Let’s assume you want to go that route. After doing you go further or stop? That’s a decision only you can make based on your comfort level. The YouTube videos my help.

As an aside…I’ve had the good fortune to be able to find silicon laser cut protective covers for all of my laptops (MBP 13, 15 & 17 inch and Surface Book). They cost on average about $20-$25 on Amazon. Very thin and cause no noticeable lag when typing as there is no air between the cover and the actual key(s). For my Corsair K95 Platinum gaming keyboard I had a custom (L x D x H) nylon cover made @ $30 that I place over it when not in use. I air dust it bi-weekly.

Generic silicon keyboard covers; while they somewhat conform to the manufacturer design, IMO often create an air pocket between the cover and keyboard surface. Thus making for a mushy typing experience. However, if you find one that works for you – go for it - some protection is better than none at all. A cardinal rule _never eat over the keys or touch them with sticky fingers

Good luck cleaning your keyboard to your satisfaction…if not…then there’s always new. Cheers!

Together Everyone Achieves More = TEAM

Post was last edited on August 7, 2017 8:52 AM PDT

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CyberClean has saved me
Aug 6, 2017 9:56AM PDT

In the old days with a mechanical keyboard, I would run it under warm water. In particularly bad cases, I would put it in the dishwasher on the china setting with no soap and it worked every time. The only caveat was I had to make sure it was dry before I tried to use it. Today, however, I use two methods. I shake the keyboard upside down for several seconds to get out the loose debris. Then I use a yellow jelly-like substance called CyberClean that you can press between the keys to remove stubborn grime. You may be able to run the newer keyboards under water if they are wired, but most keyboards these days are wireless and thus not good with water.

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I use Cyber Clean "slime"
Aug 11, 2017 5:14PM PDT

Amazon sells Cyber Clean "slime" in small packs and jars. You squish it all over and around the keys and the gaps between them. Just roll it back and forth and squish it down firmly.

Does a great job of getting nearly all the gunk below/between the keys. Leaves a bit of residue on the keys so when I finish with the "slime", I spray some Method brand "surface cleaner" on a microfiber rag and wipe down all the keys. The Method spray is really good - vegetable based, biodegradable, no ammonia or alcohol and lots of nice scents (my fave is pink grapefruit). Works great on glass or any surface.

Cyber Clean and Method cleaners are the bomb!

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Bring on the slime!!
Aug 12, 2017 4:34PM PDT

Out of everything I've read so far, it seems to me that the Cyber Clean "slime" would be the easiest, quickest, and safest way to clean my disgusting keyboard! I forgot about the Method spray cleaner part of this post, but I'll try the slime first and see what happens. I figured I could do the q-tip and alcohol thing that I used to do, but now I see why the Method might be better (no alcohol).

Well, I will get back to you as soon as I receive the slime from Amazon and give it a try. The word SLIME appeals to me somehow! Kevin Talbot, thanks for the tip, and if it doesn't work, I'll just have to get you to come over here and maybe YOU have the magic touch, LOL.

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Dishwashers? No more
Aug 11, 2017 5:22PM PDT

I've used the dishwasher for this but that's no longer a good idea because tiny circuit board geometries and very low-current (microamp) signals are common now.

I use an external keyboard most of the time, so my laptop board doesn't need cleaning very often. I take the external board apart and blow out the mess with compressed air, then use a damp terrycloth towel to riffle along the keys, following up with a Q-Tip or similar to get between the keys.

Keep in mind as you go that if worse come to worst, you can always buy a new one. Unless you're dealing with the laptop, then need to be more careful.

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Could be worse...
Aug 11, 2017 5:25PM PDT

Anyone remember when Apple first got all design-y and their keyboard was house in clear plastic? After a while, everyone's keyboard was reeeally gross.

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Dishwasher or bathtub for corded keyboards
Aug 11, 2017 5:33PM PDT

I have a drastic way to clean keyboards. Drastic but very efficient and all my clients have reported that it really works. If you have a "normal" keyboard, by that I mean a simple corded keyboard, not a wireless one with lcd screens, First, I start by vacuuming the keyboard with the brush tip in order to remove all those little particles, like sesame seeds from bagels and granulated sugar from various desserts. Then, I place it in the dishwasher with water temperature at medium or lukewarm. If you don't have a dishwasher, place the keyboard in the bathtub, fill it with enough lukewarm water to cover it, add detergent for delicate clothes and woosh the water roughly. Use a sponge to wipe any crud that has not dissolved in the water. Afterwards, let it sit there for a while before rinsing it with cool water. To dry the keyboard, you can either blow dry it with a hair dryer on the lowest heat setting or just let it stand outside in the shade on a sunny day.

As I said earlier, the above method is strictly for corded keyboards. Wireless keyboards and those with a little lcd screen on them can only be vacuumed and wiped with a LIGHTLY damp cloth. They a very delicate. They contain electronic circuits which MUST NOT GET WET. Unfortunately, this is the downside for using wireless keyboards. Good luck!

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Cleanliness is next to Godliness
Aug 11, 2017 5:46PM PDT

Wash your hands
Refrain from eating doughnuts over the keyboard
Pry up the keys to get the detritus under them. Take a picture with your cell phone so that you replace them correctly.
Send me the doughnuts you can't eat anymore

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