How to Thoroughly Clean your Computer Keyboard

I know what you’re thinking…you’ve never thought about cleaning your computer keyboard until now, right?  You’ve probably been using that keyboard for years, and not cleaned it once.  Eeewww…that’s disgusting.  If you have kids using it everyday as well, who knows what evil lurks on and under those keys.

You might think I’m just being a bit too fastidious (I won’t use that ‘other’ word…this is a family show).   Let’s face it, germs are everywhere.  This isn’t a terrible thing in and of itself.  However, if you’re unhealthy, or have a poor diet, those keyboard germs could be part of a larger health issue.

Computer keyboard. Photo by: timorous
Computer keyboard. Photo by: timorous

With a computer keyboard, as with most household, or office things, it’s a matter of having a routine for cleaning what needs to be cleaned, when it needs to be cleaned.  For your computer keyboard, whether it’s a standard desktop keyboard, or a laptop, it’s basically the same procedure.  You can go the easy route, and just clean the tops and visible edges of the keys.  However, for this article we’re going to take all the keys off, and clean the underbelly as well.

Here’s what you’ll need for cleaning your computer keyboard…

  • a screwdriver
  • a vacuum or a can of compressed air
  • cotton swabs
  • some dish detergent and warm water
  • a can of dry lubricant
  • a soft, lint-free cloth
  • a toothbrush (somewhat optional)
  • baking soda, and or vinegar (also optional)
  • isopropyl alcohol or lighter fluid

Getting the keys off your computer keyboard

Before you start prying off the keys, it might also be a good idea to print a diagram of where all those keys go, before you start pulling them all off. You’d want to be sure of getting them all back in the right place. Then, turn off the computer.

First of all, you’ll need a tool with a fairly wide, but thin blade. A slot screwdriver should work fine, or a regular kitchen knife (a butter knife). Be careful not to use too much force. The plastic is not all that hard, and you can gouge and mangle the keys if you’re not careful. Hold on to the key as you pry it off, otherwise it may go flying off to who knows where. It’s a good idea to soak them in a bowl of the detergent and warm water for a while.

A note on laptop keyboards...

For laptop keyboards, you need to be even more careful. Most have small rubber washers for each key, so don’t lose them. Keep them separate from the keys (these washers need to be cleaned as well).

The larger keys, like Enter, Shift, and Backspace, and the Spacebar are usually attached with a wire clip, as well as its’ center stub. I’ll show you how to put them back properly later (or watch the video below).

Here's a fun, and informative video I made...just for you

Where did all that crud come from?

Now that you’ve got all the keys off, you’ll see a bunch of raised mounds that the keys snap into.  On a desktop computer keyboard, they’re raised about 10mm above the bed of the keyboard, on a laptop, not very much.  So on a laptop, you have a better chance of causing damage, if it’s a major spill of something other than water. On a standard computer desktop keyboard, you’d have more leeway.  That notion of having to replace the keyboard if you spill something on it, only really applies to laptop computers, not so much to the desktop keyboards.

As for getting the crud off, you should use a vacuum or the compressed air first, to get the dust and loose dirt off.  For the dried up stuff you’ll need either a toothbrush and warm, soapy water (use can use anti-bacterial detergent if you like), or cotton swabs.

Be careful though…don’t get water into the insides of the raised mounds.  Also, be careful with any alcohol-based cleaners, the plastic may not take kindly to some cleaners (especially acetone!).  Stick to isopropyl alcohol, or lighter fluid, if it’s really stubborn crud.  No matter what you use, make sure the cotton swab in barely damp, not soaking wet.  Carefully clean inside the raised mounds with the cotton swab.  Change the cotton swabs often…no good spreading the dirt around even more.

You may need to do some scraping if it’s really old crud.  Just try and get off as much as you can, and make sure it’s dry before going to the next step..cleaning the keys.

Cleaning the keys

After soaking them in warm water and (anti-bacterial) detergent for a while, they may still need some scrubbing.  You can use some baking soda or vinegar (or a combination of the two, if you’re careful), and a toothbrush.  This should get them as clean as new.  Then just rinse or wipe them off with a damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth or a paper towel.  Leave them to dry completely.

Key replacement.  Photo by: timorous
Key replacement. Photo by: timorous

Replacing the keys

Before you start replacing the keys, spray the raised mounds and the slots for the larger keys, lightly with the dry lubricant…not too much. Now for each key, place it face down on a paper towel, and carefully spray a small amount of the dry lubricant on all sides of the central key stub…again, not too much. Remember to spray the wire brackets on the larger keys as well.

Replacing the keys is the relatively easy part, as long as you remember where they all go. You’ll notice that on a regular desktop keyboard, the keys have a longer bevel on one side, the side that faces you. The square keys can be put in upside down, but try not to do that..just pay attention to what you’re doing. The larger keys usually have a wire bracket that slips under a couple of slots on the bed of the keyboard (see the photo above, or watch the video above). In all cases, you just align the key over the raised mound and press down until it snaps into place.

For the laptop, don't forget the little rubber washers that go on before the key goes on.

You’re done

Now that you’ve got all the keys back in the right place, you’re good to go. Congratulations. That wasn’t so hard was it? …and it didn’t cost you an arm and a leg to have some computer tech (grudgingly) do it for you.

Now that you know how, you can do it far more regularly. You will…won’t you? You promised…


This article ©2011 by timorous+

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I'm always happy to read your comments... 23 comments

dear addict profile image

dear addict 5 years ago from where people are helping people

Very helpful Hub, and here I thought I was going to be learning to clean my car keys *sigh* OK fine, I don't have a car

whatever

love, more than usual today,

Kimberly


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Wow Tim that is hilarious..I know I should say useful, but that video is amusing to say the least. I enjoyed every bit of it and I am going to vote it up and useful.


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Hey Kimberly, you go right ahead and clean any keys you like (particularly F#). Nice to see ya, grrrl. I presume you found the video amusing as well as useful...whatever [LOL]

love ya two


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Oh Hi sofs. I'm so glad you enjoyed the video, and also found the subject matter useful. Now go and clean that keyboard of yours...haha.

Thanks buddy. Cheers.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

That video was awesome and funny, very dashing music to go with this subject:)Sorry, but I have to turn off my computer now, because now I know how much dirt there are under those keys! I will push your voting up button first though! Thanks for this funny and informative hub!


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Hey, this is hard! Sorry tim, there's no way I would remove the keys on my apple keyboard even if there is lurking crud! I think I'll just clean around the edges with denatured alcohol and a q-tip!


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Hi thoughtforce. Thanks for visiting and enjoying the video and useful info. Don't be shy about attacking the cleaning, you'll be glad you did.

Green Lotus...wonderful to see you again. I'm sorry you don't have the compulsion to do a more thorough job, although it's good to see you're obviously not a germ-o-phobe. Thanks for enjoying the info, and presumably the video.


fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

Your video is very useful and funny! Thanks for your tip!


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Hi fucsia. Thanks for having a fun and useful look at cleaning your keyboard.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

An outstanding hub! I am going to do this tomorrow. You've made the steps to cleaning the keyboard fun. Thanks. :)


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

That's the spirit, vocalcoach. I'm so glad I could make it as fun and easy as it really is. Don't forget to sing while you rub and scrub those keys. :) Cheers.


The Quiz Master profile image

The Quiz Master 5 years ago from England

Hi Timorous,

If you saw my keyboard you'd freek out!

I'm sure there is stuff alive in there and I wouldn't want to destroy it's ecosystem.

Great hub and fun video, voted up from me.


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Haha..that's right T.Q.M., all creatures have a right to live..I totally agree. Sometimes it's better to leave things be. You might end up making things worse. It just depends whether you're ok with the bacteria, or if it's the worst thing ever. Thanks for the vote.


The Jet profile image

The Jet 5 years ago from The Bay

Thanks! My keyboard needs this proper cleaning.


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

Hi T.J. Well hey, you go right ahead and make that keyboard spick and span. Thanks for visiting.


The Jet profile image

The Jet 5 years ago from The Bay

Will do.


danielleantosz profile image

danielleantosz 5 years ago from Florida

very useful, its a pain but since I drink and eat at my computer desk AND have a cat who thinks its a toy mine is quite gross!


timorous profile image

timorous 5 years ago from Me to You Author

You're so right, danielleantosz. I'm sure all of us are guilty of such neglect.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

timorous, this is the first hub of yours I've read, but I'm already sensing you're possibly the only person who could write a hub on cleaning computer keyboard and make it entertaining as well as educational!

My laptop keyboard has been in need of a good cleaning for awhile, but I didn't know how different it'd be from cleaning a desktop keyboard. Thanks! (I have plenty of experience cleaning desktop keyboards...and making the templates *before* the key popping.)

Voted up and awesome! ;D


timorous profile image

timorous 4 years ago from Me to You Author

Hi Jama. So glad you enjoyed the hub, and I hope you watched the video. I just love the sprightly music. Oh..and this was my very first video.

Yeah, the laptop keys are bit more finicky, you just need to be more careful and methodical. See you around.


TVantennainstalls 4 years ago

I clean my keyboard ever weekend. its amazing what comes out of it (don't even want to know) when I turn it upside down and hit it a few times. Thanks for the other tips you mention here too.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This looks like a good idea, you wouldn't believe all the key boards I have that are simply packed away from being dirty! Thank you.


timorous profile image

timorous 4 years ago from Me to You Author

It's a great idea. Now you can clean all those keyboards that are taking up valuable space, and give them away to charities. Thanks Jackie.

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