How to clean your computer keyboard

keyboard maintenance
Computer Keyboards can get dirty very easily especially in an office environment.

In this guide we will show you how to clean your keyboard thoroughly as well as how to give it a quick once over. We will guide you through with the aid of photos and diagrams.

The first part is for keyboards that just need a quick clean. The second part is for membrane keyboards (most standard keyboards) and includes removing the keys for a thorough cleaning. To keep your keyboard in top condition the moderate cleaning could be done weekly and the more thorough cleaning could be done every 2 months.

What you will need:

  • lint free cloth.
  • dry cloth or duster.
  • suitable cleaning fluid (isopropyl alcohol).
  • cotton buds.
  • can of compressed air or vacuum cleaner.
  • flat tip screwdriver (optional for thorough clean).

Moderate cleaning (quick and easy)

First, shutdown your PC and remove the mains plug. Unplug the keyboard (remember which socket) and hold it upside down to release any debris from inbetween the keys, pressing the keys as you hold it upside down is a good way to release it.

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For wireless keyboards it is advisable to remove the batteries before doing any maintenance on the keyboard.

If you have a can of compressed air then use it to blow any debris from around and under the keys, if not then use the hose of a vacuum cleaner to remove it.

Now take one of the cotton buds and put a couple of drops of the cleaning fluid on it, if you do not have cleaning fluid then you can use some distilled water. Use the cotton bud to clean the sides of the keys as seen in fig 1.1.

After cleaning the sides of the keys take your lint free cloth and dampen it with your cleaning fluid, never put the liquid directly on the keyboard. Give the surface of the keyboard a good wipe over using the cloth to trace the contours of the keys (see fig 1.2).

When you have finished give the keyboard a wipe over with the dry cloth/duster. You should now have a nice clean keyboard, to clean it more thoroughly follow the guide below.

cleaning keyboard fig 1
cleaning keyboard fig 2

Thorough cleaning (takes longer and requires patience)

Standard membrane keyboards only
(not laptops or non-membrane keyboards)

Shutdown your PC and remove the mains plug, if your keyboard is wireless then remove the battery cover and take out the batteries. Unplug the keyboard (if corded) and hold it upside down to release any debris from inbetween the keys. Running your hand over the keys at the same time is a good way of releasing any stubborn contaminants.

remove key cap off keyboard



keyboard layout
This is where the patience comes in, make a note of the position of all the keys or you may have trouble putting them back correctly. Alternatively, just remove the letter keys A - Z from the keyboard which is where the most of the dust/debris will be, and refer to fig 1.4 as a reference to put them back.

All of the keys can be removed, although the larger keys (space bar, enter key, shift keys, backspace, caps lock, etc) can be difficult to put back so you may want to avoid removing them.

To remove the keys, ease the tip of the screwdriver under the bottom edge and gently apply leverage until the key pops off. You can see an example of this in fig 1.3 .

note: don't forget to make a note of their position!

When you have removed all of the keys (except any keys you wish to avoid) use the compressed air or vacuum cleaner to remove any dust and debris from inside the keyboard.

Now is a good time to give the keys a proper clean. For best results clean each one individually (the patience thing again) with the cloth and cleaning fluid, when they are clean wipe them over with the dry cloth.

Before replacing the keys take your lint free cloth and dampen it with your cleaning fluid. Give the surface of the keyboard a good wipe over ensuring to clean as much as possible any keys that you haven't removed.

When the keyboard is nice and clean replace the keys according to your notes or if you have just removed the letter keys use fig 1.4 as a guide. To put the keys back on, position the key in place and press gently but firmly until it clicks home.

After replacing all the keys give the keyboard a quick wipe over with your dry cloth and you have a nice clean keyboard.

Always ensure the keyboard is completely dry before it is plugged back in, or in the case of a wireless keyboard before the batteries are inserted.
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