If you’re like a good number of Americans, you sit and work at your computer most every day. And while you’re sitting at your computer, you don’t want to be typing on a sticky, dusty or grimy keyboard. First of all it’s gross, and second of all it could affect your health. So here is how to clean it.
Note that these instructions are for a regular computer keyboard. For an article with specific instructions for cleaning laptops see “How to Clean Laptop Keyboards”.
Cleaning Your Keyboard By Hand
1. Unplug the keyboard from the computer
It’s important to unplug the keyboard before you start the cleaning process so that there’s no risk of shocking yourself. To further protect the electronic components of the board, you may want to cover the cable with a plastic bag or plastic wrap so that it doesn’t get wet.
While you’re holding the unplugged keyboard, this is a good time to turn it upside down and knock out any loose debris, such as cookie crumbs. Just flip the board over and tap gently so that the crumbs are dislodged. Save yourself some grief by holding the keyboard over a trash can while you do this.
2. Assemble your cleaning supplies
Cleaning your keyboard doesn’t take a lot of materials, and it doesn’t take a long time to do, in most cases. Here is what you will need:
- A handkerchief, old cotton t-shirt or other cloth that will not shed fuzz
- A bottle of electronics cleaner or rubbing alcohol
- Cotton swabs, i.e. Q-tips
- A can of compressed air OR a screwdriver or knife for prying off the keys
- A bottle of dish soap for hand washing (optional)
3. Clean betwixt the keys …
There are two ways to clean in between the keys on your keyboard. The faster way is to use the can of compressed air by aiming it in the cracks and blowing out the dust. Be careful with the compressed air can as it contains harmful chemicals. Use it in a well ventilated area and always hold the can upright so it doesn’t leak.
… or remove them
The second way you can clean this area of the keyboard is a bit more thorough and is not necessary every time you clean it. You can remove the keys and then wipe out the area between and beneath them with the rubbing alcohol or cleaning solution. You should be able to gently pry them off with a flat head screwdriver or knife. (Key word: gently. If they don’t come off easily you are doing something wrong).
Make sure to only take the top cover off the key (the part with the letter on it) and not to remove the base or it will be very difficult or impossible to put the key back on when you’re finished. Also, remove only the letter, number and “F” keys unless you are a computer hardware expert. The larger keys, such as the space bar, are more complex in their makeup and are harder to remove and replace. Note: Take a picture of the keyboard before you pop the keys off or you’ll have a heck of a time trying to put them back in the right place.
5. Clean the keys themselves
If you’ve taken the keys off of the board, you can place them in a bowl of lukewarm water and add a couple drops of dish soap for hand washing to clean them with some light scrubbing. (Be sure to plug the drain if the bowl is in the sink.)
If you still have the keys attached to the board, you can use the cloth or the cotton swabs to clean them. Just dip the cloth in the rubbing alcohol so that it is damp but not dripping wet or spray the cloth with the electronics cleaner. Use the cotton swabs for any tight areas that you cannot reach with the cloth.
6. Clean the rest of the keyboard
Keys or no keys, use the damp cloth to wipe off the remaining surfaces of the keyboard. Be sure to get the sides and the bottom as well as the top.
7. Leave the keyboard to dry
If you’ve only used the electronics cleaner or rubbing alcohol, your keyboard should not take long to dry. However, if you used soap and water on the keys, it may take a couple hours for them to dry thoroughly. You can use a dry cloth to help speed up the process, but don’t put the keys back on the computer until you’ve gotten every ounce of water off of them.
8. Reassemble the board and plug it back in
Again, be SURE that the keyboard is completely dry before completing this step!
Cleaning a Keyboard in the Dishwasher
If your keyboard is severely dirty, say you spilled an entire pot of coffee on it, there are a couple things you can try if the above methods failed to work for you.
Put your keys in the dishwasher: Remove each of the keys from the keyboard and then dismantle the keyboard body itself and remove all of the electronics. Make sure you pay attention to where the screws and internals go! Making a diagram or taking a picture will help.Throw the keys into the silverware basket, place the keyboard body’s shell on the top rack and run them through a normal wash cycle with detergent – but watch the heat and pull them before the dry cycle or they might melt!
Keeping your keyboard clean
The easiest way to keep gunk out of your keyboard is to work in a clean environment. Don’t eat or drink around your keyboard if you have a habit of spilling. Also, keep sloppy coworkers away. If you can ‘t help typing in a dirty environment, such as a sawdust-filled warehouse, or you won’t get by without your Starbucks at your side while you type, consider investing in a keyboard cover.
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