How to Clean a Keyboard Without Damaging It

October 3, 2019 • Shannon Flynn


You spend a lot of time on your computer banging out assignments, doing job-related work or binging on Netflix. And as any computer user knows, this prolonged use can result in a pretty nasty keyboard. You may wonder how to clean your keyboard when crumbs and dust settle in hard-to-reach places, but luckily, you have some simple solutions.

Keeping your phone or computer screen clear makes your device look brand new and prevents electronic failures. Clean your keyboard the easy way with these tips, and keep them handy to avoid your device looking like a landfill again.

How to Clean Keyboard Keys

You may be looking for a straightforward surface clean if you own a laptop and don’t want to lift the keys — or don’t have keys to remove, such as with a touchscreen. Maybe you own a desktop keyboard and only need to do a quick tidying-up.

Surface cleaning is equally effective as deep cleaning without the extra time spent and supplies used. Bust those sneaky germs with these steps:

  1. Tap it on the back: Turn off your laptop or disconnect your keyboard from your PC. Turn the device over onto a surface like a towel or trash can to catch the falling debris — or do it on a table if you don’t mind extra cleaning. Gently tap the back to dislodge crumbs and dirt. 
  2. Blow away dust bunnies: There’ll likely be debris still hanging out in nooks and crannies after the first step, which means it’s time to use compressed air. Spray in between each key, but maintain an appropriate distance — compressed air can cause condensation, which harms electrical components.
  3. Wipe down the keycaps: Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball to give your keys a quick scrub. Avoid using strong disinfectants or ethyl alcohol products, as these can remove your keyboard lettering within seconds. 
  4. Use microfiber for touchscreens: Touchscreens aren’t exempt from greasy fingerprints and grime, though some types withstand spills better than others. Make yours sparkle with a microfiber cloth. These cloths pick up tons of dirt and dust whether they’re dry or damp, though you may opt for dry when cleaning electronics. 

Use a specially-made keyboard duster to keep your device spick and span between cleanings, or opt for the standard old toothbrush.

Cleaning gum — also called gel and slime — exists for the same purpose, and you can even make some of your own if you want. Keep in mind that some types, whether DIY or store-bought, can leave a residue on your keys.

How to Clean a Keyboard Under the Keys

With a desktop keyboard, all kinds of muck gets between those bulky keys and sticks to their surfaces. Opt for a deep clean if you’ve had enough of looking at your grimy computer and brushing away dirt while working.

Check out some steps for completing that super-deep clean:

  1. Remove the keys: Disconnect your keyboard before starting and shake out any loose debris. Take a picture of your keyboard so you’ll know where to replace the keys. Lift each keycap with a small screwdriveror a keycap puller if you have a mechanical keyboard — and set them aside.
  2. Suck up the dirt: If there’s a lot of grime in the keyboard base, you may want to use a handheld vacuum cleaner it instead of compressed air. You can also use a keyboard brush if you’d like. Since mechanical components will be exposed, take care not to damage any parts or get condensation inside the base. Wipe the frame using rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball or cotton swab.
  3. Soak it: Now it’s time to clean the keys. You can scrub them one by one, but it’s easier to soak them in a container of water and soap. Let them sit for a while so the grime can dissolve. If there are still dirt specks remaining when you take them out, scrub away those bits. Then, let them dry thoroughly.
  4. Replace it: Replace the keys once everything is dry, using the picture you took to help with repositioning.

Make Your Keyboard Look Factory-New

Now that you know how to clean your keyboard, get your supplies ready and give it a whirl. A tidy environment promotes happiness and contentment, and the same goes for maintaining your electronic devices. After all, you spend most of your day on your computer or phone — wouldn’t you want it clean as can be?