How can I Clean a Keyboard?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Any keyboard can get grimy with use, although keyboards being employed by multiple users or around food will tend to get dirty more quickly. If you clean a keyboard regularly, you can avoid the problems of sticky keys and unsightly dirt. In a relatively clean environment, clean a keyboard every five to six months. If the keyboard is around food, pets, young children, smokers, or multiple users, plan on cleaning it every one to three months.

Isopropyl alcohol, which can be used to clean a keyboard.
Isopropyl alcohol, which can be used to clean a keyboard.

There are two types of keyboard cleaning, depending on how dirty the keyboard is. Most keyboards can make do with a quick once over most of the time and an intensive keyboard cleaning periodically. To clean a keyboard that is moderately dirty, start by disconnecting it from the computer and cutting power to the keyboard. Using a compressed air can, spray between the keys to remove loose hair and dirt, and then shake the keyboard gently upside down to loosen any caught material. Then, dip a cotton swap in rubbing or isopropyl alcohol and use that to swab down the tops and sides of the keys. Finish up with a lint free cloth, wiping down the keyboard.

Laptop keyboards may be more difficult to clean, since the keys are closer together.
Laptop keyboards may be more difficult to clean, since the keys are closer together.

To clean a keyboard more deeply involves a slightly more complex process, although it also starts with disconnecting the keyboard. Take a photo or make a map of the keys and then remove them, keeping them all together so that you will not lose any. Then clean the base of the keyboard with compressed air or a vacuum cleaner, removing all the dust and dirt from inside the keyboard. Use a damp lint free cloth to wipe down the keyboard, setting it aside upside down to allow it to dry completely.

Wipe the keys down with alcohol and a cotton swab and allow them to dry completely as well before reattaching them to the keyboard. The result will be a clean keyboard with no sticky keys or unpleasant sensations under the fingers. This type of keyboard cleaning is appropriate one or two times a year, unless the keyboard is in a particularly dirty area. Clean a keyboard this way with care: take the time to sit down and do the job properly and do not rush through it.

Some cautions should be taken when you clean a keyboard. Make sure that power is off to the keyboard while you clean it. Clean a keyboard with a damp lint free cloth or cotton swab: never spray cleaning fluid directly onto the keyboard. If you use a vacuum cleaner to clean a keyboard remember that it is not appropriate for the inside of your computer because it generates static. If the keyboard is in a high traffic area, you may want to consider getting a plastic keyboard cover to protect it.

A lint roller can help pick up hair and particles found on a keyboard.
A lint roller can help pick up hair and particles found on a keyboard.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Rundocuri

I have found that a good way to clean a computer keyboard is the disconnect it and gently turn it upside down. Then you can use a compressed air can to blow out dirt and debris that doesn't easily fall out on its own.

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