Can your keyboard use a cleaning? Since you are on this page, you probably think it can. Here are some suggestions on how to clean your personal or office computer’s keyboard and how not to clean it.
Get everything ready
Before you start, unplug your keyboard to make sure that you don’t accidentally type things into your computer as you are cleaning, and to reduce the chance of damaging the keyboard electronics. Also check if your wireless keyboard has batteries – remove the batteries completely before starting cleaning.
Check your keyboard for possibility of washing it in a dishwasher. There are dishwasher-safe keyboards for which it is easiest to simply stick it in the dishwasher instead of doing the tedious clean-up by hand (read the dishwashing instructions for keyboard and make sure you use detergent suitable for washing it). If your keyboard does not specifically say that its ok to clean it in a dishwasher, then it is better to assume that cleaning by hand is the only option.
Use common home or office supplies
Most of the tools and supplies that you’ll need are likely already somewhere nearby – in your storage room, kitchen, or first aid kit.
Get rid of dry dirt or dust
The most common cleaning method is simply to use compressed air to dust your workplace and keyboards off. However, even though most of the dust and dry crumbs may be off, sticky grime and germs will remain.
Disinfecting without disassembly
There are two effective ways to disinfect your keyboard: using isopropyl alcohol swabs or disinfecting wipes. When using alcohol, always make sure it is isopropyl, as, for example, ethyl alcohol can remove lettering off of your keyboard. It is a good idea to test using the alcohol on just one of the keys to see if letters safely remain.
Dip a cotton swab in the alcohol and gently clean all surfaces of your keyboard, including between keys. If you feel there is still grime left over that needs to be cleaned, use a disinfecting wipe all over your keyboard.
It is recommended to wipe your keyboard daily to limit germ build-up and spreading.
When you are done with both steps, use a microfiber cloth to remove any excess fluids from the keyboard and dry it completely before you proceed with plugging it back in for use.
Make sure the wipes and cotton swabs are not dripping wet, as too much liquid can damage your keyboard.
Clean under the keys
Even if you disinfect the surface of your keyboard, junk trapped underneath the keys may require you to remove the keys. Sometimes when this happens to an inexpensive keyboard, the time needed to carefully remove keys, clean under them, and then properly reassemble them may not be worth the result – consider simply getting a new basic keyboard.
When replacing your keyboard is not an option, you can remove each key on most keyboards so you can clean underneath it. You can remove the keys by using a small screwdriver or mail opener to pry up each key – create leverage against the next key or edge of keyboard and apply pressure to push the key straight up. Before removing the keys, take a photo of your keyboard to know where each key will need to return to, and make sure that you can read all the letters and symbols on that photo.
To clean after removing keys, use the cotton swabs the same way as if you were disinfecting the tops of keys. Be careful if using disinfecting wipes as the paper may get caught on key clips and require more effort to clean later.
If you have a small hand held vacuum, use it to remove any crumbs from your keyboard before using the cotton swabs, or simply flip the keyboard upside-down and shake it lightly over a garbage bin or sink. When using the vacuum, make sure that there aren’t loose keys or electronic components that may be sucked in – keep the vacuum tube a bit away from keyboard surface to avoid creating too much suction.
Keep in mind
Even something as simple as cleaning a keyboard requires a bit of thinking. Here are a few ideas that you might not think about, but will appear as common sense once you know them.
- Do not wash your keyboard in a dishwasher, unless the keyboard model is specifically labeled as dishwasher safe.
- Use a disinfectant instead of only water – water may clean up the obvious stains, but is not effective in cleaning germs or grease.
- Unplug keyboard and take out batteries before starting any cleanup work.
- Some keyboards are extremely fragile – when removing the keys to clean and/or disinfect keyboard, be careful to not break them off, as gluing them back will not be an option. Keys should come off from keyboard with only light leverage.
Cleaning up a spill
If you spill something on your keyboard, unplug it from the power source immediately (unplug it and remove batteries), then pat it dry with a paper or cloth towel. If you spilled clean water or other non-sweetened/non-sticky fluid, you may be able to simply leave the keyboard unplugged for 1-2 days, it it likely to resume normal operation once it dries out.
To remove sticky substances in case something sweet was spilled, use alcohol swabs or wipes. You will most likely have to remove the keys and clean under them. Make sure the keyboard is dry before you plug it back in for use. Even if the keyboard appears dry after you wipe it, water may have gotten inside, so I’d recommend to leave it unplugged for a day even if you thoroughly clean it.
Suggested daily maintenance
Cleaning your keyboard on an everyday or weekly basis helps keep germs at bay and make your keyboard more pleasant to use! Simply use a disinfecting wipe to wipe down the keyboard after you shut down your computer for the day and the keyboard is turned off.
You can also consider getting a keyboard cover to make sure that dirt doesn’t get in between the keys. Depending on how quickly your keyboard gets dirty, it may be an economical solution. Though you’ll need to make sure that the cover fits the particular model of keyboard that you use.
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