How to Clean a Keyboard

Four Methods:General CleaningAccidental SpillageAlternate MethodFurther Alternate Method

Keyboards can become dirty after periods of extended use, especially if users commonly eat or smoke near the computer. If a keyboard becomes dirty enough, its performance can be affected. Common problems include dead or stuck keys and repeated characters during typing. Note that disassembling your keyboard as described below may void the warranty.

Method 1
General Cleaning

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    Shut down the computer and detach the keyboard connector before any cleaning procedure. Do not remove or connect a keyboard while the computer is running. Doing so may damage the machine if you have a non-USB-based keyboard. Detaching the keyboard while the computer is running is safe when the keyboard is connected to the computer via USB.
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    For a quick cleaning, turn the keyboard upside down and use a can of compressed air to blow out any foreign matter. Be sure to do this in a location where falling debris can be cleaned up easily. Turn the keyboard upside down and tap on it a few times. You should see a bit of dirt fall out. Change the angle and tap harder to make most of it get out.
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    Clean the sides of the keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
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    For a more thorough cleaning, remove all of the keys. Do this by gently prying up each key with a small screwdriver or a similar lever. When the keys have been removed, blow out any debris with compressed air. With a moist (but not wet) cloth, lightly swab all surfaces. Do not allow any type of fluid to enter the keyboard.
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    Clean the individual keys and place them back in the keyboard.

Method 2
Accidental Spillage

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    Immediately disconnect the keyboard or turn off the computer.
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    Turn the keyboard upside down and shake.
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    Dry as much as possible with a cloth while the keyboard is still turned upside down.
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    Leave it upside down for as long as possible (at least overnight).
    • If available, cover the bottom of a large enough air-tight container with rice, put in the upside-down keyboard and cover it with as much rice as possible.

Method 3
Alternate Method

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    Switch off the machine and disconnect the keyboard.
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    Turn the keyboard upside down and remove all the screws.
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    Lift the top half of the keyboard (The one with the keys on it) off and put the bottom half to one side.
    • There may be some clips on the keyboard, also, check for screws hidden under labels.
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    Turn the top half around so that you can see the backs of the keys, squeeze the tabs on each key to remove it, the space-bar will have a metal rod, this may be a pain to refit, but is not impossible.
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    Fill a bowl with cold soapy water (Fairy Liquid works well)
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    Dump the keys into the bowl and scrub with a brush.
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    Remove the keys from the bowl and rinse them under running cold water (a colander may work well for this), then leave them to dry or dry with a hair dryer.
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    Grab the empty top half of the keyboard. Using some dishwashing or regular soap and an old toothbrush, scrub until clean, and rinse and dry as above.
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    Once everything is dry, reassemble the keyboard.
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    Press both halves of the keyboard firmly together, if you miss the clips in the middle your keys won't reach the circuits and won't spring up.
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    Plug in your keyboard, switch on your PC, enjoy!

Method 4
Further Alternate Method

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    Disconnect keyboard from computer.
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    Obtain a butter knife, a j-cloth and some all-purpose cleaner.
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    Wrap the blade of the butter knife in the j-cloth, ensuring the cloth is as tight as possible. (Depending on the knife, you may simply want to just place the knife blade in the center of the cloth and pull the corners back, creating a one-layer thick cover over the blade)
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    Soak the cloth covered knife in the all-purpose cleaner.
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    Using considerable force, place the knife in between the dirty grooves of your keyboard. Scratch and scrape using the rigid knife edge to remove stubborn bits.
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    After 5 minutes of cleaning, remove the j-cloth from knife, soak and wring. Re-soak in all-purpose cleaner and reapply to blade.
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    Repeat until keyboard is clean. Be careful to avoid exposed electronic circuitry when scraping if you are using a cheaper keyboard.


  • Consider leaving the space bar in place. It is the hardest to get back on and easiest to break.
  • You can take a picture of the keyboard with a digital camera before you start pulling the keys off so that you know where they go when you're putting them back on.
  • Laptop keyboards are a bit different. It is not usually necessary to remove keys from a laptop in order to clean it. Isopropyl alcohol and Q-Tips or compressed air is usually enough.
  • If anything goes wrong or in doubt, use rice in an airtight container to absorb moisture. Rice is extremely absorbent and can draw in virtually any moisture if there's enough rice and no new moisture is added.
  • The keys on a laptop can be difficult to replace, especially keys like the space bar and the Enter key, which have a separate support under them that needs to be installed along with the key. Also, removing laptop keys may damage them and they may break or become impossible to replace.
  • If you forget the order in which the keys on your keyboard go, simply boot up your computer. On Windows, go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>Accessibility>On Screen Keyboard. On a Mac, go to Apple Menu>System Preferences>International>Input Menu, check Keyboard Viewer, open the menu with the flag in the top-right, and choose Show Keyboard Viewer. This will give you a keyboard on the screen, which you can simply copy the order of letters/numbers/characters off.
  • Some people actually wash the keyboard in a dishwasher. Don't attempt to clean a keyboard that way unless you're willing to risk losing the keyboard. If you do put a keyboard through the dishwasher, make sure the keyboard is completely dry before using it. This should definitely be avoided with wireless keyboards.
  • You can remove all of the keys from your keyboard, put them in a little closed bag (like for socks) and wash them with your clothes in the washing machine. Clean the keyboard skeleton with your vacuum cleaner and a wet rag.
  • An alternative to compressed air is to use an electric hair dryer with the blower on high. It matters little if the heat is on or off. It's great for dusting, too.
  • Remove the keys in small groups to avoid losing keys or forgetting where keys go.
  • You can put the keys in a lunch bag with water, liquid soap and shake it. This will strip the keys of the oils that make them feel greasy and makes exfoliation of the keys unnecessary if you do this often enough!


  • When spraying compressed air, do not turn the can upside down. Doing so can cause liquid propellant to spray into the keyboard and damage it. Also, be sure to use the compressed air in a well ventilated area.
  • If rice is used to absorb moisture, remember to make sure no small grains have worked themselves into the keys and to check if any any dried substances has been left (like dried syrup from sugary drinks, coffee grounds or anything that was in the spilled liquid).
  • If you remove the keys, keep them away from small children or pets. Loose keys pose a choking hazard.
  • Do not inhale the contents of the compressed air. While it's safe to use in a ventilated area, the concentrated contents are toxic and could injure or even kill you.

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Categories: Hardware Maintenance and Repair