Clean a Very Used Keyboard





Introduction: Clean a Very Used Keyboard

This instructable will show you how to clean a dirty keyboard. This project is best done with the whole family so it is important to pick a strategic time to begin. I chose the early morning hours of the first day of spring break. Those few hours when the younger children are awake and quietly reading Facebook or watching Netflix, the older teenagers are still trying to sleep off finals and mom is trying to get just a few more Zs before the day begins.

Step 1: Removing Keys

Using a butter knife gently pry up each key. Depending on your technique, they can fly quite some distance when they pop off so it's a good idea to have several children around to help retrieve the keys as they fly across the room. Depending on your keyboard model, you may not be able to remove the larger keys (like the spacebar) without breaking them. So remove as many as you can and remember, the best keyboard in the world can be had from Amazon for less than $20 with free shipping for Prime members, so have fun.

Step 2: Put Keys in a Container

When all the keys have been removed, you'll need to find a container to hold them during cleaning. This provides a unique treasure hunting opportunity. Since you'll be adding water and dish soap and shaking violently, no ordinary leftover container will do. The kids suggested we finish the jelly bellies or the chocolate covered raisins, but since both of those containers are in the room where my wife was sleeping, I made an executive decision that we should split the last handful of cashews. After washing the container and removing the label, (we used Goof Off, but lighter fluid works also) we put the keys in the container and headed upstairs to the kitchen for the soap and water.

Step 3: Shake Container Violently

Pass the container from child to child, let each one explore the space of the kitchen like Gene and his cowbell. If you do this right the older children will start waking up and coming to see what is going on. Explain the complexities of the task and engage their help. The more the merrier. Continue shaking until all teenagers are awake or the container looks worse than using regular detergent in an HE washer,

Step 4: Rinse Keys

Pour the contents of the container into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.

Step 5: Dry Keys

Arrange paper towels on the counter and pour the keys out of the colander. Now have the children arrange the keys on the paper towel so that no key is touching another and so that no key is upside down where it can trap water. This step could easily take longer than it does for the keys to dry.

Step 6: Clean Keyboard

Turn the keyboard upside down and tap it several times to help the bigger debris come. Then using cleaning wipes remove any additional debris.

Note: It can be helpful the wrap the wipe around the blade of the butter knife to get it into the crevices.

Additional Note: This is a good time to have the older kids make breakfast. This will go a long way toward improving mom's mood when she wakes up.

Step 7: Keep the Kids Involved

While you are cleaning your keyboard, keep track of the debris that you are removing. Show this to the kids and explain that most of it likely comes from their bodies while they are using the computer. You'll know if you are successful if the older children see you getting out the compressed air and implore you to reconsider or at least do it outside.

Step 8: Replace Keys

Now for the fun. Bring the keys downstairs with some new paper towels. First replace all the large irregular shaped keys. These can be tricky, so go carefully. Now pick up each of the remaining keys one at a time and ask a different child where they go. Let the little ones run and go look at another keyboard (I know they have at least one old one up in the toy box), but challenge the older ones to remember where that key was the last time they pressed it. If you left your keyboard plugged in like I did (probably not recommended) you can open notepad (or any other editor) to verify that the key is correct as soon as they pop it in.

Note: Praise goes a long way with children. When they get a key right, praise them like so. "Awesome! You know where the V key goes. That means you can type words with V's in them like liver, love, voracious or vicissitude."

2 People Made This Project!


  • Clocks Contest

    Clocks Contest
  • Casting Contest

    Casting Contest
  • Make it Move Contest

    Make it Move Contest

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.




Definitely, laptop keyboard cleaning is very important for everyone. Here, you have provided a great information on how to clean a dirty keyboard.

Ugh, I hate to think what lurks in my keyboard. Years of Doritos and Mountain Dew don't help XD

Key caps off, put key caps in the cutlery holder of the dishwasher, take case apart put one or both halves in the machine as well. Wash, wait, dry, assemble... done.

This is the best Instructable I've come across for a family bonding project. Because keyboards are so inexpensive to replace (yes, I know that the landfills are overflowing with old electronics. That isn't the point of this instructable) it's not an issue if the 2 year old breaks the space bar or the 5 year old flushes the E key down the toilet or the teenager gets frustrated and sweeps the keys to the floor. The point is that everyone can participate in something that is both unusual and intricate but not really important - which means that there's no pressure.

Awesome Idea!!

1 reply


you must not have heard of mechanical keyboards.

They can range anywhere from $60-$600

I would never do this, although the knowledge is good to have. You are using $15 - $20 worth of cleansers and several hours to salvage a keyboard. Go to a big box / discount store and buy a new keyboard. My last cheap keyboard was $19. My pro mechanical keyboard was $121. It is over six years old and still going; and it's really clean. Keyboards and mice are the modern IT throwaways.

2 replies

Been cleaning my keyboard like this for 15years (no "Special Instructions" needed) All you need to clean the keys is some dish soap, maybe a degreaser. No expensive chemicals needed

My keyboard was over $100 and my mouse the same. Definitely NOT throw aways. If you use a generic simple keyboard, then yeah, you could just get a new one for cheap, but that is wasteful. Cleaning it is not that hard.

Fun addendum... If you don't have any kids to tell you where to put the keys.. plug the keyboard in and hit a key to find out what id does.

Thanks for the Insturctable, I had a good laugh.

I fear that the dog has no role. An exciting variant is not to put the keys back. My current keyboard laptop has suffered from the enthusiastic attention of a 1.5 year old with a nail file and hence has some missing teeth. Still works though. Enjoyed this very much.

Out of adversity strength.

very nice and informative.I will sure try it in my home in a holiday with my family!

I wash mine itn the top shelf of dishwasher, let dry for a few days and it is good as new.

Yes, make the photo first and than put it into dishwasher . It is like new !

Hey this is great but what about the rest of the keyboard? also Bruce I fail to see how you are using $20.00 worth of cleansers you'd just use dishwashing detergent which everyone usually has anyway, and this process would take an hour max. Its like keeping anything else clean. A great idea.

lovely, amusing instructable, thanks! I chuck keys in a pillow case, tie it then into the washing machine. Not so entertaining as your version tho!

Ha ha ha! Making keyboard cleaning a family affair! Can make it a community project, too! Or into a Jeopardy-like game for the key locations - maybe with a blindfold!

Ahh, this is the bit where I fail! I recommend looking online and find a qwerty keyboard layout if you're having trouble! It might vary slightly between keyboards, but the keys are mostly the same.

3 replies

Yup. Here's US-QWERTY

take a pic with your smartphone. Then you don't have to look up on the internet for a keyboard layout.

Very true, then you know where any special keys go