Clean Your Keyboard in the Dishwasher

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Introduction: Clean Your Keyboard in the Dishwasher

Spring Cleaning Contest

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Spring Cleaning Contest

I have a keyboard that became very dirty with the years. Its (originally) white color and clear case made the dirt very apparent.

So I wanted to give the dishwasher a try, and without taking each key apart -- patience has its limits!

It worked great for me, and just requires some caution.
  • If possible, take the case apart. This will help the dirt, then the water, go away.
  • Allow to dry completely. It will take days. Failing to do it may cause shorts and harm your keyboard and your computer!
  • Wash at mild temperature.
These instructions have details for an old Mac keyboard, but the principle is not limited to this model.

In any case, please use your common sense; do it at your own risk; in case of doubt, don't do it. (Well, you're on instructables.com)

Step 1: Needed Stuff

Depending on your model, use the appropriate screwdrivers.

I needed a TX5 (small hex) and a PH0 (small Phillips), from my warranty voiding kit.

And important: You need a second keyboard, to be used while the first one is drying (it takes days!). Otherwise, the temptation to use the still wet one may be too high.

Optionally an USB hub is useful to lower the risk of harming your computer when testing the keyboard at the end of the process.

Step 2: Disassemble Keyboard

You may want to take pictures of the different steps, in order to ease the future reassembly.

(For the Mac keyboard, see step 7, and look at its pictures in reverse order)

Step 3: Prewash

To go green and avoid using the dishwasher for the one keyboard alone, I loaded it with dirty dishes along with the keyboard, and pre-washed using the rinse program.
  • Cold
  • Rinse program (7 minutes)
  • No detergent
As a result, the keyboard is less dirty, but not yet totally clean.

Step 4: Wash

Then I washed using a little detergent.
  • Low temperature (40°C / 100°F)
  • Economy option (38 minutes)
  • Use a small quantity of detergent

Step 5: Dry

With a clean towel, remove most of the water.

At this point, see how the keyboard is now clean. It's truly shining white!

But remember, there's still water between/under the keys and in the nooks and grooves, so read on...

Step 6: Wait (and Use the Other Keyboard)

Leave the wet keyboard in a slanted position, so that gravity will help get rid of the biggest drops. Shake gently.

To accelerate the process, you can use an air compressor if you have one, to blow the droplets away.

Wait several days. I waited one week.

Step 7: Reassemble

Reassemble. That means, remember what you did in step 2 and redo it in reverse order.

For owners of the same model, see the images sequence in this step.

Step 8: Enjoy!

Connect(*), type some text, ... and?
... it should work!
Well, in my case it did work.

(*) In case of doubt, use an USB hub between your computer and the keyboard, to reduce the risk of harming the computer while checking. Then, and if you didn't fry the USB hub, connect the keyboard directly to the computer.

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This is great! Nice Ible! No-one ever believed me when I told the to clean their keyboards this way... It works so well, we had a dish-washer set up in the bathroom at the service department of the computer repair shop... They usually come out looking brand new! and I never took them apart, I just put them in key side down. then let them hang dry over-night. I have never had one come out "not working" 100% came out clean and working...

Wow, what a terrible idea! This may work for the cheapest all-plastic keyboards, but anything better than that will most likely be destroyed. Please don't resort to this risky, lazy, urban-legend method of cleaning your keyboard.

Instead, remove your keyboard's keys with a proper key-puller tool—you can get one online for just a couple of dollars—and use a damp rag to clean the exposed parts of the board.

Wash the keys separately in warm, soapy water. (NOT dishwasher soap, which is highly acidic.) Rinse and dry them, then let them sit overnight to be sure all the moisture has evaporated.

If you care at all about your keyboard, it's worth the extra time and trouble to avoid ruining it!

Nothing about this is "terrible" and it most certainly is no "urban legend".
I'm typing this on a nearly 10-year-old Razer Reculsa keyboard which had several runs trough the dishwasher during its lifetime, not the only keyboard I've done this with.

The important parts being: Don't use any cleaning solutions, no dishwasher salt, no rinse aid, use a setting that's not too hot (around 50 C°) and make sure you have sunny weather/some heating to properly dry the keyboard.

If you use cleaning solutions/dishwater salts that's, of course, gonna attack the contacts in the electronics, but if you don't use any of that stuff it's just regular hot water running over conduits with no electricity, thus nothing there can short. The only real risk with this method is not letting the keyboard dry properly before using it again, that's when hardware gets fried. I've never had that happen to me, not once and the longest I've had my keyboards let dry is for 2 days. I wrap them in towels, let them sit in the sun and shake them a bit/turn them around every couple of hours.

This is not only way less effort and stress than manually cleaning, it also gives way better results.

Well, I can't resist - here's a picture of a 'coffee infused' laptop - this has happened 3 times so far ( the third time was when my daughter was nice enough to give me a bowl of cocoa puffs while I had the laptop on the couch - not coffee - not her fault - but she ran like heck when she saw me do it and then start screaming ! ) - each time a little soapy water - common sense - and Patience! had things back to normal in no time - I unplugged and 'tore' the battery out as fast as I could ! Piece of cake ! ( coffee cake ! )

2005-10-05-Laptop-Coffee-000.JPG

I need that shirt.

Same as you. That shirt is awesome.

I just use the Keyboard setting on the dishwasher. ;-)

As a professional electronics cleaner, (fire damage restoration) I have to say...this is a terrible idea. I mean, true. It's only a keyboard. If you really care, please read on.

Your tap water contains a lot more than just H, 2, and O. It contains many other 'impurities' that as a human being, are plenty safe for consumption...but for electronics mean several dangers exist.

First, the obvious. Electricity. Water is actually quite an amazing insulator...IF it's pure. This type of water is called 'deionized' water. This is even different than distilled water. It contains ZERO impurities. The impurities (calcium, chloride, flouride, sulfate, nitrate...the list is long) are the reason most folks think 'water' is conductive. It's the particles that AREN'T water that conduct. Being as we are directly talking about a keyboard, I will move on because electrically, keyboards are pretty simple objects.

Issue #2 is heat. There is NO way to regulate heat of the water or the dryer in a dish washer. Plastic housings and such will completely alter structure and fail around 135F. I've seen TV bezels that have sagged or warped even as low as 120F...still not my BIG concern, but worth noting.

The BIG issue with this method is corrosion. These 'impurities' that I have been talking about also create our big issue. Deionized water won't rust or corrode because it's 'pure' water. Tap water (like your dish washer uses) still has all the conductive and corrosive impurities in it, and will definitely shorten the lifespan of the device. It's impossible to put a number on it, it would depend on the keyboard, the tap water and the soap you use in your dish washer (even if you don't use soap on the keyboard, there will be different additive packages in different soaps and those will leave different deposits behind inside the dish washer) If I were forced to guess, I'd say a keyboard's lifespan might be shortened by up to 40%. The upside to this particular instructable is that the keyboard in question is an Apple keyboard...and Apple does use a coating to protect them internally.

A good 'hands on' proof: we all have an old broken dvd player or vcr laying around...dish wash it...pull it out when it's done and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. I'd be willing to bet that you will see evidence of corrosion or rust. (especially in a VCR...with all motors and gears in there) Yes. 24 hours later, your device is already dead.

Anyhoo, that's my $.02. Probably a little too much info shared about washing keyboards, but it's my living...I geek out of this stuff.

Just to confirm that this method works. Instead of a dishwasher, I just dunked everything into a tub of soapy water and rinsed with running water. I have done it twice this year. No problems yet. The difficult part for me is committing to using the backup keyboard for a few days (2 weeks for me), while the main keyboard air dries.

I will try to make a weekly habit of cleaning/sanitizing my keyboard, but in less drastic ways. Maybe spraying with sanitizer once a week and wiping off. To prevent the cleaning fluid from running in between the keys, I might hold the keyboard upside down during the entire procedure. Some kind of contraption to suspend the keyboard face-down may be needed - but that's for another instructable.

Thanks for the useful information you've provided!