How to Properly Clean a Mechanical Keyboard





Introduction: How to Properly Clean a Mechanical Keyboard

About: We are a project making class in Eng249 at Illinois State University.

This guide will show the user the proper and detailed way to clean a keyboard with mechanical colored switches. While this guide is made specifically for these types of keyboards, the general concept of the process remains the same for simpler membrane keyboards.

Step 1: Get Your Keyboard Ready

The first step of cleaning a mechanical keyboard is to unplug the keyboard and move to a spacious, clean area for the cleaning process.

Step 2: Obtain Supplies

The user will want to obtain these supplies before the cleaning process:

* Compressed Air

* Cotton Swabs

* Rubbing Alcohol

Step 3: Take a Picture

Before you start removing all of the keys from your keyboard, you will want to take a full picture of it as to make sure where each specific key will go once you're done.

Step 4: Remove the Keys

After you are sure that you have where the keys need to be put back into, start to remove the keys from the keyboard. To remove the keys from the keyboard, pinch both sides of the key and pull straight up until the key pops off the keyboard.

You should still see the colored switch under most of the keys. They switches come in a variety of colors including blue, black, white, red (which is in our example), etc.

Step 5: Dusting and General Crumb Removal

This step will take most of the larger dust particles, crumbs, etc from your keyboard with each.

After you have removed all the keys take the keyboard and hold it over a trash can. Using compressed air blow out all the dust and crumbs that you can into the garbage can.

Included above is a video of the process.

Step 6: Cotton Swap Clean-Up Part 1

Using the cotton swabs you have obtained earlier you will dust all of the hard to get particles off your keyboard. This include small bits of food, actual dust, and even hair. Make sure to be diligent and meticulous with this process otherwise the final result will not be as satisfactory.

Step 7: Cotton Swap Clean-Up Part 2

After you are properly satisfied with the heavy dusting, take new cotton swabs and dip them into the rubbing alcohol. It may help if you pour some of the alcohol either into the cap or a small container. This will help speed along the process.

After you have dipped the cotton swab, vigorously wipe between all of the keys and parts of the keyboard until all dirt and grime is removed.

You should not have to worry about the drying process much because the alcohol will quickly evaporate after the cleaning.

Above is a video of the process.

Step 8: Key Cleaning

As you did will the main part of the keyboard, dip the cotton swabs again into the rubbing alcohol. This time however, you are going to clean each side of every key that you removed.

This is the process that will take the most time if you are doing this project by yourself. It will be highly rewarding in the end however.

Step 9: Rebuild and Finish

Taking your general knowledge of your keyboard layout and/or the picture you took at the beginning, simply replace all of the now cleaned keys on the keyboard.

You've now cleaned AND sanitized your keyboard. Go plug it in and get back to gaming.



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    30 Discussions

    My membrane keyboard shows worn out 'letters'. I tried to ink some of them but i did not like the look...any other ideas on how to replace some of the letters on a keyboard? BTW, the keyboard works great and as a few amenities that do not come with some keyboards.

    4 replies

    I recently used a label maker to increase the font size on my mothers keyboard, because she was having a hard time. Seems to work fairly well, but is somewhat time consuming, although no more than cleaning your keyboard.

    If you learn blind method of typing you don't need any letters! WIN/WIN!

    Hah! This is true. My keyboard is on a slideout attached under my desk so I never really see my keyboard.

    One option is definitely to get a new keyboard. Your keyboard may have some unique features on it, but membrane keyboards tend to be cheap enough a new one isn't a problem. Another option is you might actually be able to buy keys for it or salvage some from other keyboards.

    Step 1: Be wealthy and buy a mechanical keyboard.

    It's amazing how gunky our keyboards get over time. Great idea to get it really clean again. Thanks for sharing.

    I don't really want to put this expensive of a keyboard in the dishwasher. Plus it has a non-detachable braided cord. Thanks for the option though.

    Cord is no problem. Expense is no problem. I wash my Apple keyboards this way as well. Just be sure: no soap and no heated dry. Turn it upside down on a towel to dry it for a few days. I've done it many times. I would not do it with anything with batteries or wireless.

    I could not agree with you more. I've used the dishwasher [no soap or heat] for my Mac white keyboard. Looks like new when done.

    Then again, IT'S A MAC.

    Oh, and WAY less labor intensive.

    I would recommend testing your cleaning solvent on non-visible surfaces before committing to cleaning everything with it. Keycaps come in all flavors of plastic, and while most are alcohol resistant, I would hate to be the person to have cloudy keycaps after running through this because I didn't test.

    3 replies

    This is definitely a good thing to comment on. It is part of the reason I use rubbing alcohol instead of anything more potent. Also, I did test with one or two keys first before I did the entire keyboard to check that it wouldn't destroy/ruin the keys.

    I use glass cleaner with ammonia for over 20 years on all types of computer components and I have never had any problem ;-)

    If you have a rough surface, you can take a cheap brush and cut hairs to 1/2 inch (1 cm). then spray the detergent, wait for 1 minute and clean with the brush firmly. You will be able to remove dirt in an excellent way!

    Ammonia cleaner is good for printers rubber rollers too!

    I throw my old toothbrushes into my tool drawer for such a time as this.

    Why not just put the keys in a cotton bag and wash them in the washing machine?

    1 reply

    You probably could do that, but this is just one of the methods I chose to use to make sure I get all the dirt and my keys don't have a chance of getting wrecked.

    I'll have to try that method in the future though, thanks!


    9 months ago

    jeezus, how long did that take you to clean key by key?? I use a small bucket with warm water and some detergent, mix for a minute and rinse clean.

    1 reply

    It did take a while to be honest, but I wanted to make sure to get all of the possible stuck on grime and possible dead skin off the keys. You have to be pretty in depth with the heavily used keys.