How to Clean Your Keyboard with These Simple Steps

edited August 2023 in Lifestyle

Your keyboard is a magnet for everything around you, from crumbs to dust to pet hair. We munch snacks over our keyboards as we battle foes for hours. Our fingers leave a trail of grease and grime. Bacteria that cause staph infections and pneumonia lurk on your keyboard.

Research has discovered that your PC or laptop keyboard is 20,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. You know it needs a clean, but how?

In this step-by-step guide, we outline how to clean your:

  • External Keyboard 
  • Notebook Keyboard 
  • Mechanical Keyboard

You should clean your keyboard regularly - every 1 to 3 months using the steps below.

How to clean your external or desktop keyboard 

An external keyboard isn't built-in and plugs into your laptop or PC using a wired or a wireless connection. Just follow these simple steps to eliminate the grime from your external keyboard:

Step 1: Shake it off 

To start, unplug the keyboard from the USB port. If it's wireless, remove the batteries before cleaning. 

Next, turn your keyboard upside down and shake out any loose debris. Be gentle when shaking it, and also tap the underside. Most crumbs, dirt, and hair will fall out instantly. You might want to do this outside as it can get messy.

Tilt the keyboard at different angles and tap it repeatedly to force out any other leftover junk.

Step 2: Clean out that gunk 

All that dust and debris can affect your keyboard's performance. Amazon lists over 2000 specialized keyboard brushes to help you with a dedicated clean.

Or, to save cash, use household items such as a toothbrush or an old baby-bottle brush. Simply scrub the brush over and in between your keys. Clean the dirt traps on the underside of your keyboard, too.

Step 3: Blow dust away with compressed air 

Compressed or canned air can blow away most dust without much effort. You'll want to blow air on all four sides of the keys. To begin: 

  1. Insert the plastic hose or straw with the compressed air canister into the nozzle. 
  2. Hold the can lower than a 40-degree angle and aim the straw between the gaps.  
  3. Keep the straw's end about a half-inch away from the keyboard as you spray. 
  4. Spray the keyboard in a left-to-right motion. 
  5. Rotate the keyboard to its right side, and spray it from left to right. 
  6. Repeat the action with your keyboard, rotated to its left side. 
  7. Turn the keyboard away from you and spray it from left to right. 
  8. Repeat step 1 and tap and shake. Or use a dust vacuum to clean it up.

It will be dusty, so do this task outside or in a bathtub.

Some tech support will recommend removing the individual keys. However, this can void the keyboard's warranty. If you want to try this, check your keyboard manual to see if the keys are removable and the steps involved. Take a photo to remember the location of the keys.

Step 4: Remove caked-on grime 

You can use cleaning gel or slime to remove the gunk on the keys. Cleaning gel is a blob-like cleaner that picks up dust and dirt by squeezing between the gaps in your keyboard. Press it down between the keyboard crevices, and it will pick up the grime.

Two alternative cleaning approaches are:

1) Use clear sticky tape 

The clear adhesive tape you use to wrap presents is perfect and can remove dust. 

  1. Fold a one-inch piece of tape in half so that the sticky sides face outward and the non-sticky sides face inward. 
  2. Put the adhesive tape underneath the edges of your keys and rub back and forth a few times. 
  3. Pull the piece of tape out. 
  4. Repeat until all keys are clean. 

2) Use Post-it® sticky notes  

Another approach uses Post-it® Notes' sticky side and slides back and forth between the rows of keys to collect the gunk.

Step 5: Clean the keyboard 

Now that you've removed the dust and grime, follow these four simple steps to clean your keyboard: 

  1. Clean between the external keyboard keys with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol). The cotton swab shouldn't be dripping. Wipe around each key to remove dust, oil, and other grime. Swap out the swabs when they get dirty. You'll need more than one swab for your entire keyboard. 
  2. Spray rubbing alcohol to a cloth and use it to clean the tops of the keyboard keys and the surrounding areas. Don't spray it directly onto the keyboard or you risk peeling the letters off the keys. 
  3. A toothpick is handy to remove any particularly stubborn gunk. Hold the toothpick almost flat against the key and scratch to loosen the grime.  
  4. Use a dry lint-free cloth to polish your keyboard.

You'll want to clean your keyboard every 1 to 3 months. For extra protection, the Acer Wireless Keyboard & Mouse Antimicrobial Combo is coated in antimicrobial silver ion material to help protect against the buildup of odor and stain-causing microbes.

How to clean your notebook keyboard 

Because your notebook's keyboard sits atop its electronic hardware, extra care is required when cleaning it. So, follow these simple steps to clean your dirty laptop.

Step 1: Turn off and unplug your notebook. 

First, shut down your laptop to avoid damaging it during the cleaning process. You also don't want to send an errant email while wiping down your keys. You can also remove the battery to make it lighter.

Step 2: Flip your laptop upside-down and tap it. 

First, open your laptop, turn it upside down and tap it gently to dislodge the debris. Don't shake hard, or you could damage your computer's hardware.

Step 3: Use compressed air to blow out the dirt. 

Canned air or dust removal spray is the fastest way to clean your laptop. Keep the can at less than a 40-degree angle, pointed down about a half-inch away from the keyboard, or you'll discharge refrigerant.

  1. Open your laptop and hold it at a 75-degree angle so it's not quite vertical. 
  2. Spray the keyboard in a left-to-right motion. Make sure the nozzle straw is attached to control the airflow.  
  3. Rotate your notebook to its right side and respray the keyboard, from left to right. 
  4. Rotate your keyboard to its left side, and repeat left to right. 
  5. Don't spray air directly under the keys, as that could cause damage.

Step 4: Clean the keys 

Because your laptop keyboard connects directly to the hardware itself, avoid using any liquids, like rubbing alcohol or soapy water, on the surface. 

You can clean your keys with:

1) Cleaning gel or slime 

Press the cleaning gel into the spaces between keys to lift the gunk off. Avoid rubbing it in, as small pieces may break off. 

2) Clear tape 

Use the tape's sticky side to pick up the dust. Place it under the keys and move it around for a more in-depth clean.

3) Disinfecting wipes 

To decontaminate your keyboard, use bleach-free disinfecting wipes to clean the keyboard keys. Before using, squeeze them to reduce moisture from getting inside your notebook. The goal isn't to soak your keyboard but give it a quick once-over.

4) Isopropyl alcohol 

Alcohol will help dissolve the keyboard grime. Wipe down the tops of each key with a microfiber cloth moistened with isopropyl alcohol. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean any hard-to-reach areas. Allow your keyboard to dry before plugging it in to avoid any damage.

5) Lint-free cloth 

To remove the last of the dust, polish your keys with a microfiber cloth. 

How to clean a notebook keyboard without compressed air?  

If you don't have compressed air, use a soft paintbrush to clean the top and edges of each key. Hold the keyboard upside down to avoid pushing dirt further into any gaps.

How to clean your mechanical keyboard 

Acer's Predator Aethon 700 is the ultimate mechanical gaming keyboard, but it needs regular cleaning.  

1) Unplug your keyboard 

The first step is to disconnect your keyboard from your computer.

2) Flip it upside-down and tap it 

To remove crumbs or dust from your keyboard, turn it upside down and hold it firmly with one hand while tapping it with the other.

3) Blast dust away with compressed air 

Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out from under your keyboard's keys.

4) Use a small keyboard vacuum 

A small handheld keyboard vacuum is the fastest way to clean the keyboard. Choose one that will be able to get between the keys.  

5) Clean with a microfiber cloth  

Moisten your microfiber cloth with isopropyl alcohol to clean grime from your keys effectively. Don't soak the keycaps in it.

Disclaimer: Removing keys from the keyboard may void the warranty of your mechanical keyboard.

How to disinfect keyboards 

When using a keyboard with multiple users, You may want to disinfect it. Use Lysol or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to clean. Never use bleach, neither concentrated nor diluted.

  1. First, turn off the computer, unplug it and if you're cleaning a wireless or portable keyboard, remove the battery.
  2. Use light, gentle strokes to wipe the keyboard with a disinfecting wipe.
  3. Wipe again with a microfiber cloth.
  4. Dry with another soft, lint-free cloth.

We've outlined the best ways to banish keyboard grime from your desktop, mechanical & laptop keyboards. You'll want to do this cleaning ritual often. But prevention is key here:

  • Wash your hands regularly. 
  • Keep treats away from your computer. 
  • Keep the area less grimy.

Finally, remember to follow the cleaning instructions in your owner's manual. 

Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.



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