How To Clean Your Computer Keyboard (because you know it needs it!)
We type on it for hours on end with dirty fingers, yet we hardly ever give a thought to properly cleaning it: our computer keyboard. Do you know about the germs that are lurking on your hands? Whatever they are, from cold and flu viruses, to nasty bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, they’re also now on your keyboard. Gross! Just like our germy cell phones and TV remotes, our computer keyboards harbor everything we’ve touched throughout the day unless they are thoroughly cleaned and properly disinfected regularly. This practice will not only reduce the germ load on your keyboard, it’ll also help it look better and work more smoothly by removing crumbs, dust, debris, and grime that can interfere with keystrokes.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER KEYBOARD?
Generally, your computer keyboard should be cleaned at least once weekly. However, it really depends on your habits. Do you ever share your keyboard with others? Do you often forget to wash your hands before using your computer? Do you snack while you type? Do you ever use your computer outside or work in a dusty environment? If you said “Yes!” to any of these questions, your keyboard should definitely be cleaned more often.
STOP! READ THIS BEFORE YOU BEGIN CLEANING YOUR KEYBOARD!
Cleaning and disinfecting your keyboard is a relatively simple process, but there are some major “don’ts” to keep in mind while you tackle it.
- DON’T submerge your keyboard in water. If you’re dealing with major Cheeto stains, it might be tempting to dunk your keyboard in the sink, but just don’t do it.
- DON’T spray any type of liquid directly onto your keyboard. It can cause major damage and will likely make your keyboard short out. We’ll tell you what to do instead later on in this post.
- DON’T use harsh cleaning products like bleach or ammonia on your keyboard. Make sure to always check the ingredients of the product you’re planning to use. Harsh chemicals like bleach (this includes bleach-based disinfectant wipes) can erase lettering on keys and damage your keyboard beyond repair.
- DON’T force the keys off your keyboard if they don’t pop off easily. Always check manufacturer’s instructions before attempting to remove keys. If you’re having trouble removing the keys, stop immediately.
- DON’T ever clean a keyboard that’s still connected to a power source. Always be sure that laptops are powered off and external keyboards are unplugged before you begin cleaning the keyboard. This critically important step will help prevent potential damage and harm.
- Vital Oxide
- Small soft-bristled brush (or keyboard brush)
- Compressed air
- Flathead screwdriver
- Dishwashing liquid
- Small bowl
- Cotton swabs
- Wooden toothpicks
- Microfiber cloth
KEYBOARD CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS
Step 1: Unplug / Power Down
First things first, always make sure your keyboard is powered down. If you have an external keyboard, unplug it. If you’re going to be cleaning your laptop keyboard, shut down your laptop and remove the battery.
Step 2: Shake It Out
Turn your keyboard over a trash can and give it a good shake. Heads up – if it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned your keyboard (or if this is the first time ever), you’re probably going to see a good amount of dust bunnies, hair, and crumbs tumble out. Take the time to rotate the keyboard around to encourage debris to fall out.
Step 3: Gently Brush
After shaking out as much debris as possible, use a soft-bristled brush to gently dislodge any debris that might be stuck in between the keys. This is a common occurrence, so keyboard brushes are readily available online and at office supply stores. You can also use a clean soft-bristled toothbrush instead. After brushing, turn the keyboard back over the trash can and tap out any loose debris.
Step 4: Use Compressed Air
To remove debris from between the keys, use a can of compressed air. Make sure that the straw is properly attached to control the airflow.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not turn the can of compressed air upside down while spraying. This could spray liquid propellant, instead of air, onto the keyboard. Also never insert the straw under the keys because the forceful blast of air could damage electronics.
When you’re ready, hold the can at an angle and spray in a zigzag pattern, keeping the end of the straw about a half-inch away from the keyboard while spraying, and rotating the keyboard so you reach all sides of the keys. After spraying, again turn the keyboard back over the trash can to empty anything that loosened up.
Step 5: Give the Keys a Bath
If your keyboard is really grimy and has been acting up, you might want to remove the keys for deeper cleaning. This is generally something that should be done every few months for routine maintenance.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Always check the manual for the manufacturer's recommendations on how or whether to remove keys for cleaning.
For mechanical keyboards, this process is fairly simple. Simply slide a small flathead screwdriver under the keys to pop them off. Be sure to work slowly and carefully to prevent damage.
Once the keys are removed, soak them for a few minutes in a solution of one cup warm water and a couple drops of dishwashing liquid. Use a cotton swab or a wooden toothpick to remove any stubborn grime. Be careful not to scrub, otherwise you might erase the lettering on the keys.
After thoroughly cleaning the keys, dry them well with a microfibre cloth. Make sure they are completely dry before putting them back on the keyboard.
Step 6: Disinfect
Now that you’ve gotten the visible dirt and grime removed from your keyboard, it’s time to tackle all the invisible germs that are hanging out in it. Bacteria love computer keyboards because the warmth gives them a perfectly cozy environment in which to thrive. As mentioned above, never use harsh cleaners like bleach or ammonia on your keyboard, and never pour or spray any type of liquid directly on the keyboard.
Instead, banish bacteria and viruses with this method: Spray Vital Oxide onto a clean microfiber cloth (it should only be slightly damp, not dripping) and carefully wipe down all of the keyboard surfaces, using light, gentle strokes.
While you’re at it - take a few minutes to degerm your laptop screen, trackpad or mouse, and headphones by wiping down with the microfiber cloth and Vital Oxide to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.
That’s it! You’ve cleaned and disinfected your keyboard! How does it feel?
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