How to Clean Your Keyboard and Sterilize Viruses and Bacteria


When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard? It’s not something we think about as we clean up our homes, but it’s a good idea to keep on top of your keyboard hygiene.

Let’s explore why you should clean your keyboard and how to do it properly.

Why You Should Clean Your Keyboard

First, keyboards aren’t the cleanest object in your home or office. Lots of crumbs from computer-side snacks work their way among the keys and build up underneath them. As a result, holding a keyboard upside-down can dislodge some nasty morsels from the past.

It’s so bad that the keyboard can be a safe harbor for germs. Time reported on how 27% of keyboards in the office have an ATP count of 300 or higher, which means they have “high levels of contamination.”

The keyboard tends to go under the radar when people clean their office space, allowing germs to flourish on and around the keys freely.

General Precautions When Cleaning a Keyboard

Before you learn how to clean a computer keyboard and eliminate all that grime, take a moment to remember the precautions for cleaning a keyboard.

1. Unplug the Keyboard From the Computer

First, ensure no power is going through the keyboard while you clean it. Unplug the keyboard from your computer while you clean, as this keeps you safe from both electrical problems and accidentally typing nonsense as you clean.

Of course, if you’re using a laptop, this is a little harder to do. As such, it’s best to power off the laptop and unplug it from the mains before you start cleaning.

2. Overturn the Keyboard Over a Suitable Dirt Catcher

You can get rid of some larger specs of dirt with minimal effort. Position the keyboard over a bin or sink, then give it a strong shake. This easy trick should clear out any big particles before you begin the proper cleaning procedure.

3. Remove the Keys Carefully

If you need to remove the keys on your keyboard before you start, be careful when popping them off. Forcing them too hard will cause more issues than a dirty keyboard. If you want, you can try a special key removal tool that makes the task easier. We recommend the WASD Keyboards Wire Keycap Puller Tool for this.

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How to Clean a Keyboard

Now that we’ve broken down why you should clean your keyboard, as well as some important safety tips, it’s time to choose your weapon of choice. There are several options available, so take a read of them all and pick out the one that fits your needs best.

1. Blast Dust With Compressed Air

One of the most-loved accessories for anyone who hates dust on their electronics, compressed air is the best way to clean a keyboard that has accumulated a thin layer of grime.

Compressed air is what it sounds like; a can of air that keeps its contents under a high amount of pressure. When you press the stopper at the top, the compressed air rushes out and blasts the dust in front of the nozzle. This is used to dislodge dirt from electronics, such as the insides of computers.

One of the best aspects of compressed air cans is how compatible they are with other components. These Rosewill Compressed Gas Dusters are great for cleaning out keyboards, but you can use it to clean other electronics such as the inside of your PC.

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If you’re an avid console gamer, be sure to keep that can of compressed air handy. It’s one of the best ways to clean the dust from your PS4, which is important if you want to keep your consoles cool.

2. Removing Dirt With Keyboard Cleaning Slime

Slime sounds like the last thing you want to put onto a grimy keyboard, but cleaning slime really helps.

A good cleaning slime product aims to be the right amount of sticky. It’s gooey enough to catch all the dirt and lint on your keyboard, but not sticky enough to gum up your keyboard or your hands. You press it down over your keyboard keys, then peel it off to remove all the gunk.

This ColorCoral Cleaning Slime is a great starting point for a beginner. It’s cheap, easy to use, and doesn’t get your hands sticky. It has a nice lemon scent that keeps things smelling fresh. While it won’t be effective versus dust underneath the keys, it’s great for a quick and easy surface-level clean.

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If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even make your own at home. There are several clever ways to put DIY cleaning slime to use, so consider this if you like the sound of keyboard cleaning slime.

3. Achieving a Deep Clean With Rubbing Alcohol

If you want to learn how to clean a sticky keyboard, compressed air and cleaning slime aren’t good options.

To give your keyboard a deep clean, you’ll need something strong. Rubbing alcohol (scientifically called “isopropyl alcohol”) is your best choice for cleaning your keyboard. Make sure you choose a solution that’s at least 70 percent alcohol to give it the power to kill off any germs.

Rubbing alcohol is the trickiest of the keyboard cleaning methods. Take a cotton swap stick (e.g. a Q-tip), dip it in the liquid, then brush against the side of the keys. You may need to remove each key to get a thorough clean. As such, while it’s not easy-to-use like compressed air or slime, it’s the best method for stubborn dirt and stickiness.

4. Sterilizing Your Keyboard From Bacteria and Viruses

We briefly mentioned above how rubbing alcohol can help defeat bacteria and viruses. While it does do the job, you may not want to treat your entire keyboard with strong alcohol. Fortunately, there are other ways you can clean your keyboard from germs.

First, if you’ve ever wondered if you can use Clorox wipes on a computer keyboard, you’re in luck. Give the keyboard a wipe-down and don’t be afraid to remove keys to clean the whole surface better. Just be sure you don’t use any cleaning wipes that contain bleach, as this can do more damage than good.

You can also use a UV-C sterilizing wand to clean your keyboard. These emit ultraviolet light which damages bacteria and viruses to the point where they die off. The American Journal of Infection Control tested UV light effectiveness on hospital keyboards and found them a useful way to clean a keyboard with minimal interruption.

If you’re interested, you can pick up a UV wand from stores like Amazon. For example, the Hygea Steri Wand is budget-friendly and works well on keyboards.

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How to Clean a Laptop Keyboard

With regular keyboards, it’s easy to pry off the keys and clean among the gaps. If you’re using a laptop, however, there’s a good chance that they’re embedded into the system and harder to clean.

Double-check to see if you can pry the keys off. We don’t advise you do a few test tugs on the keys; instead, look up your laptop manufacturer’s documentation to see if they have any advice on cleaning the keyboard. If they don’t, it’s best to leave the keys on and play it safe.

Once you’ve checked, shut down the laptop and unplug it from the power supply. Then, follow the manufacturer instructions if you have them. If you don’t, use keyboard cleaning slime to get rid of the larger particles, and isopropyl alcohol for more stubborn stains.

You can also turn the laptop upside down and give it a shake to dislodge dirt. Do it over a sink or bin to catch all the dust that falls.

As well as being hygienic, cleaning up the keys is one of the key tips for fixing faulty laptop keyboards. It’s worth trying if your keys aren’t working as they used to.

How to Clean a Mac Keyboard

If you want to know how to clean a MacBook keyboard, Apple has documentation explaining things. In short, they advise against cleaning solutions that use a lot of moisture and aerosol sprays.

As such, it’s best to use the advice they give on the website; lightly wet a lint cloth, and wipe it over the surface of the keyboard. For dried-on dirt, you’ll have better luck using a cotton swap stick and isopropyl alcohol; ensure the swab isn’t soaking with the alcohol before you clean, or you’ll do more damage than good.

Interestingly, this is similar advice that Apples gives for cleaning an iPhone speaker. Giving the phone a clean is one of the ways to fix a faulty iPhone speaker, so be sure to keep these cleaning tools handy.

How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards can be a little trickier than membrane keyboards, given the complex switch mechanisms under each key. For an ideal clean, grab a key remover, some cotton swabs, and some isopropyl alcohol before starting.

First, take off all the keys on the keyboard. Be careful, though; if you can’t remember the exact layout of the keys, take a photo first or find an image of it so you can put the keys back correctly. If you don’t, typing might get a little trickier afterward!

Then, take the swabs and alcohol and gently clean around the keys and the switches. If you like, you can prepare a bowl of warm soapy water and leave the keys in it for a few hours; just be sure to dry them properly before you put them back.

Spills are the biggest problem with mechanical keyboards. If you spill a liquid on your mechanical keyboard, try not to tilt it, as the spillage may get inside the key mechanisms.

Instead, remove the keycaps and gently mop up any liquid you find among the keys. Afterward, perform a deeper clean with isopropyl alcohol to remove any stickiness.

Giving Your Computer a Spring Clean

Keyboards naturally gather grime, but people often neglect this when cleaning. Now you know why you should clean your keyboard, as well as how to. After you’re done cleaning your keyboard, why not clean your iPhone too.

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