How To Easily Clean Your Keyboard

Let’s be real: your keyboard has probably seen better days. Whether it’s adorned with sturdy switches or intrinsic RGB light shows, no product stays pristine after prolonged use. To keep your gaming peripherals at peak performance, regular upkeep is required. Sounds like hassle, but fear not. This is the definitive guide to clean your keyboard, as easily as possible.  

Don’t worry: a little bit of dust won’t kill your peripherals. If you’ve already spent some cash on a proper mechanical keyboard, there is a certain amount of durability you paid for. Not only are mechanical switches less prone to imprecision, they prove far more sturdy too. Your keyboard might get greasy or accumulate all kinds of tiny particles, yet it often doesn’t interfere with gaming.

By having a light cleaning routine every few months, you can ensure these switches keep performing. The key feel will stay smooth for far longer, while you all but eliminate the chance of dust speckles messing with internal mechanisms. What’s more win-win than having your favorite keyboard keeping its precision for a few extra years?

Wiping down your keycaps every few days is a great start. Should you however feel the need for a more thorough cleaning, follow these few steps for optimal results.

Step 1 —  Plucking your keyboard clean

For a proper cleaning session, your first action should be to remove all the keycaps from their switches. Not only do we need to get under those bits of plastic, they themselves are more easily cleansed when detached.  

Pro tip: Make sure you have reference material on where all keycaps should be placed. Do you really know where that ‘Pause Break’ should go? If you can’t recall your key positions from memory, snapping a quick picture before you start removing caps, can be rather helpful in the future.

When ‘plopping out’ keycaps, it’s ideal to not damage the keycaps, or the mechanical switch itself. Consider grabbing a proper keycap puller to help you out. They’re made specifically for pulling these bits of plastic without bending or scratching any parts, while also speeding up the process greatly. Wired pullers excel in tucking themselves under the cap, which proves especially helpful when certain keys are narrowly tucked in together.

Step 2 —  Cleaning your keycaps with (almost) zero effort

To avoid mind-numbingly brushing down every keycap manually, it’s best to let these bad boys get clean by themselves. The tried and true method is to fill a small container with lukewarm water and dish soap, and dunk the keycaps in there. Having them soak in that solution for at least four hours, usually renders the caps squeaky clean. 

Alternatively, you can opt for tossing the keycaps in the laundry machine. To avoid them getting lost in your trousers or the machine itself, make sure to secure the keycaps in a laundry bag. Don’t have one of those? A pillow case that’s been knotted shut, will do too.

Cleaning a handful of keycaps from a keyboard, by letting them soak in some soapy water.

Warning! For both methods, it is of importance that your water solution doesn’t get too hot. Thicker PBT keycaps might withstand being submerged in 60° Celsius for some time, but most ABS plastics will start to bend and deform when being exposed to heat. If you want to use the laundry machine, going with a program on 40° C should be completely safe.

After their soaking session, it’s time to properly dry off all keycaps. Wiping them down individually with a clean cloth offers for some nice quality control, but if you’re lazy — we don’t judge — you can always let the caps air dry for themselves. It’s as easy as spreading them out on a dish towel, legends facing down. This tactic might take an extra hour or two, but it’s as hands-off as can be.   

Step 3 — Wiping down the board

As your keycaps take care of themselves, the keyboard itself has opened up. With the board being exposed, it makes for some easy cleaning. For starters: turning it upside down, and shaking all ‘keyboard fodder’ out of there, already gets rid of the bigger chunks of dirt.

Don’t go too wild with a vacuum cleaner. It might seem like an easy solution, but when done carelessly, you might damage your keyboard. Banging plastics together can offset switches or scratch the stems, so be careful. 

Animated image of a gamer cleaning his keyboard by sliding a cotton swab between two exposed mechanical switches.

Wiping it down with a microfibre cloth, nets you the most results — especially on neat aluminium top plates. If there seems to be a lot of grease having built up, you can lightly apply some water or cleaning solution to your cloth. As long as the board itself doesn’t get soppy to the touch, the finer internal mechanisms should be fine with some moistness. “Wax on, wax off”, just dance around those switches. 

To really get into the nitty gritty, you could wipe down the spaces between switches with a cotton swab — possibly also lightly moisturized. It works wonders on tighter spaces, but be wary of any fibers being left behind. Just like hairs and other tiny strands, these might get stuck inside mechanical switches, hindering their performance. 

Falcon Dust, Off Compressed Gas (152a) Disposable Cleaning Duster, 1,...
  • Falcon Dust-Off Aerosol Compressed Gas (152a) Disposable Cleaning Duster, 1-count, 3. 5 oz can The Original Duster 100% Ozone Safe A Bitterant is...
  • Compact
  • Indispensable for places where space is tight

Alternatively, you can speed up the process of shaking and wiping by starting off with some pressurized air. A can may come at a price, but by blowing out all loose dirt to start with, you save yourself some time.

Step 4 — Keycaps, assemble!

When all keycaps are dry, and your board is rid of dust and grease, reassembly can begin. Again, this is the part where that previously taken reference picture comes in handy. As long as you know where all keycaps should go, it’s quite a satisfying feel to ‘build up your keyboard’ again.

For plopping the bits of plastic down, there are usually no extra tools required — asides from your ‘before’ snapshot. Just make sure not to force any keycaps onto stems in weird angles, and this part mostly speaks for itself.

Step 5 — Plug in, and play with precision

All that is left to do, is plug your keyboard back into your computer, and you’re good to go. For the next few weeks, your trusty peripheral is in top condition, making sure you never make that misstep in those clutch gaming moments. That is until dust, sweat, and grease start to accumulate again. At least now, you have a routine to fall back on. You’re welcome.

Do you have any questions about our steps, or do you just want to raise a solid tip of your own? You’re more than welcome to let yourself be heard! Feel free to chime in with your input, over in our comment section below.

Leave a Comment: