They can easily pick up lots of grime, your grubby fingertips spread muck across them throughout the day, inhaling crumbs when they’re in your bag, and some of us tend to sloppily eat over them as we watch Netflix – so now’s as good a time as any to learn how to clean a keyboard.
Luckily, they’re relatively easy to clean, and you probably have most of the cleaning gear in your house. Here’s how to get rid of all that daily dirt and disinfect your keys thoroughly.
How to get rid of the debris in your keyboard
First, make sure your computer is turned off and keyboard unplugged. There’s nothing worse than sending a garbled message to your gran because you accidentally mashed some buttons.
Next, tilt your keyboard upside down and shake it gently to coax out any bits of dirt. Do not do this directly over your face, obviously. Do it either over a bin or into a sink.
How to clean a keyboard with compressed air
If you have a can of compressed air handy (a cupboard essential, right?), you can also use this to get out additional bits of debris hiding under your keys. Just spray gently under the buttons, but make sure that you’re holding the can upright.
How to clean a keyboard without compressed air
If you don’t have this and can still see a few crumbs sitting between your keys, there are a couple of ways you can remove them.
For stubborn bits of crust, get a toothpick and nudge at the globule until it comes loose. For smaller bits of dirt, wrap some sellotape around your finger and dab gently at the area.
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How to wipe down your keyboard properly
You should ideally use a microfibre cloth for this. They often come packed with new phones and gadgets, so you may well have one in a drawer somewhere that you’ve forgotten about. If not, grab a clean, soft cloth that doesn’t shed fibres.
Dampen the cloth slightly, but don’t soak it. Then run it gently over the keys, making sure no water drips into the keyboard itself. Avoid using household disinfectant, as that could remove the lettering on the keys. Let it dry thoroughly before using it again.
Doing the above steps should keep your board looking relatively fresh. But if you need to do some more heavy-duty cleaning, try out the below.
How to disinfect your keyboard
Please do not pour bleach over your keyboard. There’s usually a special coating on keys that helps them retain their symbols, so you need to be careful when choosing your keyboard cleaning substance.
Apart from plain old water, the only other substance that is recommended for keyboard cleaning is isopropyl-based alcohol products.
According to Apple’s tips, “Using a 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, non-porous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard or other exterior surfaces.”
Dell suggests the same method on this blog, saying customers who want to clean their keyboards should “moisten a microfiber cloth with a mixture of 70% isopropyl alcohol / 30% water. The cloth should be damp, but not dripping wet. Excess moisture should be removed if the cloth is wet before wiping the product.”
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How to clean a keyboard under the keys
This is something that’s time-consuming and fiddly, but if you need to, you can generally take off the keys to give them a thorough clean.
Different brands have different advice about this, so you’ll definitely need to check the manual before you start hacking away. Search for your model number online and see if there’s a guide before you start – and you might want to take a picture of your keyboard before too, or else you might end up with some odd layouts when you reassemble it.
If your keyboard does support manual key removal, you should be able to pop off the keys by using a flat-edged screwdriver or something similarly shaped. Aim for the corners and then gently pry the key off.
Once they’re off, they’re a lot easier to clean. Clean them individually using the type of cleaning solutions mentioned above in the disinfecting step. The keys should be thoroughly dry before you start replacing them.
Related: How to clean your phone properly