As a result of the amount we touch them, keyboards can quickly become hotbeds for dirt and grime to accumulate. While some of this may become clear to see, it’s the germs living on them that arguably present the greater health risk.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to effectively clean your keyboard without damaging it in any way.
While these tips should be regularly practised at any time, they are particularly important at the time of writing. The continued threat of the coronavirus means hygiene is of top priority,
Power down your PC
Shutting down your device is often the go-to if there are any issues, but it’s also important to do this before you start cleaning.
After all, a PC is an electrical device, and the combination of liquids and electrical devices will increase your risk of a terrible accident.
Shake out any loose debris
We get it – you like to eat while using your PC and laptop. Whether it’s a snack at work or meal while watching a programme at home, many of these foods tend to be crumbly. As a result, it can be easy for little pieces of food to be lodged in between keys.
However, there’s an easy solution to this. Carefully pick up your device (or disconnect your keyboard), turn it upside down and give it a shake. Obviously don’t go crazy, but a gentle side to side movement should dislodge debris from any blockages.
Grab a can of compressed air
While they might not be impeding your typing experience, smaller bits of dirt can easily build up in your keyboard. It’s not always possible to shake out all of the smaller bits of grit and dirt that can build up in keyboards. This is where a can of compressed air comes in handy. You can pick these up in hardware stores or order them online for very little money.
At the time of writing we found the Q Connect HFC-Free Air Duster for £6.48 on Amazon UK, while Amazon US has similar products for under $10.
Both the above examples come with a long plastic straw-like attachment that allows you to direct the blasts. To clean out any stubborn crumbs spray the canister in a left to right motion over the keyboard, with the tip of the straw around half an inch away from the keys, then turn the keyboard onto its side and repeat the process.
This is the method that Apple recommends for its latest MacBooks.
Another option is to vacuum the keyboard with a brush attachment to get rid of the dust. Then give it a wipe.
Using a clean make-up brush will also do the job.
Clean the keys
As the part of the keyboard you interact with the most, the keys will definitely need some attention. Aside from the gunk you leave on them they are prone to get greasy.
There are a few ways these can be cleaned, depending on which type of keyboard you have. For large desktop keyboards, including mechanical, your best bet is to use cotton buds dipped in isopropyl alcohol or an ethanol-based solution.
This may be a bit time consuming, but it will ensure you get the most thorough clean possible.
There are a few different ways to clean the keys themselves. For mechanical and larger desktop keyboards you can take your time and use cotton buds dipped in isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to clean the sides of each key.
If you’ve got a regular laptop keyboard, or something with less key travel, you should use a lint-free cloth to clean surfaces. It’s also best to dampen this with the alcohol and then carefully wipe around the affected area.
If you haven’t got any alcohol-based cleaning products on hand, antibacterial wet wipes are your best alternative. However, after you clean any type of keyboard, make sure you wet a cloth with water and go over the surfaces again. This is particularly important on laptop keyboards, where there’s more of a risk of the alcohol getting on your display.
There’s also a newer, stranger way to cleanse your keys, and that’s by using keyboard cleaning gel packs. These look like the kind of slime children love to make in art classes but can be an effective way of prying off dirt and grime. Simply open the container, rub the gel onto the keys, then peel it off again.
A pack of four gels is currently available on Amazon for £18.49 or you can buy a 160g tub on Amazon UK for £6.99.
Admittedly, it looks weird but is actually more fun than messing about with cleaning fluid and compressed air, plus it returns some impressive results.
Remove and clean the keys
Some desktop keyboard letter keys can be removed with a blunt tool such as a butter knife or flathead screwdriver. But we strongly suggest you check with the manufacturer that this is recommended before prising the keys off, and later discovering that you can’t get them back on.
Once removed, wash the letter keys individually with water and soap, or alcohol, to remove dirt. Then make sure you thoughly dry the keys – place them on a towel to continue drying.
For more tips on how to master the custodial arts see our How to clean and disinfect your phone and How to clean a laptop fan guides.