How to properly clean a mechanical keyboard without damaging it

How to properly clean a mechanical keyboard without damaging it
You can use several simple tools to clean your mechanical keyboard.Neil Godwin/PC Gamer Magazine/Future via Getty Images
  • You should lightly clean a mechanical keyboard with a small vacuum or a brush regularly.
  • One of the advantages of a mechanical keyboard is that it's relatively easy to clean — you can remove and replace the keys with minimal effort to thoroughly cleanse the keyboard deck.
  • If you spill liquid on your keyboard, unplug it to prevent electrical damage and then perform a light or thorough cleaning, depending on whether the liquid will leave a residue when it dries.

In addition to typing accuracy and the more precise feel of a mechanical keyboard, one of its numerous advantages is the ease with which it can be cleaned. Using a common keycap puller (which resembles a small tong) you can remove the keys for a thorough cleaning. Here is the right way to keep your mechanical keyboard clean.

How to lightly clean a mechanical keyboard

You should regularly clean your keyboard to keep dirt, dust, pet hair, and food debris from building up on the deck of your keyboard between and under the keys, as well as on the palm rest and around the keys. It's a good idea to do this weekly, or whenever you see dirt accumulating.

The easiest and fastest way to keep the keyboard reasonably clean is with a small handheld keyboard vacuum. Ideally, the vacuum should have anti-static attachments, such as the narrow nozzle, that help you get between the keys.

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How to properly clean a mechanical keyboard without damaging it
You can use a keyboard brush to sweep dirt out from between keys.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

If you don't have a vacuum, use a brush instead. You can find a wide variety of keyboard cleaning brushes on Amazon and elsewhere. The best options let you sweep between keys and have bristles long enough to reach all the way to the keyboard deck.

In addition to brushing or vacuuming, use a microfiber cloth to clean the entire keyboard, including the deck and wrist pad.


How to thoroughly clean a mechanical keyboard

You should perform a more thorough cleaning a few times a year to restore the keyboard to a like-new condition by cleaning under the keys and around the switches. To do this, you need a keycap puller to remove the keys from your keyboard. You should have received a puller tool with your mechanical keyboard, but if you've misplaced it, you can get a new one with many inexpensive computer tool kits or on its own for just a few dollars.

1. Take a photo of your keyboard before you begin so there's no doubt about exactly where each key goes when it's time to replace them.

2. Use the keycap puller to remove every key. Put them in a large bowl and fill it with warm, soapy water. Let them soak for several hours.

How to properly clean a mechanical keyboard without damaging it
Use a keycap puller to pop all the keys off your keyboard and clean them in soapy water.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

3. While the keys are soaking, use a vacuum and a dampened microfiber cloth to thoroughly remove all the debris from the keyboard deck. You can also use a cotton swab to remove dirt around the switches.

4. Dry the keyboard with a fresh, dry cloth.


5. After soaking for at least three to four hours, rinse and dry each key, then reattach it to the keyboard by pressing it onto the switch until it snaps into place.

Some types of keys tend to wear out - the keys take on a worn "shine" or the surface wipes away entirely. You can restore your keyboard by replacing the keys; check with your keyboard manufacturer for replacement keycaps.

How to properly clean a mechanical keyboard without damaging it
Worn keys can be replaced to restore the keyboard to like-new condition.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

How to clean a mechanical keyboard after a spill

If you accidentally spill a liquid on the keyboard, unplug it immediately from the computer's USB port. This will prevent electrical damage to the keyboard and the PC.

  • If the only thing you spilled was water, you can turn the keyboard over to let the water drain. Then use a keycap puller to remove keys around the spill and thoroughly dry the keyboard with a cloth.
  • If you spilled soda or a sugary beverage that will leave a residue when it's dry, completely remove all the keys and perform a thorough cleaning using the steps outlined above.

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