How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop

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How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop
Cleaning your keyboard isn't as hard as it might seem.StepanPopov/Shutterstock

  • You can easily clean your keyboard using rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, and a lint-free cloth.
  • In general, there are two different types of keyboards - external and laptop - each of which requires its own cleaning process.

If you use your computer often, then your keyboard is likely one of the dirtiest spots in your home.

It isn't through any fault of your own - anything you touch often will naturally build up residue over time. And although keyboards are built to withstand constant use, enough dirt and grime can be harmful to the keys and sensors.

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The thought of cleaning your electronics can be anxiety inducing. Luckily, you aren't the first person to clean your keyboard, and you won't be the last. There are plenty of easy ways to clean your keyboard, no matter what type you have.

Here's how to clean your keyboard, and free your keys from dust, dirt, and grime.

How to clean your external keyboard

An external keyboard is one that plugs into the computer with a wire or cable, and isn't built-in.

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Before you get started, here's what you'll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • A clean microfiber cloth (or any lint-free cloth)

You might also want to invest in a can of compressed air, which is great for blowing away dust in hard-to-reach areas, and a toothpick, which can scrape up embedded dirt.

Once you've gathered your supplies, here's what to do.

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1. Unplug your keyboard.

2. Turn the keyboard upside down to let any loose debris fall out naturally. If you have a can of compressed air, use it to blow loose any additional debris.

3. Dampen a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and use it to clean around the keys. The cotton swab should be wet, but not dripping. Dispose of the swab once it's picked up enough dirt. You may need more than one swab to cover your entire keyboard.

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How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop
Use a wet cotton swab to pick up dirt and dust.Chanita Chokchaikul/Shutterstock

4. If you have a toothpick and see any particularly stubborn debris, use it to carefully remove that debris now.

5. Apply rubbing alcohol to a cloth or towelette - again, damp but not dripping - and use it to clean the tops of the keyboard keys, as well as the surrounding areas.

6. Use the dry lint-free cloth to remove the last of the dust, and polish your keyboard.

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How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop
Finish cleaning with a dry lint-free cloth.Werner Muenzker/Shutterstock

Many external keyboards will also let you remove individual keys, which is great for cleaning the spaces underneath the keys. This will also let you give each key a more thorough cleaning.

Check the manual for your specific keyboard to see if the keys are removable, and how to remove and replace them if they are.

After you've cleaned the keyboard, make sure to let it dry out before plugging it back in and using it.

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How to clean your laptop keyboard

A laptop keyboard is, fittingly, the keyboard that's built into your laptop or netbook.

Here are the supplies you'll want to have at your disposal:

  • Clear tape (low-adhesive is best) or cleaning slime
  • Disinfecting wipes

Again, a can of compressed air is optional here, but can be useful if you have it.

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Once you have your preferred cleaners on hand, here's what to do:

1. Turn off your laptop and disconnect it from any power sources (you may also wish to take out the battery, if possible).

2. Flip your laptop upside down to let any loose debris fall naturally out of your keyboard. If you have a compressed air can, use it to blow loose any additional debris now.

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3. If you're using clear tape, use the sticky side to collect additional debris - it's also a good idea to stick the tape under the keys and maneuver it around for a more in-depth clean. Or, if you chose the cleaning slime, repeatedly press it into the spaces between keys and lift, picking up grime as you go.

How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop
Sticky cleaning slime, seen here cleaning an external keyboard, can pick up dirt and dust.iama_sing/Shutterstock

4. Use the disinfecting wipes to clean the tops of the keyboard keys, using the light pressure of your palm. Remember, the goal is not to soak your keyboard with the disinfectant, but rather to give it a quick once-over, so you may want to squeeze the wipes out beforehand to reduce moisture.

5. Use a dry cloth or towelette to remove the last of the dust and give your keyboard a polish.

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How to properly clean your keyboard without damaging it, whether it's wired, wireless, or built into a laptop
Polish off the keys with a dry cloth.cunaplus/Shutterstock

Again, make sure to let the keyboard completely dry out before using your laptop again.

An additional, and optional, last step would be to fit a silicone cover over your keyboard to help protect it from dirt and debris in the future. This can also protect it from liquid spills.

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