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How to clean a keyboard correctly: manually vs dishwasher

Outlines how to clean a keyboard properly, with steps for the various manual methods and the dishwasher method to clean a keyboard.

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Anyone who has a laptop or desktop PC uses a keyboard almost every day. But the input device is a real collector of bacteria and needs to be cleaned regularly.

Chips and cookies, coffee, lemonade and dust: keyboards get a whole lot of dirt off. The result is that a number of  bacteria settle thereIn fact, scientists have discovered there are 400 times as many germs on a keyboard as on a toilet lid. A good reason to clean the device regularly. You should therefore clean your keyboard thoroughly — and dust it from time to time.

How to clean a keyboard correctly

First steps to clean the loose dirt

First hold the keyboard upside down and tap on the underside — the roughest dirt should fall out. The use of compressed air spray is also very helpful here. This will also free the gaps from accumulated flakes of skin, bread crumbs and broken pencil leads. Use soapy water and cotton swabs to clean every space on the keyboard, and then wipe the keys with a paper towel.

It’s even easier with a keyboard cleaning kit. The plastic cleaner supplied dissolves grease even better than the soapy water. The keyboard sponge helps with application, with which the keys and spaces can be cleaned in one go.

Cleaning the keyboard with post-it notes: Fast, inexpensive and effective

how to clean a keyboard

Almost everyone has classic post-it notes at their desk. This is an effective way to clean your keyboard.

  • Pull the sticky side of the post-its slowly and gently through the individual rows of buttons.
  • Dirt and dust stick to the adhesive strip.
  • You can find detailed instructions in the video above.

Thoroughly clean the computer keyboard

To clean sticky key surfaces, shaking and vacuuming are not enough. First, use a damp microfiber cloth that you’ve sprayed with a little glass cleaner to thoroughly wipe the keys one by one. The computer should be switched off.

Removing the keys

Part of cleaning your desktop PC keyboard thoroughly sometimes is to remove all of the keys. Before doing this, however, you should carefully memorize the structure of your keyboard or, ideally, take a photo of it so that subsequent incorrect placements are excluded.

  • The buttons can be removed from the housing using a pen or screwdriver. A lot of patience and especially fine motor skills are required here.
  • You can now remove coarse dirt from the spaces between the keyboard by sucking up the dust crumbs from above with a conventional vacuum cleaner on the lowest power level.
  • Then stubborn stains can be removed with a damp cloth. You can use a cotton swab soaked in soapy water or washing-up liquid for the corners.
  • Finally, put the buttons back in their original position.

How to clean a keyboard in the dishwasher

In the event that the keyboard still does not fully meet your hygiene standard even after the major cleaning, there is a simple and effective method: the dishwasher. However, we recommend this only be done if you are comfortable in dealing with electronics, as you have to remove the keyboard and the cable. In addition, there is the risk that the sensitive contacts in the computer keyboard can be cleaned but not dried properly.

The buttons are usually dishwasher-safe. Nothing should come to harm in the dishwasher’s 40 degree C temperature program. With cheap keyboards, however, you have to be careful because the letters are only printed on and can be erased with some strong cleaning agents.

The only catch is the keyboard electronics, because you have to remove them beforehand. Mostly, however, it is limited to a small circuit board.

First, use a blunt knife to pry all of the keys off the keyboard. So that everything comes back to its old place afterwards, it is best to take a photo of the key layout. With some keyboards, the keys are all attached to a mat — here you do not have to lever out the individual keys, but can put the entire mat into the machine. Then use a screwdriver to loosen the screws from the underside of the keyboard and open the housing.

Now remove the electronics — in most cases you will have to loosen additional screws to do this. The rest goes in the dishwasher. Temperatures of up to 40 degrees are no problem for the keyboards. Therefore, if possible, use the 35 degree rinsing process and a normal cleaning stick. You can wipe the rubber mat with a damp cloth.

Then let the cleaned components dry thoroughly and then reassemble the keyboard in reverse order. Simply press the individual buttons firmly in the corresponding position.

How to clean a laptop keyboard

You should only remove the keys of a laptop keyboard in an extreme emergency, as the brackets break off much more easily here than on a classic computer keyboard. Here you can use a gentler cleaning method:

  • Make sure that the laptop is switched off so that you do not trigger any unintentional commands, for example with keyboard shortcuts. Also remove the battery to avoid possible electric shock.
  • Now you can turn the laptop upside down and gently shake it so that the coarse grains and crumbs come out.
  • Stubborn stains can be removed with a slightly dampened microfiber cloth before everything is wiped dry with a paper or kitchen towel.
  • In addition, a conventional vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment can also be used. You should be particularly careful here and be sure to set the lowest power level so that the buttons are not sucked out.
  • The spaces between the keys can be cleaned well with small interdental brushes, with which you can not only get into every corner but also under the keys.

This procedure can also be used with computer keyboards that are only to be subjected to superficial cleaning.

How to sanitise the keys

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of sanitising equipment and surfaces we use on a daily basis. We recommend that, where practical, you wash or sanitise your hands before using the computer, and at least once a week or more, wipe a sanitising wipe over the keys, touchpad and any touchscreen — but be sure to use a wipe that is damp, not dripping with sanitiser.