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January 11, 2008

How to Clean a Keyboard

Keyboards can become dirty after periods of extended use, especially if users commonly eat or smoke near the computer. If a keyboard becomes dirty enough, its performance can be affected. Common problems include dead or stuck keys and repeated characters during typing.

StepsShut down the computer and detach the keyboard connector before any cleaning procedure. Do not remove or connect a keyboard while the computer is running. Doing so may damage the machine, especially a non-USB based keyboard.

Open a window, or take the keyboard outside before spraying the compressed air. Using compressed air indoors is not recommended, as it can cause severe brain damage and death if large amounts are inhaled. Read the instructions on the side of the can for more information.
For a quick cleaning, turn the keyboard upside down and use a can of compressed air to blow out any foreign matter. Be sure to do this in a location where falling debris can be cleaned up easily.
Turn the keyboard upside down and tap on it a few times. You should see a bit of dirt fall out. Change the angle and tap harder to make most of it get out.
Clean the sides of the keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

For a more thorough cleaning, remove all of the keys. Do this by gently prying up each key with a small screwdriver or a similar lever. When the keys have been removed, blow out any debris with compressed air. With a moist (but not wet) cloth, lightly swab all surfaces. Do not allow any type of fluid to enter the keyboard.
Clean the individual keys and place them back in the keyboard.


TipsSome people actually wash the keyboard in a dishwasher. However, this is not widely recommended unless you're willing to risk losing the keyboard. The most important thing is to make sure the keyboard is completely dry before using it. This should definitely be avoided with wireless keyboards.
A good idea is to not take off the space bar, it is harder to get back on and easier to break.

If you forget the order in which the keys on your keyboard go, simply boot up your computer. Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>Accessibility>On Screen Keyboard This will give you a keyboard on the screen, which you can simply copy the order of letters/numbers/characters off.
Laptop keyboards are a bit different. It is not usually necessary to remove keys from a laptop in order to clean it. Isopropyl alcohol and Q-Tips or compressed air is usually enough.

The keys on a laptop can be difficult to replace, especially keys like the space bar and the Enter key, which have a seperate support under them that needs to be installed along with the key.

If you remove the keys, be sure you know where each one goes. Make a diagram, or print out this page and use it as a reference.
If your keyboard has keys not shown in this diagram, make a note of their location.
Compressed air is expensive. Forget about that and use your electric hair dryer with the blower on high. It matters little if the heat is on or off. It's great for dusting too.

WarningsCAUTION: Use extreme caution when using compressed air. Open a window, or move the keyboard outside before spraying.
When spraying compressed air, do not turn the can upside down. Doing so can cause liquid propellant to spray into the keyboard, damaging it.
If you remove the keys, keep them away from small children or pets. Loose keys pose a choking hazard.

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