Options for Cleaning Keyboards


ScreenshotIs there anything more disgusting than a computer keyboard that’s been in use for a year? Between dust, shed skin cells, and random spills, I know mine end up looking pretty bad. Fortunately, there are some options for dealing with the problem, short of buying a new keyboard. If yours needs a buffing-up, try one of these ideas:

  • A gas duster (aka “canned air”) can quickly blow off the top layer of schmutz. You can also buy specialized computer vacuums, though honestly, I’ve never seen one that actually worked.
  • If you want to try a specialized cleaning product, 3M makes a keyboard cleaner kit designed to help get in between the keys. There’s also the biodegradable Cyber Clean compound, which bears a passing resemblance to the “slime” toys your kids (or you) might have.
  • For a more MacGyver approach, you can stick the bits of a keyboard in the dishwasher, though there’s some debate about this. I’ve happily used this method with the keys and case, though never with a whole, assembled keyboard.

Got any cleaning tips of your own to pass on?


scott gray

i’ve found that my local salvation army and goodwill stores sell used keyboards for two bucks each, so coffee’d keyboards get tossed and replaced.

Steve Hollasch

Take two paper clips. Open each one up so that it looks like a tall skinny ‘S’. Use the small “hooks” on each side of a key to reach under the keycap. Pull up to pop the key off. Wide keys (especially the spacebar) will have a metal torsion bar underneath that you’ll have to carefully unhook before removing the key all the way.

Remove all keys this way. Vacuum and wipe the keyboard. Take the keys and put them in a Nalgene bottle with a bit of dishwashing detergent and water, and shake them for about a minute (work those martini muscles). Rinse, then dump them out on a towel. Hit any nasty blobs that didn’t clean off in the bottle.

Snap the keys back in place, and you’ll have a spotless keyboard to work with.


The dishwasher method does work rather well but it does depend on your board. Some of them will break when you take them apart.

Also for spillages, watch out for sugar, as this will corrode the contacts and kill the board. Managed to blow up a £60 Eluminx board with a cup of tea using this method ;)

I think one of the best tips is just don’t eat or drink at your pc!


An excessively clean keyboard is suspect… in use, or for show only? I just turn mine over and smack the back to get rid of the loose stuff. Everything else is just “personality.”


Small makeup brushes are good for delicate dusting. I keep one for dusting the tops of books on my shelves. I haven’t yet tried it on a keyboard, however, although I imagine a mascara wand might reach deep between the keys.


I just turn it over and bang it on my desk. It’s amazing how much crud falls out. By the time it’s really grubby on the outside, just get a new one. Keyboards are cheap and you’ll spend more time and effort not really getting it clean than its worth.


I just use sellotape to glide between the keys to get the dirt/hair/bits out. Finish that off with a wet-wipe to get the grease/stains out. Don’t forget to clean the small plastic pads on the bottom of the mouse too. And while you’re at it, use wet-wipe on the handset and the keypads on the office phone.

James Doc

I spilt coffee all over my aluminium apple keyboard, everything went nasty and sticky. Solution, bucket of cold water over night on one end and then over night for the other end. Put in airing cupboard for a couple of days until completely dry works perfectly!

Same goes for wireless, just make sure you take the batteries out!!! As long as there are no moving parts or electrical currents it should be fine! I’ve heard of people who have put motherboards through the dishwasher and run off it without issue.


Windex. Hands down. I’ve got grubby mitts and have to do this more than the average bear. Windex is where its at.

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