How to Clean Your Computer Keyboard

January 31, 2009

in computer hardware

by Tina Gasperson

Keyboards are naturals for collecting dust, debris, and all kinds of nasties. Studies show that the computer keyboard is one of the most germ-infested locations in any business office or even your home. If you use a computer as part of your job, your fingers are constantly on your keyboard depositing and picking up dirt and germs. Have you ever eaten lunch in front of your computer? If so, you’ve probably dropped a load of crumbs between the keys, and even spilled a few drops (or more) of your soda or coffee.

Most of the time the final straw that drives us to do something about the keyboard is sticking keys. If a crumb or other piece of detritus lodges under or between the keys just right, it can become impossible to type. If you don’t have a spare keyboard waiting in the wings, try these tips for restoring yours to working condition.

Unplug the keyboard, turn it upside down and give it a vigorous shaking. You may be surprised at the things that fall out. A few gentle smacks on the back of the keyboard may help to dislodge larger crumbs. Try using “canned air,” available at your local electronics store, to blow debris out – although this method may more firmly lodge the debris under the keys.

If you’ve spilled something sticky on your keyboard it may require more drastic measures to get things back to normal. Wipe the surface of your keyboard with a damp cloth, working it between the keys. For an in-depth cleaning, you can remove the key caps by gently prying them off with the edge of a butter knife or standard screwdriver. Just be sure you know in what order to put them back on. Print a keyboard diagram before you start, if there’s any doubt.

If you do have a spare keyboard lying around (or a couple of days you can spare without your computer), try this trick for restoring your typing surface to like-new condition: put it in the dishwasher. Many experts agree this is an effective way to get every crumb out without having to take your keyboard apart. Just put the keyboard in the dishwasher and wash it in the normal cycle, but with no detergent or soap. It will take a day or two for it to dry, but after that your keyboard should be as good as new.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.