How to clean your keyboard

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spend hours here Whether for work or play, your computer is indispensable to most of us. Constant use is going to take a toll on your keyboard. Dust and hair buildup are inevitable, and fallen tortilla chips and sandwich crumbs can only be avoided with the kind of discipline that many of us don’t have. We’re not here to judge; we’re here to help you clean. In this guide, we’ll highlight the supplies you might need, and explain how to clean your keyboard step by step.

These tips will work well on the options we picked from our guide to the best mechanical keyboards. You may also want to check out some of our other cleaning guides, such as how to clean your computer, how to clean your smartphone, and finally, how to clean yourself.

Updated June 2024: We added some photos, an electric air blower, and refreshed our tips (thanks to suggestions from our readers).

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keyboard cleaning supplies

Before and after view of a dirty vs. clean computer keyboard

Photo: Simon Hill

You can clean your keyboard with items you already have around the house, so don’t feel like you have to buy special cleaning supplies. Here are a few things you can consider and some household options you probably have lying around.

  • brushI’ve had a pop-up brush ($7) for a few years, and it’s perfect for cleaning gunk off your keyboard, but you can use any soft-bristled brush you have at home (a toothbrush or even a 1.5-inch paintbrush will work).
  • compressed airA 10-ounce can of Dust-Off ($11) will last a long time and can be very effective at getting things off of your keyboard.
  • Electric Air BlowerA good alternative to compressed air is a rechargeable electric air blower that you can use over and over again. I have the KiCa Jetfan 2 ($99), which has a sliding control to increase power and blow everything out and a couple of attachments to focus the air. Battery life is surprisingly good and you can recharge via the USB-C port on the bottom. It’s expensive, but I love it. You can use it to blow dust off anything from keyboards and PCs to radiators and mesh chairs.
  • fabricYou probably already have microfiber cloths, and any cloth will work, but I’ve found that the thin fancy cloths used for eyeglasses work best – pack of microfiber cloths ($10).
  • Clearing the Mud: A tub of cleaning gel ($6) can work for removing dust from hard-to-reach places like the keyboard, but I don’t recommend it. Besides the usual mess, it leaves residue, gets messy, and breaks down quickly, leaving you with a sticky mess that may not be environmentally friendly.
  • cotton swabs: You may already have Q-tips, or you can buy cheap cotton swabs ($3) and use them to clean between the keys. Wooden toothpicks are good for cleaning out built-up dirt.
  • isopropyl alcohol: Dampening your cloth or cotton ball with water usually does the trick, but alcohol is a very effective cleaner. This Max Professional spray ($10) is easy to use.
  • Magic Eraser: For scuff marks and stubborn grime, Magic Erasers ($7) made of melamine can be surprisingly effective. Sometimes regular pencil erasers can work, too.
  • keycap removal toolIf you’re really going to do a deep cleaning of your mechanical keyboard, you may need a keycap removal tool ($6). (It includes a switch puller and a pair of brushes.)

You probably won’t need most of these unless your keyboard is really dirty, so before buying extras, try cleaning it with what you already have.

How to clean your keyboard

Now it’s time to get to work. First, shut down your computer, disconnect the keyboard, and remove the cables. Clear your desk or table and gather your cleaning tools.

Shake, brush, blow, and vacuum

For a relatively well-maintained keyboard, the following four steps may be sufficient:

  1. First, turn your keyboard upside down and shake it gently to see what falls out.
  2. Use your brush to gently remove debris. This works best if you tilt your keyboard from side to side, then the other, and brush down the rows.
  3. If you have compressed air or an electric blower, use short bursts (but don’t get too close) to remove deep-seated dirt. Tilt your keyboard at different angles and blow into gaps.
  4. If you have a small brush tool for your vacuum or handheld vac, use it to scoop up the loose dirt and gently work it over the keyboard.

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