How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard

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how to clean a mechanical keyboard
If your mechanical keyboard has been looking a bit disgusting lately, or it has simply been a while since you last cleaned it, it’s time to get to work. Good news though, mechanical keyboards are relatively easy to clean, especially compared to membrane keyboards, thanks to the raised keycaps and larger spaces between keys. So unless there’s been a spill, which we’ll discuss later, the job shouldn’t be too complicated.

Tools Needed to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard

Before you begin, there are some things you ought to keep handy. The first is a keycap puller, which you may already have if it came with your keyboard, but if you don’t you can buy one from Amazon or Newegg. You’ll also need a vacuum, preferably a compressed air one to remove debris when you don’t want to remove the keycaps themselves.

Next, you should have a microfiber cloth, some rubbing alcohol, some dish soap, and some cyber clean compound. This last item is optional and can be replaced with cotton swabs, but those might take a bit longer to get the job done.

How to Clean Your Mechanical Keyboard as a Preventive Measure

Regardless of whether you use your keyboard for intense things like gaming, or just some light typing, you ought to do some light cleaning on a regular basis as a preventative measure. This method is also fine if your keyboard is just slightly dirty right now.

How often you need to do this depends on how much you use your keyboard and whether you eat or drink around it. The place where you keep your PC also determines the level of dust that may settle into your keyboard. You can reduce the general dust in the room by routine vacuuming and dusting, or by installing an air purifier in the room. It is also generally advisable to wash your hands before using your keyboard.

Before you begin cleaning, unplug your keyboard – unless you have a wireless one. Don’t clean it next to the rest of your PC; take it to a wider workspace. First, you must get rid of loose dust. Turn it upside down and give shake it lightly, and then use your compressed air vacuum to clean between the keys. Make sure to move the vacuum in the same direction and towards the same end of the keyboard.

Next, use your microfiber cloth with a bit of rubbing alcohol to gently scrub the keycaps without removing them, as well as the other outer surfaces of the keyboard. This will also disinfect the keys.

How to Deep Clean Your Mechanical Keyboard

Assuming that your keyboard needs deeper cleaning than this, you can now start removing the keycaps to clean them and the switches. Removing the keycaps is usually easy, although the bigger ones like the spacebar can be more stubborn. Take a picture of your keyboard to help you reassemble it afterward, and pull out the keycaps using your keycap puller.

How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard’s Keycaps

To clean the keycaps, put them in a large bowl filled with warm water and some dish soap, and allow them to soak for a while. At least a couple of hours is the recommended duration, but you can tweak this according to you. Once you take them out, dry them gently with the microfiber cloth and lay them out to dry overnight.

How to Clean Mechanical Keyboard Switches

You can clean the switches while the keycaps are soaking. To do this, use cotton swabs soaked in a bit of rubbing alcohol – or you can use Cyber Clean putty if you have it – to remove any dirt, dust, or debris stuck in between the key switches. Next, give the switch plate another run you’re your vacuum for good measure. Once you’re done, place the keyboard face down so dust doesn’t further accumulate into it while you wait for the keycaps to dry.

How to Clean a Sticky Mechanical Keyboard

Now we come to the more dreaded of all possible outcomes, and the one most likely to make your keyboard sticky, a spill. Spills are a disaster because they do so much more than making a keyboard sticky – they can lead to short circuits and a destroyed keyboard as well. The substance you spill will determine the damage done – water isn’t overly risky if there isn’t much of it, but other things like a beer can spell the end of your keyboard.

While there is no guarantee that you resuscitate a keyboard after a spill, there are some things you can do to clean it and minimize the damage done. Firstly, don’t try to move the keyboard – flipping or tilting the keyboard might make things first if the liquid seeps into the switches. Remove the keycaps though, so you can assess the severity of the spill.

If it appears that the spill is contained or limited to one area and hasn’t gotten to the switches yet, then you can just clean the affected areas using rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs, or even follow the deep cleaning method we just discussed. But if the damage is greater, you may have to seek professional help.

Things to Avoid When Cleaning a Mechanical Keyboard

There are certain things you should avoid doing so that you do not end up making things worse for yourself and the keyboard. For one thing, do not use any sort of high-pressure spray, like a water hose, because this can damage the keyboard springs or make them rust. This can also damage the underlying PCBs – even in keyboards that have plastic covers to protect the PCB from spills. These covers may not protect them from high-pressure blasting.

When using cleaning liquids, don’t reconnect the keyboard until it is completely dry. This will prevent short-circuiting. If you use a cleaning compound, don’t get one that is too sticky because it can leave a residue that leads to the switches sticking. Check user reviews when buying such compounds to make sure this doesn’t happen to you!

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