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How to clean a PC keyboard

The two most common keyboards, membrane and mechanical, get dirty fast — oil from your fingers, crumbs from your sandwich, and stickiness from your smoothie will eventually cause something to fail. Cleaning your keyboard is never a bad idea whether or not your keyboard has reached the point of failure. We cover both a quick clean for surface dirt, or a deep clean for when you've experienced a failure or want to make things look new again.

Quick clean for surface grime

Before beginning this process, either power off your laptop or disconnect the keyboard from your PC.

  1. Tap lightly on the back of your keyboard after turning it over. Crumbs and dirt will fall out, so consider placing something beneath the keyboard to catch the mess.

  1. Blow compressed air in and around your keycaps. This will loosen any dirt that stayed behind after a pat on the back.
  2. Wipe the keycaps using isopropyl alcohol (standard rubbing alcohol) and a cotton swab or lint-free cloth.Note: Do not use ethyl alcohol — it will likely remove the printed lettering on your keys and other surface finishing.

Deep clean for embedded dirt

Before beginning this process, either power off your PC or disconnect the keyboard. This process is recommended for PC keyboards only, as most laptop keycaps are more difficult to remove, and can, in some cases, void the warranty when removed.

  1. Take a photo of your entire keyboard. We're about to take off all the keys, so you'll want this photo as a reference for reassembly.
  2. Gently pry up the keycaps using a small flat-head screwdriver.Note: Flat chiclet keys found on most laptops have delicate mechanisms that might easily break if you attempt to pry them up. We do not recommend the average user attempts this.

  1. Blow away dirt using compressed air, or suck up the dirt using a small vacuum. Be careful as to not damage any exposed mechanics or electronics.

  1. Wipe the keyboard base using isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab or lint-free cloth.

  1. Scrub each removed keycap with a toothbrush and isopropyl alcohol.Note: Do not use ethyl alcohol — it will likely remove the printed lettering on your keys and other surface finishing.

  1. Replace the keycaps when you're satisfied with the keyboard's cleanliness. Reference that photo you took earlier so that you can get each key back where it belongs.

Laptop keyboards

As mentioned, laptop keyboards can be tricky to deal with, and doing so can sometimes void the warranty. Other than a quick clean for surface grime your best option is to buy a laptop keyboard cover. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and you should have no problem finding the right one for your device.

Check out these keyboard covers for our favorite laptops:

Keyboards for the dirt-prone

If you work in an industry that sees a lot of dirty hands (looking at you, auto mechanics and daycare staffers), you should consider a keyboard designed for dealing with messes.

Logitech K310 washable keyboard

The Logitech K310 (about $60) (opens in new tab) is a completely washable membrane keyboard that is clearly designed for a deep clean. A brush is included for when you need to scrub keycaps, and the lettering is more durable to avoid rubbing off.

This keyboard has a 4.3-star rating with nearly 600 reviews on Amazon, so you can be sure you're getting a quality product.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

I-Rocks washable keyboard

The I-Rocks washable keyboard (about $25) (opens in new tab) is an excellent budget option. The letters are laser printed onto the keys, so they'll put up a fight against your scrubbing — there's an included brush for cleaning deep dirt.

Adjustable feet on the back allow you to prop the keyboard up for comfortable typing, and a slim design won't take up too much room on your desk.

See at Amazon (opens in new tab)

How do you keep your keyboard clean?

Do you have a folk remedy for keeping your clacker clean? Let us know!

Also, have a look at these roundups of the best keyboards out there.

Updated August 17, 2017: We've refreshed this guide with some new washable keyboard options, as well as links to a bunch of keyboard covers for our favorite laptops.

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

32 Comments
  • Suggest: How to clean my headphone?
  • I don't think the keys come off the Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard I use in the office, but every now and again I do remove the keys from my other keyboard which is a Steel Series Apex (Best non-mechnical keyboard I've used IMO in terms of keys)
  • Good article
  • It was, but why are their keyboards so sticky? ;-P
  • i put my apple keyboard in the dishwasher once a year. has to dry 2 or 3 days for sure.
  • How to clean my your windows phone?
  • Plug it in your pc. Open Lumia Recovery App. Wait for the app to terminate it's work. Then press install, yes i'm sure. Aproved by me!
  • :D
  • My 2 cents.. Any kind of alcohol gradually degrades the material of the peripheral you clean. The last thing I ruined that way was my 160$ razer mamba mouse. It is now useless. The surfaces of it are sticky and looks and feels filthy. I've ever since put it aside and don't even remember where at. What I've done is always have in the most close by drawer baby wipes. Alcohol free as you would imagine. Every second times I use my Xbox controller, my keyboard or remote control etc I grab one to clean my hands and one to clean the peripheral and I just don't let it get to the point of that much filth that needs rubbing alcohol to get clean, plus everything is constantly cleaner. Baby wipes are cheap. Even the tiny gaps in the devices like the connections between the controller plastics, when things get messy there, I grab a toothpick and run it with the baby wipes pushed in between and I'm set. Everything looks, feels and smells excellent :) No material degradation what so ever. P.S. I even use them to clean laptops, phones etc when needed.
  • A little more than 2 cents don't you think? :) Just kidding. Thanks for the helpful tip :) Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • You're very welcome!
    Turns out it's also better to do every so often for half a minute than spend over half an hour for a thorough keyboard cleaning once every couple months.
    Which is very annoying..
  • So true
  • I do remove keys one by one on my saitek. Long and hard to do but it works. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I love those Asus keyboards like on the picture. I just purchased 30 of their sleek all in one desktops that are super thin and rival macs easily at a much better price.
  • Why do you need 30 all in one's?
  • Where did you get the asus keyboard like the picture above from? Is it sold separetely?
  • These are some really good tips, thanks for the article.
  • Unplug, walk to trash can, drop in, plug in new $4.00  clean keyboard, done.
  • Fair, but that's terrible for the environment, and you'd have to deal with typing on a $4 keyboard just because you're too lazy to clean ;) I wouldn't want to toss my $150 keyboard any time soon :P
  • All I do is turn my keyboard upside down and tap it lightly on the table to remove dirt then I wipe it after with a lindt free cloth.
  • I know for sure my keyboard needs a deep cleaning.
  • How to clean the keyboard on my windows phone?? The word flow has been very inaccurate :/
  • Slow down unfortunately
  • It is easier to just buy a new keyboard.
  • It's easier to just stay off 4chan.
  • Dishwasher! There is no way you can clean it better than that.no alcohol problems, just make sure you remove the electronics first ;)
  • I use baby wipes to clean my keyboard.
  • I have an older Microsoft Mutimedia keyboard, I found it to be very confortable for gaming. I tried a few other keyboards but for some reason I like this one the best. This exact one... (not mine) http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/470AAOSwoudW6dZ2/s-l1600.jpg When I need to clean it, I completely disasemble it, Drop the keys, case and back in the dishwasher, WITH OUT SOAP (soap will make the keys stick). I let it fully wash, clean up any left over with a wet rag. Then put it all back together. When am done, it looks brand new. They dont make it any more, so when my old one died, I picked up a used one for $8 on ebay, Cleaned it before using...Looks like new :)
  • Laptop keyboard cleaning? If you have a true business class Lenovo ThinkPad, what I do is just pour warm water all over all the keys slowly. All the dirt and crap comes out the drain holes on the bottom with the water.
  • Keyboards on laptops normally come off pretty easy... 2-3 screws on the bottom and it pops right off...
  • At work, we have older Dell keyboards which has tall keys. The problem with this is that there is space around them that dust can fall in. Also, after heavy use the letters are worn off the keys.  
  • No mention of Dust-Off Gamer Gear???... REALLY?!