If you do any internet search about dirty computer keyboards and how to clean them, one of the first attention grabbers you’ll read is how these modern devices of necessity harbor more germs than a toilet seat! Yep, disgusting as it is, this yucky tidbit is not just hype – there is research to back up this germy factoid. Research done in London and “…by the University of Arizona…found the average office desktop harboured 400 times more bacteria than the average office toilet seat.”

(May, 2008

If sticky keys, spilled drinks, food crumbs, dust, cat hair, dog paws and unreadable keys have not been enough reason for you to consider cleaning that keyboard, then, maybe 400 times more bacteria might motivate you.

OK, so it does motivate you! That’s Great! It does me too! But, doggoneit, what do I do about it? How do I clean my keyboard without doing damage to it? Do I need special cleaners? How do I keep it clean? My keyboard is so gross – should I just throw it away?

You ask really good questions! To answer them I’d like to share some cleaning techniques that have worked for me and will not do damage to your keyboard. Although there are keyboard cleaning products on the market, you don’t need to buy any special supplies. Most will be things you already have and use in your household. And for that really disgusting keyboard that you think will defy cleaning and maybe ought to head for the trash can, I have one tip I love sharing. That will come last….

What you’ll need for cleaning:

Small bowl of water with a drop of dishwashing soap

Can of compressed air (if you don’t have this a hair dryer is an ok substitute)

Cotton swabs or lint free cloth


(Warning1: some websites will suggest using rubbing or isopropyl alcohol to clean keys. I once rubbed the finish off on keys using alcohol so I don’t recommend them for cleaning keyboards. It might have been that I was just rubbing too hard, but alcohols can harm plastics – so I share this caution.)

(Warning 2: Never use a vacuum cleaner around a computer. Vacuum cleaners create a lot of static electricity that when discharged can destroy electronics/chips (think motherboards). This one comes from personal experience also. I did not LOL.)

Step One:

Unplug the keyboard from the PC or Mac.

If a laptop, turn the laptop off and unplug it before cleaning the keyboard.

General Cleaning: (For all keyboards)

Blow out dust and other crud from the keyboard with a can of compressed air.

o A hair dryer on high blowing also works well. It does not have to be on high heat.

o Tilt the keyboard or laptop while blowing to have easier access to the underside of the keys. This also lets dirt and debris blow out of or fall away from the keyboard.

Swab between the keys with Q-tips moistened with the water/dish cleaner solution

o Don’t pour liquids onto the keyboard. Pour onto the cloth or Q-tips, then apply as cleaner.

o If you do get too much cleaner on the keyboard, use the hair dryer to dry it.

Wipe the keys down with the cleaning solution until the grit and grime are removed.

• Allow time to dry; then plug the keyboard in, start the PC or Mac and get back to work. If laptop, just start it up and work away.

• Some sites recommend using antibacterial wipes regularly after the cleaning.

More Daring and More Difficult Cleaning Technique:

Remove the keys…. One by one.

I DON’T recommend this process for several reasons. The keys are not always that easy to remove; the keys and the keyboard can be damaged with this process; and you better remember how to put them back in the right places…. Keyboards vary.

Here’s my last suggestion.

• It is ONLY for the wired standard keyboard that looks hopelessly filthy.

• It is NOT for laptop keyboards for reasons that will be obvious.

• It is NOT for wireless keyboards.

• It is NOT for metal keyboards.

• It is NOT recommended by manufacturers. But I’ve done it many times and it cleans the dirtiest keyboards

• It is to…

Put it in the Dishwasher:

• Have an extra keyboard on hand to use while this one dries.

• Some techs recommend taking the back off the keyboard and remove the electronics .

o I didn’t follow this advice. I just put mine in the dishwasher in its whole and dirty condition. I did this more than once, always with success.

• Put the keyboard in the dishwasher. Run on quick cycle. Don’t use the pot scrubber cycle.

• Remove and dry thoroughly. This may take several days (even up to 7 days).

o Not doing so can cause shorting and damage to you and the devices….

Final Suggestion:

Once you have a clean keyboard, you might consider purchasing a covering called a skin that will protect it against spills and dirt under the keys, yet not interfere with the touch experience that you have become accustomed to….

So that’s the DogGone down and dirty about cleaning up computer keyboards.