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My keyboard is sticky. Obviously, since it is electronic, I can't use an abundance of soap and water.

I've tried a damp cloth, but it is not effective. How can I clean it, without ruining it?

  • 1
    If this is happening to you a lot, you can get silicone keyboards that are sealed so they can be wiped down easily. – felixphew Dec 9 '14 at 22:42
  • This question over on Super User has some good answers. Not vodka though. – Sidney Dec 26 '14 at 18:56

10 Answers 10

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I have found that a baby wipe seems to do a good job at cleaning up keyboards. Generally I do this with the power off so as to avoid crazy keystrokes sent to the computer and/or damage to circuitry that may be exposed to the moisture.

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    Downvoted because I don't consider "buy a tool made for this purpose" to be a hack. – hairboat Dec 9 '14 at 21:13
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    @abbyhairboat hmm... I think the answer is "Surprisingly, common baby wipes are awesome at this. (NOT surprisingly, someone repackaged them with a 'tool' for this purpose, and sells them at a steep markup.") which seems OK? – Jaydles Dec 9 '14 at 21:15
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    Actually, to be literal, baby wipes are made to clean a baby's bottom. Sure, the idea of buying them to clean something else in a house isn't a novel idea...unless you aren't a parent. When I was a college student I NEVER would have thought of buying baby wipes to clean stuff. And, the "tool" mentioned in the link is literally a tool for reaching the small areas in between the keys. I am not listing the wipes as a "tool" Just saying. – Phlume Dec 9 '14 at 21:24
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    Relevant Meta post meta.lifehacks.stackexchange.com/q/6/59 ( cc @abbyhairboat ) – Shokhet Dec 9 '14 at 21:55
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    @abbyhairboat maybe I don't understand the goal of this site… are you really claiming that if the answer is "use this common" it isn't valid even if it's actually the best way to achieve that effect? That would be nonsense at best. – o0'. Sep 11 '15 at 15:28
15

Personally, I have always used rubbing alcohol 91% to clean my keyboards and other peripherals. Some cotton wool balls, some cotton swabs (the kind you use to clean your ears with, but know you shouldn't) and some gentle rubbing will pretty much remove anything off of your keyboard (nothing escapes the wrath of rubbing alcohol).

Use the cotton wool balls to rub your keys in a circular motion to remove remnants of potato chips and whatever else is causing gunk build up on your keyboard. Only use small amounts of rubbing alcohol at a time, you don't want to soak the wool in it or it will drip inside of your keyboard and could cause havoc.

Using the cotton wool tips/swabs, you can get in between the keys and other hard to reach places. A soft rubbing up and down motion with a slightly damp swab/tip will remove basically everything from your keyboard that didn't come with it from the factory.

If your keyboard is seriously gunked up and gross, you are going to have to remove the keys themselves by prying them off and soaking them in rubbing alcohol. I have only had to do this twice or so in the last few years.

An alternative solution if rubbing alcohol is not your thing:

I have a friend who swears by those magic erasers, having used them myself around the house, they actually work really well. Simply get yourself some Mr. Clean (or whatever they're called locally) magic erasers which are simply just Melamine foam, slightly dampen them, squeeze out any extra water and slightly rub your keys and anywhere else to remove the gunk.

Be mindful not to push too hard as Melamine foam (magic erasers) tend to shed when you use too much force, a little pressure goes a long way with this magic foam. While it does work, I prefer the rubbing alcohol approach because you can use cotton swabs/tips to get in between the keys which you would struggle to do so with a magic eraser.

  • I saw an answer at super user about cleaning a keyboard that had beer spilt over it using vodka... It seems to have worked well – Vogel612 Dec 9 '14 at 22:41
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If you recently spilled something sticky inside your (laptop) keyboard, the surface will not only be problematic. Under the keys, all sorts of goop will accumulate. This tutorial is also good for regular cleaning, but is better suited for emergencies.

  1. First off, unless you really know where each little key on your keyboard goes, take a picture.
  2. Now, start peeling off all keys. Usually you can do this with your finger, but sometimes a spudger or a screwdriver might be needed.
  3. If you see any keys with metal bars (most "large" keys have them), remove the metal bars.
  4. Now that you've got all of your keys off, you need to prepare the "solution" for them. Using two bowls, fill one with some isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Fill the second with some warm water and a little bit of dish soap.
  5. Dump all the keys into the bowl with the dish soap. Let them sit for maybe 10 minutes.
  6. Carefully pour out the water and then rinse the keys.
  7. Once the keys are all rinsed, place them in the rubbing alcohol.
  8. Wait about 5 minutes, then rinse the keys again.
  9. Let the keys air dry.
  10. If you're impatient, you can dry the keys using a hair dryer. Make sure the hair dryer is on the lowest possible setting, and the keys are only exposed to heat as little time as possible. (It's a good idea to pre-dry the keys a little bit before this).
  11. If you want, clean under your keyboard. Using Q-Tips and rubbing alcohol, swab the places where the keys were. Baby wipes are also good at cleaning gunk out.
  12. Reassemble your keyboard. Place any metal bars back in their proper place.
  13. Test your keyboard.

This guide was sourced from many places online, in addition to my own experience with a laptop covered in soda.

  • 1a. Unplug the keyboard. – Stan Aug 15 '18 at 16:09
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A method that has been safe for all standard and mechanical keyboards I have owned is to actually run it through the dishwasher - no joke. You can find some articles online with suggestions about the best way to do it but I do not know anyone who has nor have I ever had any of my keyboards end up being damaged by the process.

  • I have destroyed a keyboard in a dishwasher, even though I have successfully cleaned others - the bits that are unlikely to be dishwasher-friendly is the electronics so if your keyboard can be screwed apart (most do - how else do they get the electric bits in) then only put the top half in the wash. YMMV with the quality of your keyboard. – gbjbaanb Oct 7 '15 at 15:20
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    Just in case anyone needs references for is this safe, here are several links to other sites that discuss washing PCBs in a dishwasher or similar device: Electronics.SE, EEVBlog, Arcade Restoration forums – Adam Zuckerman Feb 23 '16 at 20:07
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An alternative to dishwashers that worked for my keys was a clothes washer: I simply put all of them in a cloth bag and made sure that it was properly knotted and washed them with some regular 30°C programme with non-colouring laundry.

If I recall correctly, the keys already came out amazingly dry. Otherwise, I suggest an extra spin cycle in another dry bag. If that’s not sufficient either, there are wind, sun and hairdryers (beware of overheating though).

Obviously, this only works for the keys and possibly some other small non-electronic components. I also cannot not vouch for this to work with all materials and labellings.

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    You might make it more clear to wash only the keys, not the whole keyboard – Zach Saucier Dec 26 '14 at 0:44
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Well anyway, the first step to cleaning is avoiding the habits that got it nasty in the first place -

With the keyboard UPSIDE DOWN, give it some hard taps, to dislodge the dry crumbly stuff, an air blower can to squirt out the easily movable dry stuff. You can, ever so slightly, twist flex the keyboard as you shake/tap it.

Wear Gloves For the sticky, soda issues, again with the keyboard upside down, get a small sponge soaked in at least 70% rubbing alcohol and sop all over the keys with slight pressure, getting some alcohol in via the squeezing, but it immediately flows back out...depending on how long the soda was there, the sponge will show the icky effects but your keyboard will be sparkling clean again!

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I use Isopropyl alcohol (99,9%) for these tasks. It cleans well and evaporates completely within a few minutes. So you don't have to be afraid to destroy anything. You can get it in any hardware store, big supermarket or pharmacy.

Only be careful if your Keyboard or device to clean has some rubber coating. Isopropyl dissolves it! But this can also be wanted e.g. if the rubber coating of your old mouse became sticky you can easily remove it.

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In my experience, magic erasers work wonders for this sort of stuff.

  1. Slightly dampen a small part of a magic eraser
    • Not too much as keyboards are electronic as you stated and water + electronics = bad day.
  2. Go across your keyboard, gently rubbing it, making sure you get everywhere you want to
  3. Wipe off the keyboard with a paper towel to get any remaining moisture and grease off.
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Take out any batteries, if possible, and/or turn off wireless keyboard. Rinse it off with very warm water in the sink for about 3 minutes. If you have a sprayer function on the faucet ....better. Take outside and shake out as much water as possible and let dry in sun for about 4 hours. Do this on a hot summer day. I've successfully done this twice over the years. Blows me away. I have Apple products.

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After disconnecting keyboard from the computer, my opinion is that we should use a small brush of about 1" size. Firstly, we should apply dry brush across all the gaps between the keys thoroughly to remove all the dust in between the keys. Then,we should soak the brush , very slightly, with alcohol and apply it along the keyboard and all the gaps between the keys. Finally, we should wipe the keyboard with soft cotton piece of cloth.

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