How To (Quickly & Safely) Clean A Laptop Keyboard

Kenny Trinh Updated on October 16, 2020
How to (Quickly & Safely) Clean a Laptop Keyboard

Keyboards are easily the dirtiest part of our computer or laptop. It is what we touch most often and no matter how clean you think your hands are, the level of dirt and bacteria transferred from and to your keyboard would still surprise you. Don’t worry because you made the right choice on reading here because we will break down extremely useful tips on how to clean your laptop keyboard.

To safely clean your keyboard, gently shake your keyboard upside down, then blast the crumbs and dust with canned air, then finally, wipe your keyboard with a cloth that was damped with alcohol.

It is so simple that you can even start right away. Though, not completely knowing the detailed steps before starting cleaning your laptop keyboard might do more harm than good. The good thing is, we are here to lay out detailed steps and clarify the things that will and will not do good for your laptop keyboard.

5 Steps to Clean Your Laptop Keyboard

Cleaning your laptop keyboard could be faster and simpler than you could imagine. This is as simple as how you could eat and dip your cheese-flavored fingers on your keyboard keys while cramming to finish your computer or laptop tasks. We should only follow the following steps in detail and your laptop will be as good as new again.

Unplugging the Power Sources 

This should be a necessity, not only in cleaning laptops but with all electronic devices or anything involved in electricity. Unplug the charger from the power outlet and from the laptop. Turn off the laptop and also remove the battery. Before anything else, safety is our number one priority.

Preparing The Cleaning Materials Needed 

You can’t start cleaning without preparing the materials first. The materials you will need are the following:

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Cotton Swab
  • Compressed Air
  • Microfiber Cloth

Tilting Your Keyboard Upside Down

There are large grime and food particles that aren’t stuck really deep that can be already dislodged just by shaking your laptop. To do this, hold your laptop upside-down and gently shake it. Physically inspect it and continuously tap it until no crumbs are falling down. Be careful when doing this because your hand might slip and you won’t want what will happen next.

Using Compressed Air To Clean Further

Now, some of the dirt can’t be easily dislodged just by shaking it because they are stuck in between keys or are glued to the keys because of the oil. This is where you will use the compressed air or canned air. Blow the dust and debris that are sticking on the keyboard keys using the compressed air.

If you don’t have canned air, you can use a small vacuum to pull the dust and fur off your keyboard. Just be careful because some keys might also be sipped if your vacuum is too strong. You can use a USB-powered vacuum that is safe for keyboard use. Some use a cleaning slime that can get in between keys to get the fur evidence that your cat slept very well on top of your keyboard.

Wiping The Keyboard Using The Microfiber Cloth

This is the step that would erase your lovely memory of eating your favorite oily snack while using your laptop. Damp the microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe your keyboard keys. Make sure to inspect that all stubborn dirt will be swept by it. 

If you are using an external keyboard, make sure to also clean the connecting wire and the keyboard case. Use cotton swabs with alcohol for the small spaces like the spaces in between the keys.

Extensive and In-Depth Cleaning Methods

If you are someone who is not satisfied with the previous quick and effective way of cleaning your laptop keyboard, there is actually a more complex but also more effective and satisfying way to clean it – by cleaning each of your keys.

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Search For The Laptop Model

Search online and make sure that your keyboard keys could be pried off. The keycaps of the keyboards of some laptop models are already permanently attached so might damage your laptop if you will skip this step.

Take A Picture

Make sure to take a picture of your laptop before plucking off its keycaps so you will be sure that you have done the right thing and did not accidentally switch keys after cleaning. You would also know if you had accidentally scratched it or not.

Remove All Of The Keys

Gently remove the keys, one by one, with the help of a small flat tool. You can buy at the nearest electronics store for the tool that you need or you can also find from a bunch of materials that could be found in your house. Do not attempt to use your finger because it might be too large to pry off the keys. Also, make sure to store them in a container so that you won’t accidentally lose them.

Wiping The Keys

This is the heart of your plan, to clean each of the keys and also the previously unreachable parts of your keyboard.

  • First, damp your microfiber cloth with alcohol and gently rub those places where the keys previously came from. Be careful and make sure to just damp a little alcohol on your microfiber cloth and not heavily wet it because the liquid might drip to the now more exposed internal parts of the keyboard.
  • Then clean each of the keyboard keys and even underneath the keys with the microfiber cloth that is also damped with alcohol.

Reassemble The Keys on Its Place

After you have successfully cleaned the keyboard, you now have to put it back again. Gently put back each of the keys and make sure that all of the sides are completely intact. If the keys do not go back again after pressing it back, read the instruction manual because there might be special instructions for the keys to be placed again on its designated spot.

Now if you also want a deeper cleaning method other than cleaning its physical parts, you may want to check out our article about cleaning your laptop memory.

Maintaining Laptop Keyboard Cleanliness

If you think that you are already finished just by cleaning your laptop keyboard, then you might be misinterpreting the whole cleanliness part. Cleaning your laptop keyboard is only half of the equation, maintaining it is the other half. You have to prevent it to be dirty again as willfully as you can to prolong its life, and your life also. Bacteria, after all, is also potent for humans.

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Clean Other Parts Of Your Computer

The keyboard is not the only part of your laptop that is dirty. Everything, from the screen to the mouse, to the fans, and even to the case itself, all of it are dirty. So you should also clean all of it. Besides, cleaning only your keyboard and not the other parts of your laptop will only make the bacteria from other parts transfer to your keyboard, through your hands. So cleaning other parts as well is indeed a necessity. 

But if ever you decide to also clean it, don’t just use the exact technique you did with your keyboard to clean other parts. There might be few differences and not knowing these might endanger your laptop’s health. You could start off by knowing how to clean your laptop’s fan.

Don’t Eat Near your Laptop

Oil and food crumbs are one of the best ways to make your laptop dirty. So if you don’t want to win the award of having the dirtiest laptop in your neighborhood, you may opt to keep your food away from your laptop. Just choose one task at a time from eating and using a laptop. You can’t do it simultaneously or you’ll risk a faster bacteria build-up.

Don’t Drink Near your Laptop

If you think eating near a laptop is a mortal sin, well, drinking near it is a far superior sin. You are not just risking bacteria build-up, but also risking your laptop’s life as well. If your drink spilled on your laptop and reached the internal components, it might short circuit which would lead to your laptop’s destruction. Now you won’t have to think about cleaning your laptop keyboard again, ever.

Wash Hands Before and After Using A Laptop

Because we are talking about dirt and bacteria, this should probably not be left out. Make it a common practice, not just in using your laptop keyboard, but in everything you do. As a rule of thumb, always wash your hands.

How to Clean Laptop Keyboard After Spill

This is an emergency situation for all laptop users and you may want to know what to do in case that a drink is spilled on your laptop. In worse situations, you want to read this because you already experienced it, and did not know what to do, and now you are reading this using your new laptop. So if your reason belongs to any of those two, here are the steps for you:

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Unplug Power Sources

You know the drill, step one in a dangerous situation that involves electricity is to unplug all the power sources. You may follow these steps strictly to give your laptop the best chance of survival:

  1. Isolate your laptop. Unplug the charger from the power outlet and from your laptop.
  2. Wear or put an insulator around your hand – it might be a cloth, gloves, plastic, or others. It would be better to have readily available and easy to wear gloves near your workstation.
  3. With the gloves already worn by you, forcefully turn off your laptop by pressing and holding the Power Button.
  4. Remove the battery.

Just take note to execute these steps as fast as possible and in the correct order. The goal is to completely isolate your laptop from the power sources.

Open Up The Laptop

With the laptop already isolated from power sources, all you need to do is clean. But this isn’t the same as the ordinary cleaning technique that you have read earlier. During spills, your target is to clean all the parts that were reached by the spilled drink, including the internal parts. This is to prevent corrosion by just letting your favorite flavored-drink dry up but still leaving those chemicals inside your laptop.

So your next step is to open it up. Search for its manual online and follow the guides on how to open your laptop. Don’t worry about the short-circuiting of internal parts because you already have removed all the power sources and you may think of it now only as many interconnected dead pieces of metals.

If you don’t want to open your laptop by yourself, you can find an expert to clean that spilled drink for you.

Right Way To Clean The Internal Parts

To clean its internal parts, you can use Isopropyl Alcohol in the affected area. Alcohol has much fewer chemicals than other cleaning materials which is extremely good for cleaning electronic components. Pour alcohol and use a brush to gently clean it. Be careful and use a brush that has soft bristles. Stiff bristles or too much force might pull off the internal components.

If you don’t have alcohol, you can use distilled water as an alternative. Distilled water has no conductive minerals present that may short circuit your laptop’s electronic components or may cause corrosion. Make sure that no traces of your drink will be left after cleaning because your laptop might already work for some time but corrosion really takes a few days or weeks to appear, depending on the chemical that will dry up and react to your circuit.

Wipe Your Laptop’s External Parts

Cleaning the external parts is much easier and safer for both you and your laptop. After cleaning the internal parts, you may wipe the sticky parts of your laptop that were affected by the spilled drink. The regular technique you have learned earlier about cleaning a keyboard in the first part of this article is applicable here.

Dry It Up For Few Days

You have to prevent your electronic components from having a short circuit with each other so you have to make sure that your laptop is completely dry before using it. Wait for a few days before trying to turn it on. The actual number of days before your laptop completely dries up actually differs greatly so we can’t assure anything on that. But maintaining it disassembled for a few days would make it dry up faster than assembling it right away after cleaning it.

Assembling and Testing Your Laptop

After drying your laptop for a few days, you may assemble it and to turn it on. Take note that if it did turn on successfully, it does not mean that it is already okay. Some laptops or electronic components can carry greater loads or prevent short circuits for a few moments before bursting into destruction. So just make sure that it is already completely dry before testing it out.

Kenny Trinh
Article by:
Kenny Trinh
Editor @ Netbooknews. While he’s not editing articles on the latest tech trends, he likes to discuss business and entrepreneur tips and tricks which featured Forbes and other places.

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