How to Clean a Keyboard

Computer keyboards collect dirt, dust and grime fast. Here's how to keep them clean.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Why Clean a Keyboard?

Cleaning a keyboard isn’t just about good hygiene. It will also help keep it working like it’s supposed to.

Dirty keyboards can start to develop problems, like keys that stick or stop working entirely. Without proper maintenance, your keyboard could need to be replaced a lot sooner than it should.

Best Cleaning Products for Keyboards

A handful of products make regular keyboard cleaning a breeze. Here are some of our favorites.

Cleaning gel

Cleaning gel is a relatively new way to clean anything with a lot of cracks and crevices. Take the putty-like substance, knead it to make it workable, then push it down between the keys of your keyboard. The gel will latch on to any dirt and debris in the gaps and pull it up when you remove it. Easy.

Air duster

An air duster takes a more old-school approach to keyboard cleaning. It blows out gunk trapped under or around your keyboard with blasts of compressed air.

Be careful, though. The air packs a wallop and might damage computer components if you fire it off too close to the keys.

Keyboard Vacuums

Handheld vacuums are also a convenient way to keep your keys shiny and dust-free. No need to buy one specifically for your keyboard, though. If your home vacuum has a detachable hose, use that. Just be sure to put an attachment on the end of the vacuum that will keep any loose keys from getting sucked up along with the dirt.

Car cleaning kits

Cleaning a keyboard is similar to detailing a car, so it’s no surprise car detailing kits come with some great keyboard-cleaning tools. Small brushes with hard bristles are perfect for dislodging dirt from between keys.

Keep a car detailing kit in your desk drawer and use it to spot-clean your keyboard regularly. Frequent, quick cleans will prevent you from doing a deep clean in the future.

How to Clean a Keyboard With Household Items

If you don’t have any of the tools listed above, don’t worry. Several things around your house can help get your keyboard looking new again. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol;
  • Cotton swabs;
  • Microfiber cloth;
  • Toothpicks.

Set up a station with a clean surface and your rubbing alcohol in a small dish. Then, start cleaning.

Steps for cleaning a keyboard

  1. First thing’s first —unplug the device. If you’ve got a wireless keyboard, make sure it’s turned off.
  2. Tip the keyboard upside down and to the side so any loose debris falls out on its own.
  3. Use the cotton swab and the rubbing alcohol to clean between the keys. Make sure to only dampen the swab. If the rubbing alcohol drips, you’re using too much.
  4. If a stubborn bit of grime is giving you trouble, pick at it carefully with a toothpick until it comes loose.
  5. Once you’ve scrubbed all the cracks in the keyboard, take the microfiber cloth and clean off the tops of the keys, polishing off the rest of the keyboard as you do so.
  6. Let the keyboard air dry for a few minutes before you plug it back in or turn it back on.

Harrison Kral
After spending his college summers pouring concrete and building decks, Harrison Kral decided to find a way to put his insider knowledge of construction to use…. just in an air-conditioned setting. He’s an established writer and editor in the DIY space who has written extensively on the home building industry, the housing market, and general DIY trends.