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Have you looked at your keyboard lately—not just a glance, but a detailed inspection? Probably you didn’t, because if you did, you’d realize how filthy it is. That is, unless you clean it regularly. But most people don’t. The nature of a keyboard is such that it’s a dirt trap. The recessed area where the keys sit is an invitation for dust, grime, crumbs, hairs, nail clippings and other detritus to accumulate. Spring is a good time for cleaning, and your keyboard probably needs it.
Not only does your keyboard collect debris, but the keys also attract anything that’s on your fingers and hands, such Cheese Doodle™ dust, lint, pet hairs and grease. And the more the grease builds up, the more dust and dirt sticks to it, and the more quickly it looks filthy. It’s a vicious cycle. Too much buildup of debris under the keys can even cause them to malfunction. Also collecting on your keyboard are germs, especially if more than one person uses it. So cleaning it is a good thing.
If your keyboard is so dirty that you don’t want to clean it, they are cheap enough to replace every so often. B&H has a large selection of keyboards. However, because a new keyboard can also get dirty, it makes sense to clean it whenever possible.
Before you begin, make sure that your computer is turned off. Then turn the keyboard over and lightly bang its edges on your desk to dislodge any random particles. You will be amazed—and disgusted—by the plethora of debris that falls out. If you’re cleaning a notebook computer keyboard you should skip the banging part.
This next step is optional, and to be done at your own risk. As you’ve probably discovered by accident, the keys on most keyboards can come off. And the most thorough way to clean a keyboard is with all the keys removed. Sometimes the keys are easy to pry off with a screwdriver. But other times something can break when you attempt this, so be careful. Before you pry off the keys you might want to take a picture of the keys so you know where they all go when it’s time to put them back on. If you remove the keys it will be very easy to clean the recess underneath them. You can also clean all the loose keys in hot soapy water. Just make sure they’re dry before reassembly begins.
The next best thing to removing the keys is to use a brush to clean the spaces in between and around them. B&H caries all kinds of brushes, including blower-brush type models that are useful to have. But if you find that the bristles on a blower brush are too soft for cleaning a keyboard, give horsehair shop brushes a try.
Unlike nylon or other man-made bristles, horse hair bristles are used because they don’t melt when exposed to various solvents, so they can be used for cleaning just about anything; just don’t clean your lenses with them. I often cut down the bristles when I need a stiffer, more aggressive brush, but you should use the full bristle length to clean a keyboard. Just brush in between all the keys to loosen up the all the dirt and give the keyboard a couple more bangs to shake the debris free. By the way, no living horses are harmed in making these brushes. The horses are simply given stylish and hygienic trims by highly trained groomers, with the excess trimmings used to craft these brushes. You can find a 36-Piece 1/2" Horsehair Bristle Acid Shop Brushes set for less than $3 on the Internet.
Next, using a can of compressed air, you should blast away any dirt still hiding under the keys. If you have access to a shop compressor, you can use that instead. Just be sure to lower the psi or blow from a distance, as the force of the air from a compressor can blow keys right off the keyboard. It’s best to hold the keyboard vertically or upside down so that dirt gets blown out and doesn’t fall back in.
Another good way to clean a keyboard, especially if you don’t have compressed air or a compressor, is a vacuum cleaner. While any vacuum cleaner will work, B&H carries special vacuums that are designed for cleaning keyboards and other tech gear. Some are very inexpensive and ideal for infrequent use. Other vacuums are fancier and more expensive, and better suited for someone that regularly cleans keyboards and computers.
After vacuuming, if a couple more bangs to the keyboard fails to shake free any more debris, it’s time to clean the keys themselves. Use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or a good cleaning spray applied to cotton swabs or a paper towel to clean the tops and sides of the keys as well as the frame of the keyboard. Do not spray anything onto the keyboard because liquid that pools under the keys can cause more harm than good. These same steps—except for the banging—can be used to clean a notebook keyboard.
Keeping your keyboard free of dirt, crumbs, dust and other contaminants will keep it in prime working order. It also leads to happier, healthier typing.