Semi-Annual Computer Preventive Maintenance
Module 5 - Clean the Keyboard

keyboard-3If you use a computer in your home or office, your keyboard and mouse are probably some of the most germ infected items you’ll come in contact with. They may even contain more bacteria than your toilet seat, so reducing the amount of dangerous bacteria on your keyboard is good enough reason alone to clean the keyboard regularly.

But excess dirt, dust and hair, not to forget staples and paperclips, can also cause your keyboard to act up, with stuck keys, keys that don’t work, keys that type the wrong character, or it might not work at all. And what about liquid spills?

Before you start cleaning your keyboard, always shut down the computer first. But if you’re using a USB Keyboard, you can just unplug it from the computer without turning off the power. Cleaning the keyboard while the computer is booted-up can cause strange Windows problems as you randomly press keys during cleaning.

For best results, view the VIDEO above in “Full Screen”.

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Read This BEFORE You Disconnect Your Keyboard or Mouse

Unless you are using a USB Keyboard, always power-down the computer first before you start cleaning your keyboard, especially if you are going to disconnect it.

  • NEVER connect or disconnect a  PS2 Keyboard (purple) or PS2 Mouse (green) while the computer is ON, doing so could damage the corresponding keyboard or mouse controller on the motherboard. As for USB keyboards and mice, they are hot swappable, meaning they can be connected or disconnected “safely” when the power is on.
  • But if you are using a USB Keyboard, you can just unplug it from the computer without turning off the power. Cleaning the keyboard while the computer is booted-up to Windows can cause strange problems as you randomly press keys during cleaning.

Motherboard Jacks

motherboard ps2, usb connectors

USB and PS2 Plugs


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More About Cleaning Keyboards

One way to start cleaning the keyboard is by turning it upside down and gently shaking it. But a more effective method is to use a can of compressed air in combination with a small sash brush, although I like to use my DataVac Electric Blower. Use the brush to loosen any debris in and around the keys and blow it away with the compressed air. Be sure to protect your eyes and wear goggles if necessary.

canned air

  • When using compressed air cans, position the can upright when blowing as pointing it straight down may cause some moisture to drip out of the nozzle.
  • A vacuum cleaner can also be used, but make sure the keyboard doesn’t have any loose key caps that might get sucked up by the vacuum. Also, while some technicians might warn you about the hazards of static electricity generated from household vacuums, I wouldn’t worry about it too much with desktop keyboards, but I certainly wouldn’t use a household vacuum to clean the motherboard inside a computer case or with laptops.
  • Then use a cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol and run the swab in-between and around each key.
  • Datavac Electric DusterFor Laptops, follow the same procedure but take extra care with your machine. Clean the Touchpad using a damp swab and wipe it clean.
  • After the dust, dirt, and hair has been removed. Spray some disinfectant onto a cloth or use disinfectant wipes to wipe each keyboard key. Never spray any liquid directly on the keyboard. For laptops, be extremely careful not to catch the edge of a key cap while wiping or you might pull off the cap.

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Liquid Spills and Keyboards

If anything spills into your keyboard such as water, soda, beer, wine, coffee, or milk, not taking the proper steps quick enough can cause permanent damage to your keyboard. Spills involving anything other than plain water have the potential to cause the worst damage, especially in a laptop.

keyboard spill

  • First of all, never attempt to dry a keyboard or laptop in a microwave or conventional oven. What sounds like common sense to some, isn’t so common to others.
  • If a liquid spill happens, immediately shut down your computer, disconnect the keyboard, flip it over, and gently shake it to help prevent the liquid from seeping deeper into any electronic circuits.
  • While the keyboard is still upside down, blot the keys with a paper towel and blow compressed air between the keys.
  • If any keys are sticking, remove the key caps and clean the area underneath the keys as well as the underside of the key caps themselves. Then leave the keyboard out to air dry overnight.
  • Ensure the keyboard is thoroughly dry before using it again. Laptop spills need more attention because liquids can easily seep past the keyboard and damage internal parts such as the motherboard, which could be catastrophic.
  • For laptop spills, immediately turn off the computer and remove any external power source and other items plugged into it. Turn the laptop over, remove the battery, and bring it to a computer shop to check for internal damage. Simply blowing compressed air into the keyboard and letting your computer air dry upside down overnight isn’t enough, because liquids can sit inside a laptop for days.
  • If after all your attempts to clean and dry out the keyboard, and it doesn’t work properly, I suggest you buy a new keyboard. As for laptop keyboards, you may need a PC Tech to order and replace it for you.
  • You may also want to search online for a custom fit silicon skin cover for your laptop keyboard to help prevent damage from a liquid spill ever again. Or better yet, before you ever have a liquid spill in the first place. They are very easy to get for Macs, but you will have to try harder to find one for a PC Laptop. There is a company called Oeago on Amazon that sells a large selection of Silicon Keyboard Protector Skin Covers, although I have never ordered from them so I can’t speak for their quality.


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Washable Keyboards

If you use a computer that’s also used by a number of other people where preventing the transmission of bacteria and viruses is a top concern (hospitals and public computers), you need a washable keyboard. Once such product is the Unotron SpillSeal Washable Keyboard which can be submerged in water, making it easy to wash and disinfect without damaging it. They are hermetically sealed, and even the USB plug is waterproof. As you can see, the Unotron keyboard looks like a standard keyboard.

unotron washable keyboard

They are also quite affordable and available online from vendors like Dell and Lenovo and a number of other 3rd party resellers. They have wired, wireless, and roll-up keyboard versions, not to mention washable mice as well. It also makes sense to say that if water were accidentally spilled onto one of these keyboards, that you could just shake off the water, wipe it down, and continue using the keyboard. But if the liquid was something else like juice, beer or soda, you could wash and dry it like dishes, and then use it again.

Unotron Washable keyboard

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More Computer Cleaning Videos

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