How to clean a keyboard in less than 5 minutes

Close up of dusty keys on a keyboard
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you use a computer on a daily basis, you'll need to know how to clean a keyboard. Considering how often the keys on a keyboard are constantly being touched, germs or bacteria we pick up on our fingers can be easily transferred over. And if you share your keyboard with others, this is not a pleasant thought. 

What's more, if you eat food at your desk, crumbs can fall between the keys, never to be seen again. Before you know it, the keys feel sticky and there’s visible dust collecting which you just can’t reach. While cleaning a keyboard may seem like a chore, you'll need to do it carefully. Similar to how to clean an iPhone’s charging port you don’t want to risk breaking it, especially if you own one of the best gaming keyboards. The good news is, it’s easier than you’d think and takes no time at all. Here’s how to clean a keyboard to get rid of grime and dust.

How to clean a keyboard — wired and wireless

What you will need

Cleaning brush or toothbrush

Canned air

Cotton swabs and towels

Rubbing alcohol

Microfiber cloth

1. First, unplug and switch off your keyboard before you clean it or remove the batteries. 

2. Turn your keyboard upside down and gently shake it so the loose debris naturally falls out. You might want to do this outside as it can be messy. 

Keyboard being shaken upside down outside

(Image credit: Future)

3. Use a dedicated cleaning brush, such as the HAGiBiS Keyboard Cleaner ($13.99 at Amazon) to brush any remaining crumbs or dust off of the keyboard. You can alternatively use a toothbrush. Make sure you get in between the keys and brush any dirt traps on the underside of the keyboard too.  

4. Use a can of compressed air, such as Falcon Dust off ($5.49 at Amazon) to remove any stubborn debris and dust from under the keys. Angle the straw between the crevices as you blow, so the dust is blown out of the keyboard. Again, this is better to do outside. If you want it to be more effective, you can remove the keytops prior to this. Make sure you take a picture of where the keys were before doing so though. 

5. Other methods you can use to get rid of dust include slotting a sticky note between the keys and running the sticky side along. You can also use cleaning slime, such as ColorCoral ($5.94 at Amazon) to pick up dirt between the keys, although be warned that some can leave an oily residue behind which can be counterproductive. 

6. Now it’s time to clean the keyboard. If your keytops are removable and you did this earlier, you can actually wash them individually in warm, soapy water, using a sponge or small brush. Just make sure they’re completely dry before reassembling. 

A cotton swab cleaning between the keys on a keyboard

(Image credit: Future)

7. Alternatively, you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to work your way around the keys. Just make sure the swab’s not overly wet and you wipe dry with a towel as you go. Remember to change the swab as it picks up dirt as well.

8. Now, dampen a towel with rubbing alcohol and use it to clean the surfaces of your keys — don't use an overly wet towel, just dampen it. You could also use dedicated wipes, such as ALIBEISS Screen Wipes ($8.35 at Amazon).

9. Once your keyboard is dry, polish it with a microfiber cloth for the finishing touches.

How to clean a laptop keyboard 

1. First things first, make sure it’s powered off and unplugged.

2. You should follow what your manufacturer recommends for cleaning a laptop keyboard, in case you invalidate the warranty. For instance, Apple recommends that for a Macbook or Macbook Pro, you simply apply compressed air while the laptop is held at a 75 degree angle. But, if no advice is given, follow these steps. 

3. While it's open, carefully rotate your laptop keyboard upside down, so that any loose debris falls out. You can tap it, but don’t shake it aggressively in case you lose grip. 

4. You might need two people for this part — while the keyboard is held in an upright angle, spray between the keys with compressed air to blow away any remaining dust. Do not spray it directly under the keycaps as it could damage the electronics. 

5. Place your laptop on a flat surface again. You can use a dedicated cleaning brush to shift any debris you can still see from the keys. You could also use cleaning slime as mentioned above.   

A laptop keyboard being cleaned by a damp towel

(Image credit: Future)

6. Next, follow step eight above, running a towel dampened with rubbing alcohol over the keys with light pressure. You can also use disinfecting wipes, but don’t use ones which contain bleach. Don’t overwet the keyboard and make sure you dry it immediately after.

7. Finally, polish with a microfiber cloth to make it look like new. 

How often should I clean my keyboard? 

This really depends on use and preference. If it’s just you using the keyboard and you only use it semi-regularly, then once a week is fine. But, if you share it with others and you don’t want to spread germs, then it will need cleaning between uses. Keyboards are something we all forget to clean, but these actually carry a lot of bacteria and so should be incorporated in our cleaning routine.  

For more computer cleaning guides, make sure you read how to clean a mechanical keyboard and how to clean a computer screen.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!

    5 minutes to clean a computer keyboard? Only if it is very poorly done. I love my keyboard, and want to keep it running as long as I can. It takes an hour if it takes a second.
    usually longer. Especially if all the keys get pulled and washed in the sink.