As you go through the day, do you think ever think about how to clean a laptop keyboard? That may seem like an odd question. But humans are a tactile species. We touch to interact with our world. As we go through our daily lives, our hands touch a lot of things that aren't so clean.
Laptop computers are an essential part of our daily lives. We work on them, and we play on them. There’s a good chance that you’re reading this on a laptop right now. But our laptops are not the only things we touch. We touch door handles, countertops, and refrigerators. We sneeze into our hands, wipe our noses, and pick up our food.
While doing all this, we inevitably transfer bacteria and other microorganisms from one surface to another. That can make our laptops one of the single dirtiest items in our possession. The chances are good that you probably don’t think about how to clean a laptop keyboard too often.
But the truth is: you should.
The Dirty Truth
According to scientists, toilet seats have around 50 bacteria per square inch. Your average computer keyboard can harbor up to 400 times that amount. Yes. Your keyboard is nastier than your toilet seat.
As if the number of bacteria wasn’t bad enough, sometimes that bacteria can be pretty deadly. Strains of drug-resistant bacteria including vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can live on your keyboard.
The Staphylococcus bacteria can cause minor irritations like boils but can also cause life-threatening diseases like septicemia or toxic shock syndrome.
How To Clean A Laptop Keyboard: Before You Start
To give your laptop keyboard a thorough cleaning, first, you need to check what type of laptop keyboard you have.
Once you know what kind of keyboard you have, you then need to assemble your cleaning supplies.
What kind of keyboard?
As laptops come in various sizes and profiles, laptop keyboards vary between models. However, there are several main types of keyboards that you can expect to find on your average laptop.
Chiclet, or island style, keyboards are the most common type of keyboard for laptops. This type of keyboard has flat keys, that pop up from the laptop’s surface, separate from each other.
This style is called chiclet style because the keys resemble a type of gum known as a chiclet.
Good news: chiclet keyboards are the easiest type of keyboard to clean!
Older laptops have traditional keyboards. These keyboards use larger keys with sloping sides that are placed closer together.
These types of keyboards can be more challenging to clean because of how close the keys are. There is also space beneath the keys that can trap debris.
While chiclet keyboards dominate contemporary laptop computers, followed by traditional keyboards, there are a few other types out there.
These types are much harder to find. We include them here for reference, but you will probably be fine sticking with the instructions on how to clean a laptop keyboard for either chiclet or traditional.
Mechanical switch keyboards have a switch that audibly clicks beneath the key. They are louder but more durable. Mechanical keyboards are more common on desktops, but some specialized gaming laptops use them.
Touch and haptic keyboards are keyboards that do not require a physical press. Think of these keyboards almost like touch screens, just with keys. Some have haptic feedback which vibrates to let you know you have pressed a key.
Always use a cleaning solution that is safe for use on electronics. You can purchase a ready-made electronics cleaning solution.
You can make a DIY electronics cleaning solution using equal parts distilled water and rubbing alcohol. Alternatively, you can use only rubbing alcohol but do so sparingly.
Use a soft cloth to clean larger areas on your laptop keyboard. Microfiber is ideal for this job as it will not scratch your laptop finish and it will not leave lint.
If you do not have microfiber, you can use a lint-free cotton cloth. Try to avoid paper towels or other alternative cleaning cloths as these may leave behind lint.
Cotton swabs are good for cleaning smaller surfaces of your laptop keyboard like in between the keys as well as the keys themselves.
Can of air
To clean your laptop keyboard, you will need to remove any loose dust that may have accumulated.
A can of air is an affordable solution that you can use on just about any laptop or computer.
If you have a traditional or mechanical keyboard, you will have space under your laptop keyboard that is more difficult to clean.
To avoid taking apart your laptop to clean it, consider investing in an electronics vacuum cleaner. These allow you to get into the crevices that may be more difficult for a can of air to clear.
How To Clean A Laptop
Keyboard: Here’s What You Need To Do
Now that we have the tools that we need, here is each step for you to thoroughly clean your laptop keyboard. Be sure to budget at least 15 minutes to do a thorough job of this.
Whenever you do any work on your computer, even if it’s just a quick clean, it’s always a good idea to back up your computer. It may seem like overkill, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Once you have your data all backed up, turn off your laptop and unplug it. To be extra safe, make sure your computer is off for at least 10 seconds before continuing onto the next steps.
Dust bunnies must die!
You first need to deal with the general dust before you can get to the business of cleaning your keys.
Attach the long, thin straw that comes with the can of air to get in between the crevices of the keys. For best results, use short bursts of air to move out dust and debris away from your keys effectively.
Suck it up!
If you have a traditional or mechanical keyboard, first use an electronics vacuum with a crevice attachment to help you get into the crevices between and underneath your keys.
You can then blow out any remaining debris with your can of air.
Cleaning up the alphabet
Depending on the style of keyboard you have, cleaning and disinfecting the keys can take the longest amount of time.
Once you have blown off or vacuumed off all of the dust from your keyboard, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: cleaning your keys.
So how do we do that?
To start, moisten the tip of a cotton swab in some electronics cleaning solution or rubbing alcohol.
Remember: you do not want this swab to be dripping wet, just moistened.
Pick a point on your keyboard to start at and then begin cleaning. Starting at the “Escape” key and then working your way left to right is a pattern that will allow you to keep track of what you have cleaned easily.
Don't forget the rest of it...
After you have cleaned your keys, it is time to clean and disinfect the surface of your laptop, i.e., everything else.
If you have a chiclet keyboard, use a cotton swab dampened with either electronics cleaner or rubbing alcohol to get in between the keys.
To clean the larger surfaces, spray a microfiber cloth with your electronics cleaner or rubbing alcohol. Wipe down the surface of your keyboard in a back and forth motion.
Whatever you do, do NOT spray cleaner directly onto the surface of your laptop. That can cause excess moisture to get into your laptop which may ruin it.
Your laptop keyboard should now be clean and ready to use again!
How To Clean A Laptop Keyboard: After You Clean
Once you have cleaned your laptop keyboard, it is essential to keep it clean.
Cover it up
An easy way to keep your keyboard clean is to use a keyboard cover. Sometimes called a keyboard skin, these are silicone covers that cover the entirety of your keyboard to keep out dust and other debris.
You won't even have to learn how to clean a laptop keyboard!
So what’s the catch?
Keyboard covers are not available for all laptops. Plus, they are best for chiclet laptop keyboards.
But there is a bright side! If you have a popular laptop with a chiclet type keyboard, like an Apple MacBook, chances are you can find a bunch of different keyboard covers that will suit your needs and personality.
Go scrub. A lot
Washing your hands regularly is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. According to the CDC, we often touch things without realizing it and end up transferring pathogens from one surface to another.
By washing your hands regularly with soap and running water, you get rid of germs or anything else that can transfer onto your computer.
Watch what you’re doing
We’ve all been there.
You’re busy working (or watching something) on your laptop. Suddenly, you realize you are hungry.
It’s easy to grab something to eat and drink while you continue to work on your laptop.
Unfortunately, I have bad news: This is the one habit you want to stop if you're going to learn how to clean a laptop keyboard and keep it clean.
Eating while you’re using your laptop can make crumbs that fall onto your computer.
Crumbs can be easy to brush away on a chiclet keyboard. But on a traditional keyboard, they can get in between the keys and cause a real mess.
Watch out if you’re eating something sticky. There is a good chance that you can gum up your keys too.
Drinking while using your laptop is also pretty risky as well. Spilling water can do some severe damage to your laptop keyboard and the components inside.
Liquids like soda or coffee can make a sticky, hard to clean mess if you spill them on your laptop.
Keeping It Clean
Your laptop is an essential part of your daily life. As part of your daily life, it is necessary to keep it clean.
Now that you have learned how to clean a laptop keyboard, be sure to clean it at regular intervals. By cleaning it regularly, you ensure that your laptop keyboard stays as germ-free as possible.
Do you have any tips or tricks for cleaning your keyboard? Share them with us in the comments!