Technology

How to Deep Clean Your Keyboard

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One of the values my parents instilled in me at a young age was to take pride in my possessions. “You can’t have nice things until you learn to take care of them,” my mom used to tell me. The message stuck to the point where I’m semi-obsessed with keeping things in tip-top shape to extend their usable life as long as possible.

Case in point is my keyboard. I’ve been using a Das Keyboard 4 Pro exclusively since 2014 without incident. Build quality aside, I credit its longevity to regular maintenance cleanings. Once every few months or so, I’ll do a routine cleaning consisting of running the flat edge of a business card or a craft-style pipe cleaner between the rows of keys to pick up any stray hair before flipping the board upside down and beating the devil out of it to coax out any loose debris.

A few blasts with a can of compressed air will also do the trick, and I’ve even heard of folks using a shop vacuum to suck out stubborn particles.

The whole process takes less than five minutes and is certainly worth the time and effort but occasionally, you’ll want to go further and perform a thorough deep clean. For this, you’ll need a few more tools and a bit more time but again, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Paramount to a proper keyboard cleaning is a keycap puller tool. I picked up a kit that came with the tool and two cleaning brushes for $6.99 over on Amazon. It’s also a good idea to have a general purpose cleaner of some sort handy (isopropyl alcohol will also work) as well as a microfiber cleaning cloth.

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With your computer off and the keyboard unplugged, it’s time to get to work. Use the keycap puller to pluck the keys from your board. It’s tedious as you have to go one by one, but it’s easy to do. Simply slide the wire hook ends over and under each key then lift up. So long as you use gentle force and don’t try to rush the process, there’s not much risk of damage. Rinse and repeat until all of the standard-sized keys have been removed.

Larger keys like the spacebar and backspace often utilize a different mount including a stabilizer bar. These can be extracted but because all of the other keys surrounding them have already been removed, I elected to leave them in place and simply clean around them.

I found a disgusting mix of hair, food crumbs, and other gunk hiding under the keys. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I had not been doing regular maintenance cleanings.

I used the brushes that came with the key puller kit to dislodge most of the mess but really, any brush should get the job done. An auto detailing brush or an unused makeup brush would be excellent alternatives.

How much time you spend on this step is really up to you. Those going for a like-new look may want to break out some tweezers to remove every single hair and embedded fiber, but I was more than content with a 95 percent improvement. Plus, you still have to tend to the individual keys.

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This is where the all-purpose cleaner comes in. I again reached for the keycap puller brushes to get into the nooks and crannies on the underside of each key then gave the outer-facing surfaces a good wipe down with a cleaner-soaked microfiber before drying. Having a helper or two will greatly expedite this process as I easily spent a couple of hours just on this step alone.

With everything squeaky clean, all that’s left is to pop each key back into place, give the keyboard deck a good scrubbing and admire your handiwork.

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