Cleaning Mechanical Keyboards in Offices

April 19, 2024

A clean keyboard is a healthy keyboard. Maintaining the cleanliness of mechanical keyboards in your office is an important step towards better health, increased productivity, and extended device longevity. 

The accumulation of dust, finger oils, and accidental food spills can lead to grime buildup. This not only affects the performance of the keyboard but can also be a threat to your health.

Maintaining a clean keyboard is easy but it does require regular attention. Read this article for easy tips for cleaning your keyboard, how a dirty keyboard can hamper your productivity, and practices to keep your office keyboards in pristine condition.

How Does a Mechanical Keyboard Get Dirty in Workplaces

In the daily grind of office routines, it's quite common for mechanical keyboards to get dirty. Even in the most immaculate workplaces, dirt can find its way into the small spaces of a keyboard, adhering to surfaces and hiding below the keys. 

  1. Dust and Debris: Dust particles and debris can accumulate between the keycaps and switches, especially in environments with poor ventilation or high levels of airborne particles. 
  2. Food and Drink Spills: Accidental spills of food and beverages can occur in workplace settings, especially when employees eat or drink at their desks. Liquid spills can seep into the gaps between the keys and damage the internal components of the keyboard if not promptly cleaned up.
  3. Dirty Hands: Employees who handle dirty or greasy materials as part of their work may transfer residue onto the keyboard keys, leading to the accumulation of dirt and grime over time. This is common in workplaces such as manufacturing facilities, automotive garages, or laboratories.
  4. Shared Use: In workplaces where keyboards are shared among multiple employees or used by visitors, the keyboard may be exposed to a variety of contaminants from different individuals. This can include oils, sweat, and germs transferred from the hands onto the keyboard keys.
  5. Hair: Hair can accumulate on the keyboard keys and in the spaces between them. This is a problem for mechanical keyboards because hair can interfere with the switch mechanisms and affect performance.
  6. Outdoor Use: In workplaces where employees use portable keyboards outdoors or in fieldwork settings, the keyboard may be exposed to environmental elements such as dirt, sand, moisture, insects, and other foreign materials. 

Problems of Dirty Mechanical Keyboard

If you aren't careful about keeping your mechanical keyboard clean, it may create several issues that could hamper its functioning and your productivity. Such a situation may result in unwanted mistakes and delays in your work.

  1. Reduced Typing Performance: Dirt, dust, and debris accumulated between the keycaps and switches can interfere with the mechanism of the switches, causing them to become less responsive or inconsistent in their actuation. Keys would feel sticky, mushy, or unresponsive when pressed.
  2. Key Sticking and Key Chatter: Dirt and debris can cause keys to stick or chatter. They may register multiple keystrokes with a single press or fail to register keystrokes altogether. This can be frustrating for users and disrupt workflow.
  3. Increased Wear and Tear: Dirt and debris can accelerate the wear and tear of the key switches and keycaps, leading to premature failure of the keyboard components. Over time, the accumulation of dirt and debris can cause the switches to degrade, resulting in a degraded typing experience and eventual malfunction of the keyboard.
  4. Electrical Issues: Liquid spills or moisture trapped within the keyboard can lead to electrical issues such as short circuits or corrosion of the internal components. 
  5. Hygiene Concerns: A dirty keyboard can harbor bacteria, germs, and allergens, posing a potential health risk to users. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the keyboard can help reduce the spread of pathogens and maintain a hygienic workspace.
  6. Aesthetic Degradation: Accumulated dirt, dust, and grime can make the keyboard look unsightly, which can reflect poorly on the user and the organization, especially in client-facing or customer-service roles.

Tools Needed for Cleaning

an image of a mechanical keyboard with various cleaning tools

Maintaining a clean mechanical keyboard is important to ensure its longevity and peak performance. Fortunately, the tools for doing this are readily available and easy to use. 

  1. Compressed Air Duster: A can of compressed air is one of the most effective tools for removing dust and debris from between the keycaps and switches. The high-pressure air blasts away loose particles, making it easier to clean the keyboard thoroughly.
  2. Keycap Puller: A keycap puller is a small tool designed to safely remove keycaps from mechanical keyboards without damaging them. By removing the keycaps, you can clean the spaces under them and between the switches.
  3. Soft Brush or Microfiber Cloth: A soft-bristled brush or microfiber cloth can be used to gently brush away dust and debris from the surface of the keycaps and keyboard chassis. 
  4. Isopropyl Alcohol: Isopropyl alcohol can be used to clean stubborn stains, spills, and residue from the keycaps and keyboard surfaces. It evaporates quickly and leaves no residue behind, making it safe for use on electronics.
  5. Cotton Swabs: Cotton swabs (Q-tips) can be useful for cleaning hard-to-reach areas of the keyboard such as around the switches and in between the keycaps. Dip the cotton swabs in isopropyl alcohol for more effective cleaning.
  6. Keyboard Cleaning Gel: Keyboard cleaning gel is a sticky, gel-like substance that can be pressed onto the keyboard surface to pick up dust, crumbs, and other debris. 
  7. Lint-Free Cloths: Lint-free cloths or microfiber cloths can be used to wipe down the keyboard and remove any remaining residue after cleaning. These cloths are soft and non-abrasive, making them safe for use on sensitive electronic surfaces.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Cleaning your mechanical keyboard regularly not only optimizes its performance but also extends its useful life. And it's easy to do it!

Step 1: Turn the power off and disconnect from the computer. Turn off your computer and disconnect the keyboard from the power source and computer to prevent accidental damage.

Step 2: Remove the keycaps. Use the keycap puller to gently remove the keycaps from the keyboard. Start with the keycaps in the middle and work your way outwards. Place the keycaps in a plastic bag or container to keep them organized and prevent loss.

Step 3: Clean the keycaps. Fill a bowl or sink with warm, soapy water and submerge the keycaps. Use a soft brush or microfiber cloth to scrub the keycaps gently to remove dirt, grime, and stains. Rinse the keycaps thoroughly with clean water and set them aside to dry completely.

Step 4: Clean the keyboard surface. Use a can of compressed air to blow away loose dust and debris from the keyboard surface, switches, and chassis. Pay special attention to hard-to-reach areas between the switches and in between the keycaps.

Step 5: Spot clean stubborn stains. Dampen a lint-free cloth or cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe down the keyboard surface, switches, and keycaps to remove stubborn stains, spills, and residue. 

Step 6: Clean between the switches. Use a soft brush, cotton swabs, or keyboard cleaning gel to clean between the switches and remove any remaining dust, debris, or residue. 

Step 7: Reassemble the keycaps. Once the keycaps and keyboard surface are clean and dry, carefully reattach the keycaps to their respective switches. Press down firmly on each keycap to ensure it is properly seated and secure.

Step 8: Test the keyboard. After reassembly, reconnect the keyboard to your computer and power source and test each key to ensure they register properly. Verify that the keyboard is functioning correctly before resuming normal use.

How to Keep Your Mechanical Keyboard Clean

an image of a mechanical keyboard

Now your keyboard is sparkling clean. Maintaining the cleanliness of your mechanical keyboard is important for maintaining its performance, longevity, and appearance. 

  1. Establish a cleaning routine: Set a regular schedule for cleaning your keyboard, whether it's weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Consistent cleaning will prevent dirt and debris from building up and ensure your keyboard stays in optimal condition.
  2. Use a keyboard cover: Use a keyboard cover when the keyboard is not in use. A keyboard cover can help protect the keyboard from external contaminants and reduce the need for frequent cleaning.
  3. Avoid eating and drinking near the keyboard: Food crumbs, spills, and liquid residue can easily accumulate between the keycaps and switches, leading to dirt and debris buildup. 
  4. Wash your hands regularly: Clean hands can help prevent the transfer of oils, dirt, and germs onto the keyboard keys and surface. Encourage proper hand hygiene among users to minimize the accumulation of dirt and grime on the keyboard.
  5. Use compressed air: Periodically use a can of compressed air to blow away dust and debris from between the keycaps and switches. Hold the can upright and use short bursts of air to dislodge any loose particles. 
  6. Clean spills promptly: If a spill occurs on the keyboard, immediately power off the computer and disconnect the keyboard from the power source. Use a soft, absorbent cloth to blot up any liquid then carefully clean the affected area with a damp cloth or cotton swab moistened with isopropyl alcohol. Allow the keyboard to dry completely before reconnecting it.
  7. Avoid harsh chemicals: When cleaning the keyboard, avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that could damage the keycaps, switches, or electronics. Stick to mild soap, water, and isopropyl alcohol for safe and effective cleaning.


A clean keyboard is a healthy keyboard. Cleaning a mechanical keyboard maintains its aesthetics. But it does not stop at that. Regularly cleaning your keyboard ensures that the device functions as intended for its maximum lifespan. 

By utilizing suitable tools and devoting some time, you can keep your keyboard in prime condition and prolong its functionality.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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