Easy Maintenance Tips for PBT Keycaps for Mechanical Keyboards

April 30, 2024

You've made a smart choice by choosing a mechanical keyboard with PBT keycaps. They are robust and have a distinct texture that is perfect for typing. They are hefty and tough, and their legends do not fade easily.

However, to ensure they stay in top shape for both aesthetics and functionality, it's important to clean and maintain them regularly.

Know how to extend the life and maintain the appeal of your PBT keycaps. Let's get them spic and span!

What Are PBT Keycaps

PBT, shorthand for polybutylene terephthalate, is a premium type of plastic. It's one of the best materials used in manufacturing keyboard keycaps. Here are some key characteristics and features of PBT keycaps:

  1. Durability: PBT is tough and resistant to wear and tear. They can maintain their original appearance for longer periods.
  2. Texture: PBT keycaps have a slightly rough surface, which provides a pleasant tactile feel and good finger grip, reducing the likelihood of fingers slipping during typing.
  3. Thickness: PBT keycaps are thick, which adds to their durability and solid feel. 
  4. Resistance to Yellowing: PBT is less prone to yellowing when exposed to UV light. 
  5. Customization: Many manufacturers offer PBT keycap sets in various profiles to accommodate different keyboard layouts and typing preferences.
  6. Sound: PBT keycaps produce a deeper and more muted sound when typing, which some users find more pleasant and less irritating.
  7. Chemical Resistance: PBT is resistant to various chemicals including oils and solvents. PBT keycaps are easier to clean and less likely to degrade from exposure to harsh substances.

Maintaining and Cleaning PBT Keycaps

keycaps soaked into a bowl of soapy water

Preserving the quality and functionality of your PBT keycaps involves regular upkeep and cleaning. But don't worry as the process is quite straightforward. 

  1. Remove the keycaps: Remove the PBT keycaps from your mechanical keyboard using your fingers or a keycap puller tool. 
  2. Prepare a cleaning solution: It doesn't have to be a special solution. Simply fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild dish soap. Mix until the solution becomes sudsy.
  3. Soak the keycaps: Place the keycaps into the bowl of cleaning solution. Let the keycaps soak for 15 to 30 minutes to loosen any dirt, oils, or grime.
  4. Scrub the keycaps: Use a soft-bristled brush (an old toothbrush will do just fine) to gently scrub each keycap. Focus on areas with stubborn stains or residue. 
  5. Rinse thoroughly: Rinse the keycaps under running water to remove any remaining soap or cleaning solution. 
  6. Dry the keycaps: Shake off excess water from the keycaps and place them on a clean towel or drying rack to air dry completely. Do not use heat sources such as hairdryers. Do not expose them to direct sunlight as well. Excessive heat can warp or deform the keycaps.
  7. Reassemble the keyboard: Once the keycaps are fully dry, reassemble them onto the keyboard switches in their respective positions. Use gentle pressure to push each keycap onto the switch stem until it clicks into place.
  8. Regular maintenance: To keep PBT keycaps clean and well-maintained, develop a regular cleaning routine. Clean the keycaps every few months.

Common Issues with Dirty Keycaps

Dirty keycaps can negatively affect the appearance, functionality, and hygiene of a keyboard. Let's check out some common problems associated with dirty keycaps:

  1. Accumulated dirt, grime, and oils can cause keycaps to appear dull, discolored, or stained, detracting from the overall aesthetic of the keyboard.
  2. Dirt and debris trapped between keycaps can interfere with the smooth movement of the keys. Typing feels gritty or uneven.
  3. Abrasive particles lodged between keycaps can cause friction and wear down the surface of both the keycaps and the switches underneath. Keyboard components can degrade prematurely.
  4. Sticky residue from food, drinks, or other substances can cause keys to stick or become unresponsive when pressed, impairing typing speed and efficiency.
  5. Keyboards with dirty keycaps can harbor harmful bacteria, viruses, allergens, and pathogens, especially if used in shared or high-traffic environments. This poses a health risk to users.
  6. Accumulated dirt and spilled liquids can create foul odors emanating from the keyboard.
  7. Liquid spills on dirty keycaps can seep into the keyboard and damage internal circuitry, leading to malfunctions or electrical short circuits. 


Maintaining your PBT keycaps is about more than just maintaining their aesthetics. It's about ensuring a smooth and efficient typing experience. Regular cleaning and maintenance will keep your keyboard in top shape. Don't let dust and grit interfere with your keyboarding enjoyment. If you take care of your keycaps, they will provide you with an excellent typing experience for many years to come.

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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