How to clean a laptop keyboard without breaking it

Giving your keyboard a full clean is important for taking care of your equipment. However, going without knowing what you’re doing can cause some problems. You could end up breaking your keyboard in an attempt to freshen it up, and purchasing a new keyboard can be expensive.

Even the best wireless keyboards can accumulate a lot of dirt over the time that you own them. Whether you’re mistreating your keyboard by eating over it, rarely cleaning in general or you only light use it, dirt and dust are going to build up in the hard to reach places no matter what you do.

This guide covers how to properly clean a keyboard. This is how you can ensure there is no dirt or residue stuck in your keys that might be getting in your way. Importantly though, this is all done without damaging your keyboard.

How to clean your laptop keyboard – Full guide

Cleaning your keyboard safely can be done pretty easily, but you’ll need some patience. All devices need a clean from time to time, and a keyboard accumulates more dirt than most. This includes your mouse, trackpad or whatever other apparatus you’re using on a daily basis.

You can usually get rid of any dirt or dust with everyday items found around your house. So, this is how you should clean your keyboard.


The first step is to unplug it. This should really go without saying, but unplug it and make sure there aren’t any batteries inside still.

This is worth doing if you want to avoid damaging your keyboard, which is more likely if the keyboard is still plugged in. Then, you can get down to actually cleaning it.

Sorting Out Dust

Dust is a big problem for electronics in general. If you’re not cleaning down your office equipment all that often, your PC’s fans are probably clogged with it, and so is your keyboard.

Cleaning dust from your keyboard is one of the simplest ways to clean it though. The method is going to vary depending on what equipment you have available; compressed air isn’t vital but it is helpful.

This is how you dust a keyboard as part of regular, every day, maintenance instead of a big deep clean:

  • Using a soft brush, brush off any dust.
  • Use the soft brush in the gap between keys.
  • Try to gently work the brush into the holes between the keys, bringing out any dust.
  • It might take some time to remove it all.
  • A can of compressed air can also be used to spray out all of the dust you might have. Although you don’t need to use compressed air, it can definitely come in handy.

This will work to get any dust out from your keys in a normal clean. This should be enough to keep your keyboard working as well as it can for the majority of its time.

Every now and again though, you’ve got to do a bigger clean. In these cases, you should do this:

  • Do a normal clean with a soft brush. For caked-on dust and dirt though, use a harder brush or stiffer bristles to gently scrape off anything that has gotten caught. You should be careful in this stage not to mash in the keys or damage things.
  • A handheld vacuum cleaner can be gently applied to get any dust out from between the keys after brushing.
  • If you don’t have a vacuum, use some compressed air to blow out anything you’ve cleaned off.

If you want to go really deep, on some keyboards you may actually be able to pop the keys off and get right in underneath them.

Disinfecting Your Keyboard

You use your keyboard often for an entire day with your fingers, which is a recipe for a whole lot of germs. This means you’re going to have to disinfect your keyboard every now and again to keep everything sanitary. This is how to disinfect your keyboard safely:

  • For this, using a disinfectant is a good idea. You should use one that is safe for electronics though, anything harsher isn’t a good idea considering how often you’re touching your keyboard.
  • Get a cotton swab and wet it with your disinfectant.
  • Use the cotton swab to wipe and clean the tops of the keys.
  • Use the swap to go between the keys, to get to the harder to reach areas of the keyboard.
  • Change your cotton tip or wet it with disinfectant again as much as is necessary.

In terms of disinfectant, you can use rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol to clean this thoroughly.

How to Clean Stains on a Keyboard

Keyboards can stand up to quite a bit of punishment. One of the more noticeable problems with keyboards are stains. These can be from grime, or spilled things, or sometimes stains that just seem to have appeared on their own.

These stains are a little harder to deal with and should be cleaned as part of a deep clean. This is how you do it.

  • You’ll need to clean off keys outside of the keyboard so they’ll have to be removed.
  • Make sure you know what formation your keys are in, so you don’t have any problems putting them back on. It doesn’t hurt to snap a quick picture on your phone to be sure.
  • Use a small flat knife or flat-headed screwdriver to gently pry the keys off. You shouldn’t have to apply a lot of force; they should pop off pretty easily. Be careful you’re not forcing the keys and damaging things.
  • With the keys removed, use a paper towel with small amounts of alcohol solution to wipe and properly clean the base of the keyboard that is usually covered.
  • The loose keys should be cleaned with warm or water until they’ll entirely polished.
  • You can also repeat the cotton swab method for cleaning the keys, but this can be pretty time consuming once they’re removed.
  • Put the keys back in their proper case. You can usually do this just by pressing them down into their normal spots. 

Using a microfiber cloth instead of a paper towel to clean your keyboard properly can be a good idea in this case. It really depends on how dirty your laptop actually is.

Crumbs and Actual Dirt

Those cleaning methods deal with cleaning up the fairly routine messes. However, this isn’t always enough. Do you regularly messily eat the food right over your keyboard? Is dirt flying everywhere while you type?

Even if these extremes aren’t the case, you can get some built up genuine dirt and food crumbs in your keyboard. This is a lot harder to clean, especially without breaking your keyboard. This is how you can do it:

  • Remove the keys.
  • Use some compressed air or a vacuum to blast off all of the dirt that can be easily dislodged.
  • The stuff that is left is going to need a bigger clean. 
  • Use a cotton swab on the remaining dirt, get as much of it as you can.
  • If this doesn’t work well, use a hard-bristled toothbrush to scrub off anything that is really stuck on it.
  • A combination of this and reusing the compressed air to remove it should be able to deal with the remaining rubbish clogged on there.
  • Clean the keys as you normally would, then put them back on the keyboard.

How Often Should You Clean Your Keyboard?

Cleaning your keyboard can be a bit of an ordeal, so you might be wondering how often it even needs doing. There isn’t a hard rule when it comes to cleaning your keyboard, the more the better.

However, you should aim to dust and remove the surface level rubbish at least once a week. It’s important to at least clean your laptop keyboard moderately on a regular basis to avoid germs.

If you can keep these regular cleanings up, you won’t need to deep clean your keyboard as often. Many health professions suggest that a quick disinfect of your keyboard should be done daily if you work with it, although this is a bit much for some. 

A deep clean can be done every few months as long as you’re keeping up regular surface-level cleaning. However, this should be done more often if you keep getting food in there. Or you could try leaning away from the keyboard while you eat.


You should try to keep up with your keyboard cleaning. They are magnets for germs and dust yet we touch them quite a lot every day. Cleaning doesn’t have to take too long if you do it right, and it can prolong the life of your equipment. 

However, you can always consider getting a new wireless keyboard – this might be a better option if your keyboard is filthy. But first things first, you should clean your laptop keyboard up with a free cloth, cotton swabs, disinfectant and some rubbing alcohol and see how it turns out.

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About Melissa

Hey! I'm Mel, I write the occasional article for Spacehop, amongst other things. I love meeting new people and chatting, so if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

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