How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard: Care and Customization

A mechanical keyboard is a peripheral that allows us to interact with our PC at another level, as it offers a degree of specialization, and a user experience, far superior than we would get with a membrane keyboard. In many cases, it ends up representing, in addition, a significant investmentespecially when it is, as in my case, a tool for work and leisure.

To keep it in good condition and maximize the useful life of a mechanical keyboard, it is necessary to perform some minimum maintenance that, in the end, revolve around a simple but important concept cleaning. There is an explanation for this, and that is that the keyboard is not only one of the most commonly used peripherals, but it is also one of those that accumulate the most dirt over time.

Think, for a moment, of everything that happens to a mechanical keyboard with mere use. We play it with our hands, which ends up transferring small traces of the grease and any kind of dirt that we may have on them, including small lint. On the other hand, it will also accumulate everything that falls on it by the simple fact of being exposed, and with us placed very close, such as dust and hair.

mechanical keyboard

My mechanical keyboard after a month of use without receiving any cleaning.

If you are one of those who eat, and drink, near the keyboard, you may also find yourself with leftover food and splashes from your drinks. Personally, I am one of those who recommend not to eat near the keyboard, not only as a matter of hygiene, but also because if you spill a drink on the keyboard it is likely to “die on the spot”.

Now think about what a mechanical keyboard can look like after several months of use, exposed to dust, finger grease and all those elements mentioned above. Some may think that I am exaggerating, but I have seen mechanical keyboards so dirty and abandoned that a new civilization of dust and crumb-eating microorganisms could have been born on them. Joking aside, yes, I have seen some very dirty keyboards, and most of these no longer worked at all well.

Why does a user leave the cleaning of a mechanical keyboard so long? In many cases it is because of sheer lazinessbecause, let’s face it, cleaning a mechanical keyboard properly can take some time. However, in many other cases, it all comes down to a simple matter of fearthe user does not dare to clean his keyboard thoroughly in case he breaks it, or in case he is not able to reinstall the keys properly.

I am well aware of both problems, and that is why I wanted to share with you this practical guide, where I am going to explain how to properly clean a mechanical keyboardwithout having to waste a lot of time, and without running risks. Before getting into the subject, I remind you that any cleaning process of a mechanical keyboard must be done with it disconnected, so you know, before you start, disconnect it from the PC.

mechanical keyboard

Dirt is evident, and is much better seen at close range.

Basic cleaning of a mechanical keyboard: For those who do not want to invest a lot of time

Why is it worth cleaning a mechanical keyboard? There are many reasons that we have already seen, for hygiene, because it is necessary for proper maintenance, for aesthetics, since a dirty keyboard gives a terrible image of us, and also because the sensations that a mechanical keyboard transmits after a good cleaning are truly unique, especially for the feel of the keys.

Believe it or not, it is possible to clean a mechanical keyboard with very little effort, and without having to disassemble all the keys. Obviously, the result is not as good, but it will be enough to keep it in good condition, and to enjoy it for a long time. The most basic cleaning process to which we can subject a mechanical keyboard is the classic “wiping”. It is a classic, but many people make the mistake of wiping with a cloth dampened with water, and this does not work well at all, especially if we have a lot of accumulated greaseas it will not clean and will leave residues.

Based on my experience, I recommend using a microfiber cloth dampened with water and a little perfumed ammonia Scented ammonia is an excellent disinfectant and a great degreaserwhich means that it will leave your keyboard spotless, and without you having to make any effort. Keep in mind, however, that you should apply a small amount. For your reference, I usually draw an “L”, using a bottle of ammonia with a fine spout, on the damp microfiber cloth. Then I wring it out a bit so that it soaks the entire cloth, and that’s it. You donâ¤?t have to worry about drying, because it wonâ¤?t leave any residue.

mechanical keyboard

This is what the keyboard looks like after something as simple and quick as blowing off dust and dirt, using a blow dryer in cold air mode.

If you want something more thorough, the ideal would be that, before giving the pass with the microfiber cloth dampened with water and ammonia, blow out the dust accumulated under the keys. You can do this with a blower or, alternatively, with a hair dryer set to cold air mode. You can also use a soft bristle brush to remove dust and dirt that has accumulated in the most difficult corners. Once you have finished, you can wipe with a cloth.

To finish off the job, you can also use cotton swabs moistened with water and perfumed ammonia, and wipe the sides of the keys, as well as those corners that we have not been able to reach with the cloth. All in all, all these steps will take you no more than a few minutes, and will keep your keyboard in very good condition. And no, do not worry about the smell, as the ammonia is very small and will not be noticed at all.

Thorough cleaning of a mechanical keyboard: For those who want the utmost care

mechanical keyboard

Dirt also sticks to the wrist rest..

The process of thoroughly cleaning a mechanical keyboard can be divided into two parts. The second part, however, involves disassembling the keyboard case, which involves a considerable risk and which in the end, there is no real benefit to be gained unless we’ve spilled liquid on it and it’s leaked out, so that’s why I’m going to skip it altogether.

However, I would remind you that, in most cases, when a liquid is spilled, it can seep out through the gap left in the “space” key area. So if you are unlucky enough to spill something on the keyboard, ideally you should try to plug the gap by quickly removing the key and putting something over it, such as a handkerchief or even the sleeve of your T-shirt (better a dirty sleeve than a dead keyboard).

wrist rest

But with a little soap and water, and a scrub with a toothbrush, it looks perfect.

If you can’t block that space, try to place the keyboard upside down and straightso that the liquid does not run down into the space key hole and tends to fall out. This will reduce the risk of it getting into the PCB, and eventually “KO’ing” your beloved keyboard. The next step is to unplug the keyboard, dry it and clean it thoroughly. Obviously, if you have a waterproof keyboard, such as the Corsair K68, you won’t have to worry about spills.

I wanted to touch on the subject of liquid spills in this section because these will also lead us, if the keyboard survives, to having to perform a thorough cleaning of the keyboard. That said, let�s see what we will need to perform a thorough cleaning of our mechanical keyboard. Some things are optional, but they will make our life easier.

mechanical keyboard

This is what a “naked” mechanical keyboard looks like. As you can see, in the area of the  “space” key is that crack through which I told you that liquids can seep in.

  • Dampened microfiber cloth with a touch of perfumed ammonia.
  • Cotton swabs moistened in water with a touch of perfumed ammonia.
  • Blower (optional, we can use a dryer set on cold air mode).
  • A large table to place the keys in the same order as we remove them (optional, but it will save time and effort).
  • A brush with soft bristles (optional, it will help us to better remove dust and stubborn dirt).
  • Toothbrush for the wrist rest (optional, helps to reach the crevices).
  • We can also use a handheld vacuum cleaner, as long as it can be adjusted in power to safely vacuum from very close to the keyboard switches (optional).

I am going to explain, step by step, how I clean my mechanical keyboard, a Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 that I have had for about three years now, and despite all the use I’ve given it, it’s aging beautifully. I use it to write for hours every day, and also to play games, so you can get an idea of the  “canaña” it has taken during those more than three years.

The first thing I do is disconnect it from the computer, remove the wrist rest and take it out to the living room table, where I can clean it with total comfort. The wrist rest comes to the bathroom, since it is made of plastic I can clean it directly with soap and water. No mystery, I place it under the tap to moisten it, then apply a little soap and distribute it with my hands. Now, I pass the toothbrush over it, rubbing gently and focusing especially on the crevices. The last step is to rinse with plenty of water and dry.

Now we move on to the keyboard The first thing I do is to pass the brush to try to get as much dust and dirt as possible to fall and come off before I start removing the keys. Once done, I remove the keys one by one. This process can be done without problem with your hands, just keep in mind that you have to make the force upwards, and that it is best to start from left to right, as this will give us space to better grasp each key.

However, if the keys on your keyboard are too hard, I recommend you to use the dedicated accessory that most mechanical keyboards come with, which allows us to get a more comfortable grip.

In my case, i always start with the “Esc” key, and move from left to right. When I finish, I continue with the “º” row and continue in the same order. If you are afraid to pull out the “space” key, don’t worry, you can first remove all the keys on its left and then those on the right, and leave it for the end. Then you will be able to hold it smoothly on both sides and pull it up with a perfect movement.

mechanical keyboard

Clean, the result is obvious.

Removing the keys can be a bit tedious, but believe me, itâ¤?s worse to put them in. The first time I cleaned a mechanical keyboard I followed a guide that said to soak them all in soap and water and then dry them by hand. It’s a bad idea, and a real waste of timeso I do not recommend it. The best thing you can do is, for the moment, to place each key in order, imitating the layout of your keyboard, so that when you have to put them back, it will be much faster and easier.

Okay, we have removed the keys, now what? Now we have two options, we can either blow off the dust and dirt or vacuum it up directly. I blow and then vacuum, but if you don’t have a vacuum cleaner or anything to blow with you can place the keyboard face down and shake it. It’s not ideal, but it works. Once youâ¤?re done, itâ¤?s time to wipe the keyboard with a damp microfiber cloth and a touch of scented ammonia. We will also pass it through the back, to clean the entire chassis.

Whenever I get to this step I am always very careful to not to apply too much force on the most sensitive parts of the switches, and I do not focus on the slits because we will use the swabs for them.

mechanical keyboard

Corsair white key kit.

When we have removed as much dirt and dust as possible from our mechanical keyboard with the microfiber cloth, we will move on to use the swabs to clean those crevices between the switches on the mechanical keyboard. Yes, those that we could not reach well with the cloth. The swabs should be slightly moistened in water and perfumed ammonia, and we must be careful not to pass them again if we see that they have stained too much, because instead of cleaning they will leave dirt.

We are now in the final stretch of the process. We have the wrist rest, the chassis of the keyboard and the base where the switches are located completely clean, so we are missing only the keys. As I told you, we have left these on the side, we have not immersed them in water, so how are we going to clean them then?

It’s very simple, we take the microfiber cloth that we used to clean the keyboard, place it under running water and wring it out. This will loosen the dirt and dust that has accumulated. Squeeze it well so that it is only slightly damp, and add another squirt of perfumed ammonia. Now, gently wring it out again so that the ammonia soaks in well.

Mechanical keyboard

A sample of how good it looks with that combination of black and white keys.

We already have the cloth, now what we are going to do is to take the keys one by one, we are going to clean them well with the cloth, and we are going to place them. It is a very simple mechanic, but it is the best I have found to clean the keys, and place them, quickly and efficiently You take a key, rub it well with the cloth, and put it on. Before you know it you will be done, and you will have your mechanical keyboard “clean as a whistle”, as my dear grandmother would say.

Customize your mechanical keyboard: Don’t be afraid, it’s very easy

As much as repeating the process that we have told you in the previous section, you remove the keys on a wide surface to know how you have to put them back, and you use it as a script to insert the new keys you have acquiredwithout further ado. In my case, I wanted to give my keyboard a touch of white since, as those of you who read us regularly will remember, my new PC is white.

mechanical keyboard

However, I didn’t want to resort to unofficial key sets because, after all, the mechanical keyboard is my working tool, and I need anything that might affect it to to offer me a full guarantee and security. Therefore, I chose a white key kit from Corsair. The layout it comes with is English, but it was perfect for what I had in mind: combining black and white to achieve a classic style reminiscent of a chessboard.

mechanical keyboard

The truth is that I really liked the result. I am very happy with how my mechanical keyboard has turned out, and I have not had to make any sacrifices at the functional level, since I have been able to keep the Spanish layout, including the “Ô. During the installation process i did not have any problemseverything was very simple, since it was only necessary to put a little pressure to place each key in its corresponding place. All the keys fitted perfectly and today, after several weeks of use, I can attest that the experience is simply perfect.

mechanical keyboard

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