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The Thinkening Blog

How To Clean Your Keyboard Using the Dishwasher

Posted on October 26, 2009 at 3:15 AM

From time to time, I notice my keyboard. Now, of course I am aware of my keyboard and use it regularly while at the computer, but noticing the keyboard is different from day-to-day use. It's sort of like how you drive to work each day, but how much do you really look at, or 'notice', the buildings and sights along the route on the way to work?

So, from time to time, I notice my keyboard. Specifically, I notice the state of cleanliness, or lack thereof, that my keyboard displays. The tops of the keys develop a film of finger-junk over time. The spaces between the keys fill up with a weird, fuzzy matter that defies explanation. In short, the thing gets pretty dirty and kind of gross after a few months of use.

I had heard that one way to fix that is to put the thing in the dishwasher, and that is exactly what I did. Since the keyboard has delicate electronics inside it though, it does take a little bit of preparation to make the dishwasher method work:

Step 1: Take a nice, clear photo of the keyboard using the macro function on your digital camera. This will aid in putting the thing back together later, especially if your keyboard has a lot of extra function buttons.

Step 2: Use a plastic knife to gently pop off all the buttons, and place them into a net bag, like the type used to wash delicate clothing in the washing machine. Some of the buttons, like the spacebar and the shift keys, have little metal brackets inside that fit into clips, so be careful not to break them. On my keyboard (Microsoft Digital Media Pro), it has a few extra function buttons that don't come off, and a rocker switch that stays in place as well. These are fine to go into the dishwasher, since there are no electronics inside them.

Step 3: Flip the keyboard over and remove the screws that keep it all together. Remove the top plastic piece and rinse off the junk that's on it. This part will go in the dishwasher.

Step 4: Gently remove the rubber membrane from the tray and shake it out. This can go into the dishwasher or be washed by hand. I put this on the top rack in the dishwasher and leave it at that. It may be a little too delicate for high-powered jet sprays though, so know your dishwasher.

Step 5: Place the large upper plastic piece into the space in your dishwasher where plates normally go. Put the net bag with the keyboard keys and the rubber membrane on the top rack. Use just a very small amount of soap, and set the dishwasher to use the light load cycle, and turn the thing on!

Step 6: I've found that it's best to NOT use the dishwasher's dryer, as the heat can warp the plastic. After the wash cycle is over, lay out some paper towels and arrange the keys facing up so the water falls out of the bottom of them. The large plastic piece of the keyboard can be stood on its side and it should dry fairly quickly like that. I use a paper towel to dry the rubber membrane off, then lay it out flat on the counter until everything else is dry.

Step 7: Give the keys a few hours to air dry, and then put the membrane back on the keyboard, screw the large plastic piece back into place, and use the photo you took of your keyboard to help you put it all back together.

Doing this every few months will keep your keyboard looking like new and make it less gross for those times when you 'notice' your keyboard.

Categories: Hardware, Computers