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Cleaning the Keyboard

I noticed that the keys on my laptop were pretty dirty the other day. The heavily used ones have a nice brown stain in places, mostly from just skin oils, and normally I don't notice them, but it bugged me one afternoon, so I wanted to clean them.

How do I do it? I haven't ever really worried about it, not traveling as much with laptops as I have with this one, and not using them as much as I have in the last year with this one. It gets used almost every day, moves from the basement to the bedroom, and I wanted to be clean it up.

So I asked my Twitter community the question and got these suggestions:

  • qtips and rubbing alcohol do a nice job of getting in between keys' (@SQLDBA)
  • Baby Wipes.  (@RossMistry)
  • Turn it off. Turn upside down. Beat vigorously with broom. Turn back over. Wipe down with very wet cloth. Let dry. Turn on; use! (@ChristyLeonard)
  • distilled water and a tooth brush. Then let it dry for a day or two before reusing.  Or chuck it and get a new one. (@MrDenny)

I decided to try a few things and document it so hopefully someone else has an easier time. Here's a before picture, so you can see how things look.


(ignore the date, I didn’t set the date on my camera)

I then started with baby wipes. We keep a few around since they are handy to clean up, or wipe off kids' skin even at 8 years old! I turned off the machine and lightly wiped a few of the keys. As you can see, it seemed to clean off the keys pretty well. It didn't take much elbow grease, just a couple minutes of rubbing across them.


My next experiment was to try rubbing alcohol and Q-tips. A quick search of the bathroom netted me some supplies, and I started on the other keys. Here's the before:


and the after


I think that this worked as well as baby wipes, but it was definitely more effort. After a few minutes the colors was back to white, and the keys felt fine. The alcohol evaporated, and even the smell was gone quickly.

I declined to try Christy Leonard's solution of using the broom, and I cleaned up the keys enough to not worry about the distilled water and toothbrush. I’ll let someone else try those.

My suggestion if your keyboard is dirty? Use baby wipes. You can pick up a small travel pack cheap, and almost anywhere. You can throw them in your laptop bag, but unless they’re sealed well, they will dry out quickly.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Tim Mitchell on 17 September 2009

Not for laptops, but here's some creative engineering:


Posted by Steve Jones on 17 September 2009

That's crazy. Not sure I want to plug anything into my computer after it's been through the dishwasher.

Posted by GilaMonster on 17 September 2009

I've also seen the diskwasher recommended. Not for the newer back-lit keyboards, but for the older strong, beige keyboards.

Stick it in the diskwasher, set on a cool cycle. Once the dishwasher has finished leave the keyboard to dry for a day or two, plug it back in.

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