Extreme keyboard cleaning (with a garden hose and alcohol)

Published January 1, 2016

I decided it was time to clean my keyboard with more than just a vacuum or a can of compressed air. After a few years, it was filled with dust, crumbs, even some spilled liquid, and who know what else.

Some people, I had heard, put their keyboards in the dishwasher, and most report they work perfectly afterward. But — knowing how hot that water got, I was hesitant to try it.

But the idea was sound: As long as there was no electricity involved, water won’t hurt electronics.

So I cleaned my keyboard like a pro.

I collected the following items:

  • A bottle of 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol (they sell it at most pharmacies; this came from Target).
  • My small shop-vac.
  • A bunch of paper towels
  • My garden hose.
  • A few drops of mild soap (I used some Dr. Bronner’s)

First I used the shop-vac to get a lot of the dirt out — pretty simple.

Next I went outside, turned on the hose, and shot it right into the keys, full blast. I spent a good minute or two hosing out everything — across the function keys, the number pad, under the spacebar. In short, I blasted every crevice of the thing.

Then I put a few drops of soap on various spots and hosed it again, figuring the soap might loosen any remaining oily gunk and dirt.

After shutting the hose, I let the keyboard drain, rapping it a few times to dislodge as much water as possible, and wiped it down with the paper towels.

Next comes the alcohol. Conveniently, the bottle comes with a small opening suitable for squirting it into small spaces. So I did — everywhere I had sprayed the water I now poured/squirted the alcohol.

Why? The alcohol will help flush the water out of all the nooks and crannies, plus it evaporates very quickly.

I did the tapping thing again to get as much of the alcohol/water out, and wiped the whole thing down with the paper towels. Then I took the shop-vac to suck out as much of the remaining liquid as possible from the inside. (Mine doubles as a blower, so I used that, too, kind of like a giant can of compressed air.)

Finally, I set the keyboard upside down on a towel to dry.

The next day I plugged it in and… oops. Beep beep beep. Error. Won’t work. Guess I tried too soon. I waited another day, tried again, and it worked like a charm. (Not waiting long enough for the keyboard to dry is apparently a common problem. Even if you’re absolutely certain it’s dry, wait at least two (if not three) days before trying it.)

And that is how I ended up with a sparkling clean keyboard.

I know the ‘official’ instructions say you should simply wipe down your keyboard with a mild cleaning solution, but that’s the equivalent of substituting a couple of baby wipes for a nice, long shower.

Neat, huh?

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