How to clean your computer keyboard, according to the pros

 cleaning a computer keyboard with a cloth

cleaning a computer keyboard with a cloth

If you regularly work on a computer or laptop, then you’ve probably had the passing thought, ‘I should clean my keyboard.’ After all, it picks up all manner of dust and crumbs, but the idea of cleaning inside the small spaces around and under the 104 keys isn’t an appealing job.

Cleaning our laptop screens and cleaning monitors is important, given that we spend most of our time looking at them, but in reality, the keyboard is a much more important part of your computer or laptop to clean – and you should probably do it a lot more regularly than you are.

So, what are your options when it comes to cleaning your keyboard? Is a can of compressed air the only option, or are there better ways? And how often should you do it, really?

How to clean your computer keyboard

We asked some of our favorite cleaning experts all these questions and more, and here’s what they had to say.

home office laptop on table with freestanding light in front of patio doors

home office laptop on table with freestanding light in front of patio doors

It seems like every keyboard-cleaning tutorial has one thing in common: compressed air. As Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids & a Mop explains, that’s for a reason.

‘Compressed air is great because it offers a way to remove crumbs or debris without damaging keys,’ she says.

That means if you’re planning a keyboard cleaning session, this might be a good thing to have on hand. But with or without compressed air, at Walmart, there’s a method to cleaning your keyboard that our experts say is most effective.

Step 1: Turn off your computer

Across the board, all of our experts had one resounding piece of advice before you get started: turn off your computer, keyboard, or laptop before you do anything else. Better yet, unplug it entirely.

Even if you’re not using any sort of cleaning solution, this will ensure you don’t make any accidental keystrokes that might compromise your computer.

Step 2: Flip over the keyboard

After you’ve unplugged your device but before you bust out any specific tech cleaning supplies, Kathy Cohoon of Two Maids & a Mop says there’s one incredibly easy yet very important step.

‘Flip your keyboard upside down and give it a shake to loosen any crumbs or debris,’ she says. As an added tip, even if you do this over a trash can, make sure you have a dustrag or vacuum on hand to catch any falling debris!’

Step 3: Use a dry toothbrush

After you manually dump out the larger crumbs plaguing your keyboard, Cohoon says to give your keyboard a brush. Yes, that’s right: a brush.

‘Once you have removed enough you can brush away debris with a small cleaning brush or dry, unused toothbrush,’ says Cohoon. ‘After you remove dust, wipe down your laptop keyboard with a wet wipe or slightly damp cloth – just make sure it isn’t too wet.’

cleaning a computer keyboard with a damp cloth

cleaning a computer keyboard with a damp cloth

Step 4: Bust out the compressed air

If you’re using compressed air, now’s the time to give it a try. But don’t just spray with reckless abandon! Marica Sloman of Under Control Organizing warns you might do more harm than good if you’re not careful.

‘Although compressed air gives a good burst of air to clear dust, it can also spray some condensation,’ she says. ‘Be careful that you hover your compressed air can at least 3-4 inches above the surface.’

Alternative Step 5: Get a reusable air duster

 Jill Koch of Jill Comes Clean tells us she’s fine with compressed air if needed, but she actually prefers this electric cordless air duster, at Amazon. ‘My go-to is an electric, rechargeable air duster or a handheld vacuum with a crevice tool or brush attachment,’ she says. ‘The duster is my first choice because it will blast dirt and dust out of the nooks and crannies.’

Koch also gave us tips for getting a truly deep clean of our keyboards using this method. ‘For keyboards with raised keys, you can use a business card to pop out the keys and then use air or a vacuum attachment to clean under where the keys were,’ she says. ‘Just watch your vacuum suction. You want enough to get the dirt up but not too strong that it can damage anything.’

If you go down this route, make sure you know your QWERTY. ‘The only caveat with this is that once you pop the keys out, be sure to know where they go when putting them back,’ says Koch. ‘Luckily, a quick Google search of a keyboard photo should help if you get them mixed up.’

Clean your keyboard weekly


How often should I clean my computer keyboard?

According to Cohoon, we should clean our keyboard as often as we clean all of our remote devices: which is to say, way more than we currently are.

‘Make a habit of cleaning your keyboard once a week,’ advises Cohoon. ‘[Clean it] more if you are a frequent snacker while you work or if you are working in a dusty environment!’

Her advice isn’t just because it’s a great way to combat germs. It’s good for your device, too. ‘[Weekly keyboard cleaning] will help to prevent build-up that can cause keys to stick or damage the interior of your keyboard,’ she says.

‘I would try and clean them when you see they need it to prevent even more dirt and debris from building up and getting embedded into hard-to-clean spots,’ says Koch. ‘Staying on top of messes with your laptop screen and keyboard will make this job quick and easy and keep your devices working their best.’

Organizing your desk and keeping surfaces fresh sets the tone for productivity, and if you think you’re likely to forget, keep everything you need on hand and just wipe/brush things down whenever you spot trouble.

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