As much time as you spend in front of your computer, it's inevitable, really - you're sitting by your computer, typing away merrily and you accidently knock your beer into the keyboard. Mayhaps you've simply noticed the nast that collects under the keys from being exposed to your hands day after day. Keys will eventually start to stick and the keyboard's response to your typing goes to shit. Instead of buying a new keyboard, why not just clean your keyboard?

With all those delicate electronics in there, it would seem difficult to clean. Vacuums and compressed air are two of the common ways and will work fine to remove solids, but liquids (and their residue) can wreak havoc with those delicate electronics. So how to clean all that crap and gunk out of there?

Put in in the dishwasher.

Disclaimer: before i get a million /msgs about how your keyboard is ruined, smoking, melted or all minty fresh, read the rest of this node! If you're not comfortable with doing this, don't!
Don't try to clean your laptop keyboard like this, you'll just end up with a waterlogged laptop. Don't do this to wireless keyboards, antique keyboards, typewriters, teletype machines, pets, monitors, inflatable dolls, spare tires or AC induction motors. If you're not willing to take the (very small) chance your keyboard may not type again, don't fucking do it! OK, on with the directions.

The directions:
First and foremost, if you ever spill any liquids in your keyboard, unplug it immediately*! Conductive liquids are bad things if there is electricity coursing through the keyboard.
You're going to have to unplug the keyboard to clean it so go ahead and do it anyway.

Now that you've got your keyboard unplugged, put it in the upper rack of the dishwasher (where all the glasses go), upside-down (as in keys down). If it has a cable attached, put it in a plastic bag and secure it with a few rubber bands to keep the cable all in one place.

Here's the easy part: turn on the dishwasher. i don't reccomend putting any soap or dishes in there with it. Be damned sure the heating element is off! Look for a button/switch labeled "energy saver" or "heated drying" or whatever, just make sure the dishwasher is set to air dry. Run the dishwasher through one cycle.

Once the dishwasher has done it's thang, take the (now clean but soaked) keyboard out and get all the water out of it by shaking or slinging it around. i prefer to sling. When you're confident you've gotten all the water out of it that you can, set it upside-down to dry overnight.

The next day, inspect the keyboard for water. If you're not 100% sure it's completely dry, sling, shake, let dry. Repeat as necessary.

When you're absolutely certain that all the water has evaporated, plug the keyboard back in. It should not only have whiter teeth and minty fresh breath, it should work just fine.

i have had a 100% success rate with this, as have every other person i've talked that has tried this method. If you try it, please let me know how it worked out for you or create your own WU below.

* hotplugging PS2 and ADB devices *may* cause your computer to freeze and possibly even damage the device. i've hotplugged ADB devices for many many years and have yet to have one die because of it. YMMV.

An important caveat that I found missing from the above:

This will almost certainly damage your wireless keyboard. This may be common sense to most, but it bears pointing out just for sake of completeness. Keyboards that have those extra "quick launch" keys also may suffer damage as a result of beig "dishwashed". For those of us who have a normal, sane, "vanilla" keyboard, this method works like a charm (I've seen 5 different keyboards go through a grand total of roughly 50 wash cycles, with no ill effect).

If putting your keyboard in the washing machine dosen't correct your problem, consider removing all of the keys first, and washing them seperately in a bowl while you put the rest of the keyboard in the washing machine. Yes, gunk this bad exists.

I've cleaned my keyboard recently and it still works 2 days later so I'd vouch for this method (becasue I don't have a dishwasher), but YMMV. This is the second-best method I know of.

For this method, you need:
1. A dirty, grimy computer keyboard (you read that right, this doesn't work for laptop keyboards)
2. 4-6 hours of free time (actually, you just need 1 - you'll have to wait for the next 5 though)
3. A toothbrush (preferably one you're not going to use for anything else, especially if you've spilt some really nasty stuff on your keyboard)
4. A tub long enough to accomodate your keyboard, and enough water to fill it to a height of 5-10 centimetres
5. A dust-free place where nothing will pass by and knock your keyboard off its perch while it's drying
6. A screwdriver. Cross-pattern (or whatever the official term for it is), preferably.
7. An expired/void warranty (otherwise you're better off asking them to fix/clean up/replace your keyboard). You have been warned - the following steps may render your warranty void if it isn't already so.
8. Enough money for a new keyboard (this is Plan B)

1. Unplug your keyboard. I cannot emphasise this enough.
2. Flip it upside-down. You see some greyish circles with crosses in their middle? Those are called screws (not to be mistaken for one-night stands). Remove those with the screwdriver. If you need help call a neighbour or your mum over.
3. Open up your keyboard very carefully. If yours is anything like mine, the casing should be comprised of 2 halves loosely fitted together, this shouldn't be too hard to open.
4. Once it is open, you'll notice it is made up of 5 main parts:

a) Bottom tray, containing a microchip and the wire that leads to your CPU.
b) 2 plastic sheets that overlap and look like they have circuitry printed on them (actually, they do - don't wet these or let anything come into contact with them!)
c) A rubber mat with little springy knobs corresponding to the positions of the keys on your keyboard. Don't damage this. You may clean this if it is dirty. Exercise extreme caution though - you don't want to damage the springy mechanism.
d) The top cover, and the keys associated with it.

5. Put parts (a) to (c) aside, on something clean, and cover them with something so dust does not collect on them (dust + electronics = nono)
6. Pop the keys out of the top cover (carefully). The quick launch buttons may be a little tricky, so be extra careful with them. This part may be a little tricky for the multimedia keyboard keys.

WAIT! Before you do so, ensure that:
a) You have another keyboard somewhere in your house, one that you have access to.
b) You have a diagram of a keyboard and its key layout.
c) You have memorised the key layout of the keyboard.

7. Good. Now fill the tub with water to a depth of about 5-10cm (2-4in). dump all the keys in. Now dump the top cover in. Use your fingers and rub as much crud off the cover as you can.
8. Use the toothbrush to go into the little nooks and crannies. The tougher ones may need (non-excessive) scraping. Use a toothpick for the hard-to-reach corners (like some of the F1-F12 keys).
9. When you're done with the tray put it aside. Now check through each key. Rub stains off with your finger. If that doesn't work you might want to try it with a little detergent.
10. There might be C-shaped wires attached to the Return and Space Bar keys. Remove these carefully prior to washing. Clean these with a damp cloth, and dry with a dry cloth. They might rust - that's a risk you have to take.
11. Once everything is clean, bring it somewhere dry and hot (the balcony perhaps; this could be problematic if you live in a cave like Osama). Give each key a good fling-dry, wipe the external surface (the part you touch when you type) clean, and lay it upside-down to dry. Do this for all the keys.
12. Don't stick the C-shaped wires back yet. Now do likewise with the top cover. If you're impatient use a hairdryer or a fan.
12. Grab a beer, and get in front of the television for the next 5 hours. Or create a new w/u on how to spend 5 hours doing nothing.
13. When everything is dry, carefully plug the keys back in the cover. You might find the tips below useful when doing this.

a) The directional keys are tricky. The up and down keys are displaced slightly to the left. the backstroke key looks a little like the left key, so it might help if you mark them with a sticky label or non-permanent marker after cleaning.
b) The keys have a trapezoid cross-section. The side facing away from you (on the keyboard) is usually steeper, while the side facing you has a gentler gradient.
c) Don't forget to stick the C-shaped wires back into the Return and Space Bar key, if they were there originally. Align them carefully before you plug the key back into its hole; test the key afterwards to double-check.

14. Now re-assemble the keyboard. Bottom tray at the bottom, followed by the 2 plastic sheets, then the rubber mat, then the top cover. Align them properly, there are little holes in the plastic sheets and rubber mat to help you with this.

a) Most keyboards have keyboard props on the left and right side. If these fell out during disassembly, replace them.
b) There is usually a guide rail for the wire that leads back to the CPU, fit the wire snugly into this guide before reassembly.
c) align the Num/Caps/Scroll Lock lights with the cover holes properly.

15. If everything is well-aligned and the keyboard seems to fit back properly, replace the screws and tighten them, not too tightly.
16. Plug your keyboard back and start up your PC, test out your keyboard. If it works, good, you're up and running again. If it does not, check if all the parts are in. Are any wires loose? Are the components aligned properly? Did you plug it in the correct port?
17. If your keyboard does not work, and nothing you do can make it, then...
18. Proceed to carry out my favourite method and get a new keyboard.

Happy cleaning!

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