Gamers and habitual users make up a good percentage of people looking to buy or already using a mechanical keyboard. It provides a better experience as far as gaming and usage ergonomics are concerned and are favored by gamers across the board, citing its visceral feedback system and its build quality as a major factor for the purchase. In this passage we will go over the mechanical keyboard; why users prefer it over older, membrane-based keyboards and the main topic of discussion of this passage: how to clean a mechanical keyboard?

First things first; the mechanical keyboard is not much different to a regular keyboard, also known as a membrane-based keyboard. The system and internals they use are mostly similar, except for the keys and especially the inner workings of the key. You see, when you press a key, the physical key pushes down a circuit sheet on the bottom of the board that translates said key into electrical impulses that are then sent to the CPU. 

Here is where the difference comes in; in a membrane-based keyboard, the key pushes a jelly-like membrane down on the circuit sheet, prompting it to register a key. Whereas on the mechanical one, each key has its own inner working that pushes directly on the circuit sheet, making for a much better response time and feedback system. But with more simplicity comes a question; how to clean a mechanical keyboard?

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When it comes to keyboards, they face most of the brunt and physical wear and tear of any computer component; we tap on them thousands of times a day and expect them to work after a passage of five, six years. But the truth is, keyboards aren’t designed to sustain that long (especially the ones attached to a laptop). And this is where mechanical keyboards come in; they are far more robust and heavy-duty, and some are even tested to a huge amount of clicks before being shipped, which speaks volumes about its rigidity and strength.

However, cleaning them is a task. A mechanical keyboard doesn’t have the additional protection of a membrane, so, spills can be a bit more damaging and cleaning requires more ingenuity and care than a regular one.

How to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard?

The forums and chat threads on sites like Reddit are full of people discussing how to clean such keyboards. Some even advise on how to re-operate the keyboard should a major spill occur. However, cleaning is much simpler and will not require any advanced steps. It will, however, require you to take out the keys and clean in detail. But that’s just the intensive part. Now, onto the methods of cleaning a mechanical keyboard.

Preventive Keyboard Cleaning

Preventive cleaning should be done regularly, preferably once every week, to ensure that dust does not settle in the little crevices which are hard-to-reach. For this, you will need a damp microfiber cloth and a vacuum, preferably a hand-held one as it won’t interfere much with the internal mechanicals of the keyboards. First, use the vacuum cleaner to lightly clean out the dust between the keys and the body of the mechanical keyboard and repeat until the key tap and feedback action is clean and spotless and does not feel like gritty. Once you have used the vacuum, for the next step, start by cleaning with the damp microfiber cloth and wipe down the surface of the keyboard firmly yet softly, so as to not damage the keys and any other surface-level buttons or keys. Once the cloth has been used, use a dry cloth, preferably soft, to wipe out the moisture from the keys. One of the common mistakes repeated here are people using paper towels or tissues to clean it; this is not suggested as tiny fragments of the paper could get stuck in the keys and could impede with the normal functioning.

Deferred Keyboard Cleaning

Deferred keyboard cleaning is also important as it is used to clean out the hard grime and dust that settles at the base of the keyboard. It is also used to clean out the oil residual that leaves its mark on the keys after prolonged and extended usage, which could cause the keys to feel slippery and out of balance. So, as deferred cleaning goes, you will need to take out the keys off the board, which would require you to have a tool which does that at hand and you should know how to use it. Using the tool, take out all the keys (you can leave the larger ones like Space, Enter or Tab, Shift) on because they get difficult to get back on. For the rest of the keys, disassemble them from the keyboard and put them in a bowl full of water mixed with a cleaning solution. As for the rest of the keyboard, using a cotton bud or a Q-tip, start by cleaning out the dust and grime from the key sockets and the base of the keyboard by repeated cotton bud spinning action. 

Once the whole board is done and the key sockets are clean as well, take a handheld vacuum cleaner and start cleaning the residual dust from the base, the key sockets and any other crevices that might have some loose dust around. After that, take your keys out of the solution and dry them using a spare towel or a microfiber cloth. Put together the keyboard assembly after drying it out with a dry microfiber cloth and start inserting the keys back in. Once that has been done, wipe the keyboard again with a damp microfiber cloth and wipe again with dry cloth. Plug it back in and enjoy your clean keyboard.

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Cleaning your keyboard is necessary for optimal functioning and usability of the keys and any other functions in it. That is because dust and other problems can really impede with your usability and might also affect performance of the accessory. Always use electronics-safe cleaner fluids and use cloths that won’t leave fibers of pieces in the keyboard, since it will also affect the keyboard, especially if its in the internals.