How to clean your keycaps and keyboard? Simple step by step guide

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: carson-rutz
  • Jun 10, 2022

We often ignore what’s going on beneath the surface of our mechanical keyboard. Even if you clean your keyboard’s surface regularly, lots of grime slips through the cracks among your keys and gathers over time.

As a result, the keys will be dirty due to dust, oils from your fingertips, and food particles. This is unavoidable. If you have no solution for this, it is not only unhygienic, but it can also harm your keyboard and limit its functionality.

Cleaning your keycaps is the best thing you can do to revive the appearance of your keyboard now. The following is our advice and a step-by-step guide on how to clean keycaps.

Easy step by step guide to clean your keycaps and keyboard

The importance of removing dust hiding beneath the keys does not need an introduction.

Even so, not everyone enjoys doing it. Some folks just put the work off while others are too engrossed in work and games to remember to take care of their "buddy".

Take it easy! Our quick stress-free guide on deep cleaning keyboard keycaps will make everything simple, save time and you will love the task soon.

Step 1: Prepare the necessary tools

Items to clean your keycaps
Tools required to clean your keycaps

Before going through the steps on how to clean keyboard keycaps, you need to prepare the necessary tools. You'll need the following items to clean your keycaps and keyboard:

  • Warm soapy water
  • A keycap puller
  • A towel to dry your keycaps
  • A clean place where the keycaps can dry overnight
  • A moist cloth to remove any grime from your keyboard

Step 2: Take a photo of your keyboard

Before removing the keycaps, take a quick photo of your keyboard or find an image online that matches your layout. This will serve as a helpful guide when you need to reposition the keycaps later. If you didn't capture a photo, you can search online for an image of a similar keyboard to reference the keycap placement.

Step 3: Switch off and/or unplug keyboards before cleaning

Always unplug the keyboard or turn off the power before cleaning to prevent any electrical issues. If your computer is new-bought, the keyboard is most likely connected through USB. But if your company is an older one, check for the purple-colored PS/2 connection.

Usb and ps/2 connection
Usb and ps/2 connection

In case of being connected to a PS/2 port, ensure that your computer is shut down before unplugging the keyboard.

Step 4: Remove the keycaps from your keyboard with different tools

It should come as no surprise that cleaning below the surface is the best way to ensure you get a completely dust-free keyboard (inside and out). Therefore, what you need to do first is to remove the keycaps from the keyboard.

You can use several tools to do this task with ease. Remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid damaging your keyboard at all costs (You will not want to buy a new one at least at this moment, we bet).

Use a keycap puller

A keycap puller is usually sold with a set of keycaps. Or you can buy one separately on Amazon.

A keycap puller
Removing the keycaps by a keycap puller | voltcave

Place the wire loops of the keycap puller underneath the keycap, and then gently apply upward pressure to lift the keycap. Take care not to use too much force to prevent any harm to the key or the mechanism beneath it.

Proceed to remove the keycap from the switch by pulling the keycap puller towards yourself. Repeat these steps for any other keycaps you want to remove.

If the keycap is loose enough, you may also attempt to carefully pry it up from the edges using your fingers. However, exercise caution to avoid any damage to the keycap or the keyboard.

If you don't have a keycap puller, use the following tools that can be easily found at your home.

Use a flat-head screwdriver

Carefully insert a flat-head screwdriver between the keycap and the switch housing. Gently pry the keycap upwards from multiple sides until it comes off.

Use a plastic card

Slide a thin plastic card, like a credit card or an old gift card, between the keycap and the switch. Wiggle the card to lift the keycap and repeat the process around the key until it pops off.

Fun facts: A spoon (flat or slightly curved) in your kitchen can also handle this task with ease and convenience. But be careful in every removal step.

No tool? It is not a big issue as our guide on how to remove keycaps without a tool will get you covered.

Step 5: Clean the keycaps

Removing keycaps is not an easy task, is it? But washing them will relieve you of stress (for both you and the keycaps).

So, how to wash keycaps?

To clean your keycaps, start by gently removing any loose debris or dust using a soft brush or compressed air. This will help prevent scratching the keycaps during the cleaning process.

The best way to clean keycaps is by soaking them in a cleaning solution which is a mix of mild dish soap or lukewarm water. Avoid using harsh chemicals that could damage the keycaps. Dip a cloth or sponge into the solution, wipe each keycap, and pay attention to stained areas.

Warm water to clean keycaps
Warm water to clean keycaps

For stubborn stains, use a soft-bristle toothbrush or cotton swab with the cleaning solution. Rinse the keycaps with clean water and dry them thoroughly with a lint-free cloth or air-drying.

After cleaning, rinse the keycaps with clean water to remove any soapy residue. Make sure to dry them thoroughly using a soft, lint-free cloth or by air-drying them in a well-ventilated area.

Air drying the keycaps
Air drying of the keycaps | youtube

Step 6: Clean off the whole keyboard

While waiting for the keycaps to soak, you can go to work on the deeper cleaning as the real dirt is underneath the keycaps.

You can shake your keyboard gently yet firmly when it is upside down to clear out any looser debris hidden between your keys. Alternatively, you can use canned air to effortlessly blow away most dust and crumbs. Keep in mind not to spray air too closely on your keyboard.

Use canned air to quickly remove dirt
use canned air to quickly remove dirt

Additionally, you'll need to use a soft brush to sweep up any debris that compressed air cannot get rid of.

Finally, carefully wipe all remaining suspicious stains off your keyboard with a moist Q-tip or microfiber cloth.

Cleaning off your keyboard | komando
Cleaning off your keyboard | komando

Step 7: Put the keycaps back 

To put the keycaps back after cleaning, refer to the reference photo or online image you took earlier to ensure the correct placement. Start with the larger keycaps and align them with their respective switches. Press down firmly until you hear or feel a snap to secure them in place. 

Continue this process for all the keycaps, making sure they are properly aligned and fully seated. Take your time and double-check the placement of each keycap to ensure they are in the correct positions. Once all the keycaps are back in place, test each key to ensure they are functioning properly.

Putting the keycaps back
Putting the keycaps back

Step 8: Reattach the keyboard to the computer

If you’re using a PS/2 connector, be sure the color (typically purple) corresponds to the right port.

If your computer has been turned off, turn it back on. Your keyboard should now be clean and ready to use.

We’ve arrived at the end of the road! To be more intuitive, you can watch the following video instructions on how to clean mechanical keyboard keycaps.

6 steps to cleaning keycaps without taking them off

Fear damaging your keyboard?

Rest easy! Before having your keyboard professionally deep cleaned, you can regularly wipe the keycaps following our 6 quick steps below.

Remember to shut down your laptop or computer before cleaning to avoid any accidental typing.

Gather the necessary tools, including:

  • Warm water
  • A soft cloth or microfiber cloth
  • A toothbrush or soft-bristled brush
  • Mild dish soap

Step 1: Prepare a cleaning solution

Put a little amount of mild dish soap in a bowl or other container with warm water. To make a soapy solution, carefully stir the mixture. Make sure the solution is well mixed and the water is not too hot, as it may damage your keycaps or the keyboard.

Prepare the mixture of warm soapy water
prepare the mixture of warm soapy water

Step 2: Dampen a toothbrush or piece of lint-free microfiber cloth

Dip a microfiber cloth, sponge or toothbrush into the prepared cleaning solution. Squeeze out excess liquid to prevent liquid from dripping inside the keyboard.

Step 3: Wipe the keycaps

Lightly wipe the surface of each keycap with a dampened cloth or brush. Be careful to remove any visible grime or stains first. To prevent damage to the keycap or keyboard, wipe gently and do not apply excessive force.

Quickly keycaps without taking them off
quickly keycaps without taking them off

Step 4: Clean between the keys

While cleaning between the keys may be more challenging without removing the keycaps, using a soft-bristle brush or toothpick still allows you to tackle dust and debris in those tight spaces.

You can moisten a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol. The alcohol will help dissolve and remove any built-up debris.

Use cotton swabs to remove dust and debris between keys
use cotton swabs to remove dust and debris between keys

Although you will get a sleek keyboard surface after this step, dirt deep under the keycaps and stubborn stains may still be there. You won't be able to use too much force to remove them while the keycaps are attached to your keyboard.

Cleaning keycaps without removing them is undeniably convenient. But more thorough cleaning after taking them off the keyboard will offer more precision, reduce the risk of damage, and is especially useful for stubborn keycaps.

Step 5: Dry the keycaps

After cleaning, let the keyboard and keycaps air dry for a few minutes. Or you can also use a dry microfiber cloth or towel to quickly remove any moisture from the keycaps.

Be sure to wait until everything is absolutely dry before using the keyboard again.

Step 6: Repeat the cleaning process if necessary

You may have to repeat the cleaning steps or use a little stronger cleaner if there are still hard-to-remove stains or grime. Avoid using harsh chemicals that might harm the keyboard's keycaps.

Cleaning keycaps without removing them is a quick task since you don't need to take off and reassemble each keycap individually. Nevertheless, this way is only handy for routine cleaning and getting rid of light stains and debris. It is useless for deep cleaning.

For stubborn stains, sticky residue, and accumulated debris, you need to take off the keycaps to better access the spaces underneath, allowing for a more comprehensive cleaning of the keyboard and keycap.

How often should you clean keycaps?

As mentioned above, you should clean down the surface of your keyboard with a disinfectant wipe on a regular basis. It's best if you do it once a week.

Yet, if you are working on a keyboard that is shared with others, it's a good idea to wash it off after each use to avoid spreading germs and other nasties.

This once-a-week clean only takes less than a minute to complete. This helps eliminate everything that you would directly contact daily.  Grease, bacteria, food, and other debris should be scraped from the keycaps.

In addition to weekly cleaning, the monthly clean (4 to 6 weeks) focuses on giving your keyboard a thorough cleaning. Crumbs, dust bunnies, or even hair particles need to be removed from between your keycaps.

How to clean Laptop and Chiclet keyboard keys?

Modern laptops or chiclet keyboards are often prone to dirt buildup trapped beneath the keys due to their ultra-thin flat design. Hence, regular cleaning of the surface for a sleek look outside is also insufficient since it soon becomes dirty again.

We advise removing all of the keys to ensure flawless cleaning. Don't forget to take a picture of the keyboard before starting the task.

Step 1: Take off the keycaps

Use a Q tip to access and remove any tiny dirt from every crevice.

You can use a flat screwdriver (see the image below) instead of a keycap puller to remove the keys from your laptop or chiclet keyboard. Use the screwdriver as a lever to force the key out by carefully slipping it into the space between the keyboard and the key.

Remove keys on laptop
remove keys on laptop

Step 2: Clean your keyboard

Once the keys are removed, you can then clean your keyboard by wiping it down with a damp cloth, a Q-tip, or a vacuum on the lowest power.

Step 3: Soak and dry the keycaps

While doing cleaning tasks, you can soak the keys like the steps we listed above. Finally, let them air dry completely before re-putting them on.

Important note:

It's worth noting that laptop and chiclet keyboards are designed with delicate components. Using too much force or abrasive cleaning solutions can harm the keys or underlying mechanics. Therefore, pay attention to using gentle force and milder detergent than used on mechanical keyboards.

Tips when cleaning your keycaps and keyboard

  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners or harsh chemicals as they can damage the keycaps' finish and markings.
  • Do not soak your keycaps in water that is too hot.
  • Never use sharp or pointed objects to clean the keycaps, as they can scratch or chip the surface.
  • Avoid using excessive water that could seep into the keyboard and cause electrical issues. Use a damp cloth or sponge instead.
  • Do not use alcohol or solvents for cleaning, as they can dissolve or discolor the keycap legends.
  • Avoid using excessive force or pressure when cleaning to prevent any accidental damage to the keycaps or keyboard.

Closing Thoughts

Setting the right cleaning routine isn't the most enjoyable task, but it may lead to improved hygiene and a healthier lifestyle.

That benefits both you and your keyboard. Your keys will be sparkling and new-looking, rather than grease-coated.

We highly advise you to adopt a weekly and monthly clean, with the weekly clean focusing on cleaning off the surface of your keyboard and the monthly clean focusing on taking a deeper clean to get anything that slips between the cracks.

Now that you know how to clean keycaps. Keep it tidy, and have fun typing!


What do I need to clean my keycaps and keyboard?

You need to gather the following supplies to clean your keycaps and keyboard:

  • A keycap puller
  • A mix of warm soapy water.
  • Soft cloth
  • Cotton swabs or a small brush
  • Compressed air

Can I clean the keycaps with water?

Yes, you can clean keycaps with water. However, we recommend soaking the keycaps in warm water mixed with mild dish soap for more effective cleaning.

What is the best way to clean keycaps?

The best way to clean keycaps is to take them off the keyboard and soak them for a few hours in warm, soapy water. This way will help clean the keycaps of grease, oil, and grime.

Can I clean my keyboard keycaps without removing them?

Yes, you can clean the keycaps on your keyboard without taking them off. However, doing so may not be as effective as taking them off for an all-encompassing deep cleaning.