Mechanical keyboards are globally popular among PC gamers. They are relatively more expensive than the standard keyboards available in the market. Many gamers face lubrication problems with their mechanical keyboards. Beginners find it difficult to lube mechanical keyboard switches. However, the process is easy to understand and perform.
To lube keyboard switches, you need a few basic tools. While this is correct, it is vital to understand why you need to lube your switches and what lubricants you should use. Today, we will dive into all the details of lubing mechanical keyboard switches to help you become a pro.
Should You Lube Your Switches?
If it’s your first time hearing about lubing keyboard switches, you might wonder if you should even do it. Would the lube damage the keyboard? Will the keys work correctly? If these are a couple of questions on the top of your head, we have the answers you need.
Mechanical keyboards are different from the typical keyboards we use at work. The manufacturers design these keyboards for harsh usage. PC gamers tend to slam the keys hard while playing games. The rough use can make the keys of your mechanical keyboard noisy. Moreover, they may not press as smoothly as before.
When you lube mechanical keyboard switches, they become smoother and quieter. Using a lube on your mechanical keyboard can reduce the friction in the key springs. You can get back to your extensive gaming episodes carefree.
Regardless of the switch type, you must lube your switches to ensure a softer, smoother, and long-lasting performance of your mechanical keyboard.
While some keyboard manufacturers pre-lube the switches, they may not do their job perfectly. It is better to lube the keyboard switches yourself to avoid any inconvenience later.
Switch Actuation Types
There are three types of switches based on their actuation points.
Clicky switches are common in mechanical keyboards. These switches produce a click sound and a bump when pressed.
Keyboard manufacturers purposely design clicky switches to be loud. They are most suitable for extensive typing due to their feedback sound. The clicky sound makes them less ideal for gaming.
Tactile switches are widely popular for their feedback sound and distinctive feel. Like clicky switches, tactile keys also produce a sound when pressed.
Despite their global popularity, tactile switches may not be ideal for gamers. The not-so-loud feedback sound becomes too much when playing games.
One of the best switch types is a linear switch. Such switches provide users with a smooth experience with no sound while using their mechanical keyboards.
Linear switches are perfect for gamers around the globe. If you want a keyboard for extensive hours of gaming with rapid keystrokes, linear switches will most likely be your ideal choice.
Switch Brands That You Should Avoid Lubing
Let’s get this right. The point behind lubing keyboard switches is to ensure their smooth functioning. While you can lube most switch brands easily, there are a few ones that may cause trouble.
Kailh BOX switches can land you in bigger problems when lubed. The brand designs a keyboard with a unique architecture for keys. You may not be able to unclip them for lubing. Moreover, if you try to lube the switches without unclipping them, the BOX switches may damage the PCB of the keyboard.
It is vital to check the suitability of lubing switches while buying a new mechanical keyboard. You may only go for those brands with easy unclipping keys.
How Often Should You Lube Your Switches?
How often you should lube your keyboard switches depends on your usage. If you are an extensive gamer, you may want to lube your switches more often. Heavy users may need to re-lube their keyboard switches every six months. However, moderate users may extend it to a year.
If you are both a heavy gamer and a moderate user, you may stick to six to seven months before you re-lube your switches. It is worth noting that tactile keyboards may make it hard to determine whether you need to re-lube the switches. You may need to manually check the lube presence to apply it again after a year.
Tools Required to Lube Your Switches
To lube your switches the right way, you need a set of specific tools, to begin with. Here, we have gathered a list of all the tools and components you need to lube switches.
The first thing you need is a good lubricant. There are many options available in the market. While this may be true, you may not want to choose one blindly. Different switch types require unique lubes to function better. To help you choose the right lube, we have mentioned the different lube types for standard switches below.
Best Lube for Tactile Switches
Since tactile switches have a tactile bump underneath, you may opt for a less-viscous lube for the smooth functioning of keys. Most tactile keyboard users use Tribosys 3203 or Krytox 203 to lube switches. You can find them readily available in your nearby supermarket.
Best Lube for Linear Switches
Linear keys are softer, smoother, and bump-less. You may choose the right lube type for these switches carefully. The most common lube for linear switches is the Krytox 205g0. It offers optimal lubrication for a fast and smooth keyboard operation.
Best Lube for Clicky Switches
Clicky switches can be tricky to handle when it comes to lubing. You need a lube that does the job without disturbing the clicky sound of the switches. Since lubrication helps to reduce friction and (the resulting) sounds, choosing a suitable lube for clicky switches can be difficult. Most users opt for Krytox 105 low-viscosity lube for their clicky switches.
Small Paint Brush
You will need a small paint brush to apply the lube inside the switches. One of the challenges users face while applying lube on the switches is the brush size. While some opt for smaller brushes, others go for larger ones to lube switches. If you wonder which size works the best, you may want to try the size #2 brush. It can easily fit into the narrow spots around the keys.
Switch Opener or Flathead Screwdriver
The switch opener helps to unmount the keys after removing them from the keyboard top. You can also use a flathead screwdriver to open the switches. A vital tip to remember while opening the switches using a screwdriver is to be as gentle with the plastic as possible. You may not want to break the switches off your keyboard.
Soldering Tools or Switch Puller
This is the tricky part. You may want to check whether your keyboard switches are soldered to the PCB or not. If not, you can easily remove them using a switch puller. On the flip side, you may need a soldering iron to remove the switches from the PCB assembly. Once you apply the lube, you can solder the switches back to the PCB.
Please note that desoldering and soldering the switches back can be tricky. You must solder the right points to avoid problems with your keyboard’s functioning.
Nobody likes to get their hands sticky with the lube. To avoid getting in contact, you must have a pair of tweezers to pick up the minor components of the switch. The tweezers may also come in handy while placing the keys back.
On top of everything, you must have a clean workstation to lube keyboard switches. Many users overlook the importance of a clean working space while using lube for switches. If you work on a dusty surface, the dust may come in contact with the lube applied on the switches, leading to a clogged operation.
An ideal workspace to lube your switches is a wide space with drawers to keep the small components when disassembled.
Anatomy of a Switch
Wondering what might be the anatomy of a switch? We have broken down the different parts of a typical mechanical switch for your ease.
Spring and Switch
A typical mechanical keyboard switch consists of a spring and a switch. A user needs to apply force on the keys to initiate actuation. The force required for actuation may vary for different switch types.
Underneath the switches, you can find a plate to hold the switches in place. The plate also plays an influential role in aligning the switches with the PCB.
The plate (holding the switches) sets above the PCB of the keyboard. PCBs or printed circuit boards are common in compact devices to regulate voltage function. For accurate functioning of the keyboard, it is vital to connect the keyboard switches to the PCB assembly.
A plastic top covers each switch to make it functional. You may also refer to them as keycaps. The keycaps allow users to operate different switches on the keyboard efficiently.
All these components combine to make a mechanical keyboard switch. You can also find the anatomy of a mechanical keyboard by searching online.
How to Lube Your Switches: 9 Easy-To-Follow Steps
Here are the nine easy steps to lube your mechanical switches correctly.
Remove the Switches from Your Keyboard
In the first step, you need to remove the switches from the keyboard top. You may use a pair of tweezers to take off the switch tops.
Pull Apart the Switch
Once you remove the top, you can pull the switch apart from the cap using a switch opener. You must apply a gentle force to separate the two components.
Lubricate the Lower Housing
Apply the lube inside the lower housing gently. You may want to avoid lube contact with the metal to save your switch from damage.
Lubricate the Spring
After applying lube inside the lower housing, you can move on to lubricating the spring. Since the function of a key depends on the spring, you must opt for a gentle approach to avoid breaking the spring.
Lubricating the Stem
In this step, you can apply lube to the stem of the switch. You can use your paintbrush to apply lube on the rails and stem legs. It is important to remember that tactile switches may lose their tactical bump if you apply the lube on the legs. However, other switch types are relatively safer to lube in this regard.
Lubricate the Upper Housing
You may apply the lube to the section where the stem comes in contact with the upper housing. By using a gentle force, you can apply the lube with precision.
Reassemble the Switch
After lubricating different parts of the switch, you can reassemble the switch. While doing so, you must be careful about bending the crosspoint contacts. One of the best ways is to make a video while removing the switches to remember how to fit it back the same way. Once the upper housing and lower housings snap together, you are good to go.
Reinstall the Switches Onto the Keyboard
You can reinstall the switches on your keyboard by pressing them or soldering them in position, depending on their type.
Plug In Keyboard and Test Your Switches
You may wait a few minutes before connecting your keyboard to your computer. Once connected, you can check all the keys to test their performance.
Common Issues With Newly Lubricated Switches
Reassembling the switches may be a sigh of relief for you. However, there are a few issues that you may face in the post-lubrication phase.
Mushy keys can result from applying too much lube to the switches. You can take the mushy keys off and wipe the excess lube to resolve the issue.
Tactile switches may lose their tactility after lubrication. You can wipe off the lube from the stem’s legs and rails to restore the tactility of your tactile switches.
No Key Response
If one or more keys fail to actuate, you may risk damaging your PCB. You may replace one of the function keys with the faulty ones to check if it actuates. If yes, your PCB is safe. You may check the pins to straighten them. Generally, setting the pins right resolves the problem.
Lost the smoothness? You might have missed some areas while lubing the switches. In such cases, removing the keys and applying the lube again can increase the smoothness of your switches.
Where to Get Switches Pre-Lubed?
Finding pre-lubed switches can be frustrating. Most manufacturers sell mechanical switches without pre-lubing. You may want to lube them yourself. While this may be true, some brands, including Gateron and Cherry, offer pre-lubed mechanical switches.
You can check their websites to find your desired mechanical keyboard with pre-lubed switches.
How to Lube Switches Without Desoldering?
Desoldering and soldering switches may not be feasible for everyone. If you wonder whether it is hard to lube switches without desoldering them, the answer is no. You can use the following two methods to lube your mechanical switches without desoldering.
The Push-Stem Technique
In this method, you can use a piece of plastic to apply lube inside the switch. You can slide the piece between the stem and upper housing of the switch to lube it without desoldering it.
The Spray Lube Method
The spray lube method involves using a spray lube to apply lube on the switches. You can simply remove the tops and spray the lube inside the switches. You may wipe off the excess spray using a piece of cloth.
Can You Use Oil or Vaseline to Lube Switches?
Using lubes like vaseline or oil can damage your keyboard switches over time. While it may work well for some time, vaseline or oil may degrade the plastic over the months. It is best to use the recommended lubes for mechanical switches.
Can You Lube Switches With Water?
You can find many water-based lubes on the market. However, using them on switches can increase the risk of leakage into the PCB. To avoid damaging your keyboard, you may opt for non-water lubes.
If you want to find out how to lube keyboard switches, we have mentioned all the details above to help you choose the right lube and apply it. How often you lube keyboard switches depends on your usage. While this may be correct, It is vital to lube switches for proper functioning over the years.
Do I need to lube my switches?
Yes, lubing your switches can reduce the friction and sound of your mechanical keyboard. The lube also saves your switches from early degrading.
How long does the lube last in switches?
Typically, the lube wears off after a year or two, depending on your keyboard usage. If you use your keyboard quite frequently, you may re-lube the switches after six to seven months.
What tools do you need to lubricate your switches?
You need a lubricant, small paintbrush, switch opener, soldering iron, tweezers, and a clean workstation to lube your mechanical switches.
How often should you lubricate your switches?
How often you should lubricate your switches depends on your keyboard usage. If you are a moderate user, you may want to re-lube the keys after a year or two. Frequent users may re-lube the switches after six to seven months.
Should I lube clicky switches?
Do I lube clicky switches? The answer to this question is yes. You may lube your clicky switches using the recommended lube type.
What kind of switches should I lube?
Using the recommended lube for each type, you can lube tactical, clicky, and linear switches.