How to Clean a Greasy Keyboard

Last Updated: June 29, 2023By
Close up of mechanical keyboard 1

Keyboard hygiene is often overlooked, despite it being a critical component of our daily computer usage. Grease accumulation is a common issue, with keyboards sometimes serving as a reservoir for leftover food particles, oils from our fingers, and other unwelcome substances.

This build-up not only affects the keyboard’s aesthetic appearance, but can also interfere with its function and longevity.

Through this comprehensive guide, we aim to provide you with practical solutions to tackle a greasy keyboard. Our step-by-step walkthrough will cover everything from initial preparations to regular maintenance, ensuring your keyboard remains clean, efficient, and ready to assist you in your everyday digital needs. 

Understanding the Sources of Keyboard Grease

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to comprehend where the grease on your keyboard is originating from. Identifying the source can help tailor the cleaning method and preventive measures.

Eating Habits Near Computers

One of the most common sources of keyboard grease is our habit of eating near our computers. Whether you’re munching on a sandwich while working from home or grabbing a quick snack during an intense gaming session, food particles and oils can easily transfer from your hands onto your keyboard.

This, over time, can result in a build-up of grease and debris that compromises your keyboard’s cleanliness.

Natural Oils from Hands

It may not seem like it, but our hands produce natural oils throughout the day. These oils, while helpful in maintaining skin health, can be a source of greasiness for our keyboards.

As we type, these oils transfer onto the keys, leading to a slow but steady accumulation of grease. The problem can be exacerbated if you frequently use your keyboard immediately after applying hand creams or lotions.

Lack of Regular Cleaning

Despite the regular use keyboards get, they’re often overlooked in our cleaning routines. As a result, the oils and particles mentioned above get the chance to build up over time, leading to a visibly greasy and unappealing keyboard.

Regular cleaning is the key to preventing this buildup and maintaining a clean, high-functioning keyboard.

By understanding these common sources of keyboard grease, we can adopt better habits and regular cleaning routines to keep our keyboards in the best possible condition.

Initial Preparations

As with any task, the first step towards cleaning a greasy keyboard is making the necessary preparations. This stage involves some critical steps that ensure both your safety and the efficiency of the cleaning process.

Disconnecting the Keyboard

Safety comes first when dealing with electronic devices. Before starting the cleaning process, it’s important to disconnect your keyboard.

If it’s a wired keyboard, unplug it from the computer. If it’s wireless, turn off the power. This precaution not only protects you, but it also safeguards the keyboard from potential damage due to accidental key presses or moisture ingress.

Understanding Your Keyboard’s Structure

It is crucial to familiarize yourself with your keyboard’s structure. Keyboards often vary in design based on the manufacturer or model.

Know how to safely remove and replace keys if necessary. Some keyboards may come with a manual that provides guidance on this. For others, you might need to refer to online resources. Remember: applying excessive force can damage the keys, so it’s essential to proceed with caution.

Gathering Cleaning Materials

Before diving into the cleaning process, gather all the necessary materials. This will help the process go smoothly and efficiently. Commonly used items for cleaning a greasy keyboard include:

  1. Microfiber cloths
  2. Isopropyl alcohol (70% concentration is usually safe and effective)
  3. Cotton swabs
  4. Compressed air can
  5. Mild dish soap

Remember, it’s best to use products that are specifically designed for electronics to avoid any potential damage.

By ensuring you’ve completed these initial preparations, you set the stage for a successful and safe keyboard cleaning process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Greasy Keyboard

Once your initial preparations are complete, it’s time to get into the heart of the process: cleaning your keyboard.

Preliminary Surface Cleaning

Before diving into a deep clean, it’s essential to start with a preliminary surface cleaning.

  1. Shaking Out Loose Debris: Hold your keyboard upside down and gently shake it to remove any loose debris. You can also tap the back lightly to help dislodge particles stuck between the keys.
  1. Using Compressed Air: Use a can of compressed air to blow out any stubborn dust or debris that didn’t come out during the shaking process. Angle the nozzle and work in a pattern to ensure you cover all areas.

Detailed Cleaning

Once the surface dirt is cleared, you can move on to more detailed cleaning.

  1. Removing Keys Safely: If your keyboard design allows, carefully remove the keys. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or consult online guides to avoid damaging your keyboard. Arrange the keys as you remove them to make the reassembly process easier.
  1. Cleaning Keys and Keyboard Base: Use a microfiber cloth lightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol to clean the keys and the keyboard base. For hard-to-reach areas, use a cotton swab. Remember, the cloth or swab should be damp, not soaking wet.

Dealing with Stubborn Grease

Close up of RGB keyboard

Sometimes, simple cleaning may not be enough for stubborn grease spots.

  1. Appropriate Cleaning Solutions: For stubborn grease, a solution of mild dish soap and warm water can be effective. Use a cloth or a soft brush to gently scrub the keys.
  1. Techniques to Avoid Damaging the Keyboard: When dealing with stubborn grease, ensure you don’t apply too much pressure or use abrasive tools that can damage the keys. Also, be sure to thoroughly dry all components to prevent moisture damage.

Reassembling and Testing the Keyboard

Once all the components are dry, reassemble the keyboard following your reference guide. Reconnect or power on your keyboard and test all keys to ensure they are functioning correctly.

This step-by-step guide, when followed carefully, should help you thoroughly clean a greasy keyboard and restore its original condition.

Regular Keyboard Maintenance to Avoid Grease Build-Up

Cleaning a greasy keyboard is just part of the process. To ensure it stays clean and functions optimally over time, regular maintenance is critical.

This section outlines how you can incorporate regular keyboard cleaning into your routine and other practices to prevent grease build-up.

Weekly Routine Cleaning

To prevent grease and dirt from accumulating over time, incorporate a simple cleaning routine into your weekly schedule. This doesn’t have to be as thorough as a deep clean but should focus on surface cleaning.

Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the keys and a can of compressed air to dislodge any particles trapped between the keys. Regular cleaning will significantly reduce the need for more extensive, time-consuming cleanups.

Proper Hand Hygiene

Practicing good hand hygiene is another important step in maintaining your keyboard’s cleanliness. Remember to wash your hands before using your keyboard, especially after eating or applying lotions.

The less grease and dirt your hands carry, the less transfers onto your keyboard.

Setting Boundaries for Eating and Drinking Near Your Keyboard

It might be hard to resist, but try to avoid eating meals or snacks near your computer. Food crumbs and drink spills are common causes of dirty and malfunctioning keyboards.

By setting boundaries for where you eat and drink, you can significantly reduce the risk of food particles and liquid infiltrating your keyboard.

Adopting these regular maintenance habits will not only enhance the lifespan of your keyboard but also provide a cleaner and more pleasant user experience. Keeping a keyboard clean might seem like a small detail, but it can make a big difference in your overall computing experience.

Special Considerations

The cleaning process is not one-size-fits-all. There may be special considerations based on the type of keyboard you own or other unique situations.

Dealing with Different Keyboard Types

Keyboards come in various designs and styles, such as mechanical, membrane, and chiclet. Each type may require slightly different cleaning techniques.

For instance, mechanical keyboards often have removable keys that can be individually cleaned, whereas chiclet keyboards typically need more delicate care. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines when dealing with different keyboard types.

Cleaning Wireless and Laptop Keyboards

Wireless keyboards and laptop keyboards require extra caution during the cleaning process due to their integrated electronic components. Always ensure the device is switched off and, in the case of laptops, unplugged.

Avoid using excess moisture and be extra careful when considering removing keys, as laptop keyboards often have a different mechanism compared to standard keyboards.

Considerations for Vintage or Delicate Keyboards

Vintage or delicate keyboards, like those found on typewriters or rare computer models, may need specialized cleaning methods. In some cases, it might be advisable to seek professional help to avoid accidental damage. If you choose to clean it yourself, proceed with extreme caution and use minimal moisture.

These special considerations are crucial to remember as they help ensure that the cleaning process is suitable and safe for your specific keyboard type. Always prioritize the integrity and functionality of your keyboard when deciding on the appropriate cleaning method.


To sum up, keyboard cleanliness is a pivotal aspect of our digital lives that often goes unnoticed. Maintaining a clean keyboard is not only vital for hygiene but also for the device’s longevity and functionality.

By understanding the common sources of keyboard grease and implementing a comprehensive cleaning process, we can effectively deal with a greasy keyboard.

The initial preparation phase, involving disconnecting the keyboard, understanding its structure, and gathering necessary cleaning materials, sets the stage for a safe and efficient cleaning process. Following the step-by-step guide allows for effective removal of grease and debris, even in the hard-to-reach places.

Regular maintenance habits, including weekly surface cleaning, maintaining good hand hygiene, and setting boundaries for eating and drinking near your computer, can significantly reduce the risk of grease build-up. At the same time, special considerations remind us to adapt our cleaning methods to different keyboard types and situations.

By integrating these practices into our routine, we can ensure our keyboards remain clean, leading to a more satisfying and efficient typing experience. Let’s make greasy keyboards a thing of the past and pave the way for a cleaner and healthier digital environment.