Maintenance and Removing Keycaps
Every once in a while you may want to clean your keyboard. There are many ways of doing this, and can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on how much dirt you're trying to get out of it and exactly what needs to be cleaned. If you've just spilled a can of Pepsi on your board and don't know what to do, you've come to the right place.
A good PC tool for keyboard and general PC cleaning is the DataVac as it can replace canned air and compressors.
Before you try to clean the board, we suggest removing the keycaps. The safe and reliable way to do this is to invest in a wire keycap puller, they are much easier to use on various keycap sizes than the plastic ring pullers and a lot less likely to damage a switch than using a screwdriver or coin.
First, remove the small keycaps such as the alphanumeric ones. To do this simply grab two diagonal corners of the keycap with the wire keycap puller and pull directly up whilst holding the board down.
Then, to remove larger keycaps with Cherry stabilisers, use the same technique as with the smaller keycaps.
To remove larger keycaps with Costar stabilisers (wire stabilisers hooking onto the keycap), hook the keycap puller under one side, then very carefully lift straight up, the keycap should now be free to wobble about (if not repeat the process on the other side). Once the keycap is free to wobble around, push it to one side and try to lift one side of the keycap off the metal hook as seen below.
Keyboards can get dirty pretty quickly. I mean, let's be honest here; it's not like most of us actually wash our hands every single time we're about to sit down at the PC. And on top of that there's always dust and hair that can fall in-between the keys. So it's always good to give your board a quick cleaning every week or two.
- Use canned air (or an air compressor if you don't care for convenience) to blow off any loose dust or dirt.
- Wipe the keytops and casing down with a clean cloth, dampened with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Pay extra attention to any keys that you might be using the most frequently, such as WASD. Note: On Filcos, use water instead of Alcohol. Filcos have a special coating on them that gets ruined if you use it.
- If you're a heavy smoker and the casing seems to be yellowing, wipe it down with Windex.
Doing these things on a regular basis will keep your board looking great.
If you've just gotten a used keyboard off of ebay that looks like it was used at a mechanic shop, or just spilled your drink right into it, your board needs a deep cleaning. If you do ever spill anything into it, make sure you clean it immediately. The longer you wait, the worse the cleanup is going to be - and may end up being next to impossible.
- Take the keycaps off of the switches.
- Open up the casing and take the PCB/membranes out. Each keyboard is different, but normally there's a combination of both screws underneath the board and tabs on the sides holding the top and bottom pieces together.
- If you don't have a dishwasher or prefer not to use it, put both the keycaps and casing in a bath of warm water and dish soap, and let them soak for at least a good 30 minutes.
- The process for cleaning off the circuitry varies depending on what sort of switches you have:
- Cherry, Alps, and other similar switches: Place the entire PCB+switch assembly into a container of distilled water. Shake the board around vigorously so that the water can clean out the inside of the switches as well. To dry it out, shake it until you no longer hear any water stuck inside the switches. Then set it either on it's side or upside down to dry. Using a blow dryer to dry it is safe as long as you don't stick to one spot for too long, and canned air can help get the water out of the switches very quickly.
- Membrane boards, including rubber domes and Buckling Springs: Separate the layers of membranes, and wipe them down with a damp cloth (distilled water only), and then again with a dry cloth. If the layers are fastened together, dip them into distilled water and flex and shake them around until they are as clean as they can get, then flap them around to get the water out. You may also be able to slip a cloth or paper towel in between them to dry them, but remember to check for any lint that gets stuck. Rubber domes should only be rinsed using distilled water at or close to room temperature (give or take a few degrees) - anything too hot or too cold can permanently alter their feel. The springs, hammers, steel plate, and plastic cover of Buckling Springs shouldn't need more than a quick rinse or wipe-down, but you can always use soap or isopropyl alcohol on them if they need it.
- Rubber Dome on PCB, such as Topre: Rinse the domes in distilled water at or close to room temperature, rubbing with your fingers if anything is stuck badly to them. If it's a Topre capacitive board, the springs can be cleaned the same way or with a light concentration of dish soap or isopropyl alcohol. Wipe the PCB down with a cloth dampened with distilled water.
- Whatever sort of internals your keyboard has, put them aside to dry at least overnight. If there were any ICs or other surface-mount electrical components that you had to get wet, a good way to speed up the process significantly is to use canned air to blow the water out from under them.
- By the time you're done with the internals, the casing and keycaps should be ready. When taking them out of the dishwasher or soap bath, take them out and dry them with a towel one by one. If there is still any amount of dirt on them, rub them down with isopropyl alcohol and/or Windex. Isopropyl normally works better, but Windex gets certain things out without any effort that the dish soap may not have caught in a still bath, such as cigarette smoke residue.
- Once you're absolutely positive that everything's dry, put it all back together.