This manual will show you how to properly clean a mechanical keyboard after it has become sticky, dirty, or wet as a result of regular use or an accident.
What is a mechanical keyboard?
The term “mechanical keyboard” refers to a type of keyboard that uses mechanical, spring-activated switches.
A keyboard made of rubber membrane without any keycaps.
Unlike laptop keyboards with scissor switches or desktop keyboards with rubber membranes, a mechanical keyboard has individual keys and can be modified in any way you like.
What makes it “mechanical”?
It’s true that all keyboards use mechanical key presses, so what sets apart a mechanical keyboard? The spring-activated switch is the mechanical component we are referring to.
Simply put, switches (which are typically spring-activated) connect the keycap you press to the circuit board that ultimately converts your input into digital signals.
The switches in your mechanical keyboard are what make it feel and sound the way it does. Also, your keyboard wouldn’t function properly without them.
What is a mechanical keyboard used for?
Although a mechanical keyboard is most often associated with text entry, gaming, and programming, it can be used for any task that requires the use of a keyboard.
Why do people use mechanical keyboards?
There is no one reason why people prefer mechanical keyboards. They are used by some to increase their typing and gaming speeds. Some people who type quickly and frequently use them to avoid making accidental key presses. That distinctive tone and smooth texture appeal to a select few. Those are merely some examples! Some of the many others are as follows:
- Basically, I just want to feel the rush of childhood memory.
- for adding some levity and utility to an otherwise dull office environment.
- As a means of self-expression.
- With the intention of facilitating typing in dim conditions.
- Since you’re a part of such a vibrant and entertaining group of people.
Some or all of these may apply to you, but the primary advantage of mechanical keyboards over their non-mechanical counterparts is the greater variety of input methods available to you.
How do mechanical keyboards work?
When you press a key on a mechanical keyboard, the computer knows to register that action within the game, browser, or other application you have open.
The plastic piece that represents a number or letter, like “G,” that you press down with your finger is called a “keycap.”
The keycap is mounted to a switch, a mechanical component comprised of plastic, a metal spring, and metal electrical connectors. You’re actually pressing the switch when you press the keycap down. When the switch is depressed, an electrical circuit is completed between its internal connectors.
The keycap rests on the switch, and the switch rests on the circuit board, which acts as the brain and spinal column of the keyboard. Every keycap on the keyboard corresponds to a circuit on the board. Switches work because when their electrical connectors touch, they complete a circuit with the circuit board, which in turn notifies your computer that a circuit has been formed. The pressed circuit will be displayed on the screen.
Are mechanical keyboards loud?
If you make it so in your mind.
(Go to 6:45 for a solid listening sample)
You may have heard that using a mechanical keyboard is a surefire way to get your housemates to glare you into a fine dust because of how loud it is.
We need to correct the record.
Mechanical keyboards can be quite noisy, but this is not always the case. Like cars, you can personalize them to your heart’s content. Although the world of keyboards features both monster trucks and silent electric cars, the latter is much more common.
For more information on how to create a keyboard that works for you, check out our getting started guide.
Are mechanical keyboards expensive?
Once more, this is contingent upon your will.
You may think that a mechanical keyboard is out of your price range after reading about or watching videos of people who spent thousands of dollars on their setups.
That is completely not the case.
Prices for mechanical keyboards typically begin at $60. If you’re on a tighter budget, don’t worry; you can still put together a working keyboard by purchasing its individual components separately.
Are mechanical keyboards better for typing and gaming?
To type quickly and accurately, a mechanical keyboard is preferable because it eliminates the need to “bottom out” or press all the way to the keyboard. If you bottom out, you put your joints and fingers through unnecessary strain.
Keys on a mechanical keyboard need only be depressed halfway to send a signal to your computer, making for much faster and easier typing.
Fast-acting switches let you type more quickly and with less effort by instantly activating when you press a key.
You can also find programmable keyboards that let you change the layout from the standard QWERTY to something else entirely. You can speed up your workflow and your gaming setup by doing all of the above, which can save you time.
Are mechanical keyboards more ergonomic?
Yes, of course they can be.
Good posture and a healthy upper back are two of the many benefits of using a split keyboard. A split keyboard is a standard keyboard that has been physically divided in two. When you put that desk in two pieces, you can release tension in your upper back and let your shoulders drop.
You can avoid wrist pain from supination by tilting (or “tenting”) some split keyboards.
Ortholinear keyboards, like the split keyboards, are another option for reducing hand and wrist fatigue when typing. Ortholinear keyboards have a linear key layout as opposed to a staggered one, so your fingers don’t have to stretch as far or as unnaturally as they would with a standard keyboard.
Are mechanical keyboards always wired or can I get one with Bluetooth?
Even though most mechanical keyboards require a wired connection, some, like the Discord TKL Mechanical Keyboard, do support wireless connections via Bluetooth. Even 2.4Ghz wireless USB dongles are becoming more widely available.
Which parts of a mechanical keyboard can be customized?
The vast majority of them.
Switches, keycaps, and, if your keyboard has one, the detachable cable, are the most readily modifiable parts. Depending on the model, you can choose from a number of different frames or bodies, each with their own set of aesthetic options.
How many types of switches are there?
The most common types of switches fall into one of three categories. In a linear fashion, via touch, or with a click. When pressed, linear switches don’t make any noise and don’t have any sort of tactile bump. The tactile bump felt when pressing a tactile switch is barely audible. When pressed, clicky switches produce a distinct clicking sound and a slight physical bump.
We can’t possibly cover everything there is to know about switches in this introductory piece. For more information, please refer to our getting started guide.
Is there a difference between a mechanical keyboard and a gaming keyboard?
Unlike the clearly defined mechanical keyboard (a keyboard that employs mechanical switches), the gaming keyboard is open to interpretation.
Mechanical switches, rubber membranes, scissor switches, and optical switches are all viable options for a gaming keyboard’s input mechanism. In reality, any keyboard can be used for gaming, and thus any keyboard (even a really crappy one!) could be considered a gaming keyboard.
Some companies, marketers being marketers, will put the word “gaming” on a terrible keyboard in an effort to boost sales. Therefore, instead of looking for a “gaming keyboard,” you should look for a “mechanical gaming keyboard” or an “optical gaming keyboard.”
Is there a distinction to be made between a standard keyboard and a mechanical one designed specifically for gaming? It’s possible.
Like orangutans are a species of primates, a mechanical gaming keyboard can be thought of as a subset of the larger mechanical keyboard family.
There will be many similarities between a mechanical gaming keyboard and a regular mechanical keyboard designed for typing or programming, but there may also be some differences. Switch type, layout, programmability, and other factors can all vary by model.
Manufacturers often include extra features on gaming keyboards, some of which are useful, but many of which are not. Marketers are well aware that video games generate substantial revenue. Before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to do some homework and read some user reviews.
How long do mechanical keyboards last?
Anywhere from a year to several decades, depending on the durability of the parts.
The keyboard’s circuit board has a 50-70 year lifespan if kept dry and clean.
The durability of keycaps is determined by the plastic used to manufacture them. ABS plastic absorbs oils from your fingers over time, causing it to become shiny over time. Over time, a shiny patina will develop and obscure the lettering. While this won’t affect the keycap’s functionality, many keyboardists find the appearance to be unappealing.
The PBT plastic, on the other hand, doesn’t get shiny over time from finger oils, but it can be more expensive. PBT keycaps are designed to withstand heavy use and should last for decades without failure.
Cherry MX mechanical switches are rated for 50 million key presses, making them a reliable option for keyboards. They have an expected lifespan of 10–15 years under severe conditions of use. However, the typical rubber membrane keyboard can only withstand about 5 million key presses, or about two years of moderate use.
What do mechanical keyboards sound like?
Clink or clack?
Many people become interested in mechanical keyboards each year due to their distinctive sound. While using them, some people report feeling a pleasant tingling sensation that travels from the scalp to the upper spine (also known as “ASMR”). Examples of this can be found on the video-sharing website YouTube.
One of the most interesting aspects of the hobby is the sheer variety of possible keyboard sounds. That’s because the keycaps, switches, and even the case can all have an impact on the final tone of a keyboard, leading to a wide range of possible variations. As just one example, the sound quality of a case made of plastic, aluminum, or brass will vary.
Common keyboard adjectives like “thocky” and “clacky” only scratch the surface of the spectrum created by this vast array of keyboard sounds. Watching review videos or investing in a keycap switch tester are the best ways to learn more.
Which mechanical keyboard switch is the best for gaming?
Speed, linear, and tactile toggles.
The ideal gaming switch will have a fast actuation, a quick return, and be heavy enough to prevent accidental presses.
In your case, this could mean anything from a thin, linear switch to a chunky, tactile toggle that provides clear feedback. Even though they serve their purpose, clicky switches aren’t the best choice for games or chat applications that require frequent, rapid button presses unless you enjoy the accompanying noise.
Kailh Speed Switches are an option. Speed switches are more like hair triggers in that they activate sooner and faster than other switch types. The lighter springs and top locations of these switches make them more prone to accidental activation.
Which mechanical keyboard switch is the best for typing?
It’s possible that linear switches have the most promising future.
Just like the gaming analogy up top, this is a personal opinion, but it’s not without some solid reasoning behind it.
If you’re new to using a mechanical keyboard, I highly recommend starting with tactile switches, and in particular, switches with a lighter bump, which can be used in much the same way as a linear switch once you get used to them. This can help you get used to a “hovering” rather than a “bottoming out” actuation, which will prepare you for not bottoming out on linear switches.
Unlike gaming, which benefits from tactility bumps (see above), which can help with split-second decision-making, whatever helps prevent fatigue the most is the best for typing.
Clicky and tactile switches may give the impression of renewing your strength with each upstroke, but in reality they require more effort to operate and wear you out faster. However, using a keyboard with linear switches will reduce fatigue and allow you to type for longer. Bottoming out with any switch, including linear switches, is bad for ergonomics and fatigue.
The Best Ways to Clean a Mechanical Keyboard
From accidental spills to everyday dirt and dust, here are the best methods for restoring a mechanical keyboard to like-new condition.
Turn off your computer and remove the keyboard cautiously.
Flip your keyboard over, hold it firmly with one hand, and tap it with the other to remove any crumbs or dust.
If you’re afraid of making a mess in your workspace, you could do this over the sink or outside.
The best way to clean dust from under your mechanical keyboard’s keys is with a compressed air device, such as an air gun.
You can also use a handheld vacuum cleaner to clean the keyboard. Additionally, most major electronics retailers stock specialized keyboard vacuums.
Utilize a dry cloth to soak up any liquid that may have spilled onto your keyboard, whether it be water, coffee, or another substance. Apply moisture with a gentle dabbing motion and let sit for a few seconds.
If you must use a paper towel, don’t make any sweeping motions, as this can cause paper fibers to get stuck in the crevices of the keyboard.
Once you’ve soaked up as much liquid as possible, you should let the keyboard air dry for two days upside down over a bucket or sink. In addition, take the keys out of the keyboard right away to avoid drying sticky substances there.
You shouldn’t put the keyboard in a damp space like the bathroom or the laundry.
Wipe the keyboard with a damp cloth.
Cleaning grime off of mechanical keyboards is a breeze with a microfiber cloth.
An all-purpose cleaner sprayed onto a cleaning cloth can help neutralize whatever is stuck to the keys of a sticky keyboard.
Bathroom cleaners tend to be harsh, so it’s best to steer clear of using those. In addition to erasing the key labels, these can also discolor the keyboard itself.
A good option is keyboard cleaning gel. Because of its ability to take on the form of a keyboard, cleaning gel can be an efficient tool for keeping a mechanical keyboard squeaky-clean where a cloth can’t go.
Remove each keycap and clean it separately. A keycap puller tool can be used to remove each keycap from a mechanical keyboard if it is extremely sticky or dirty, allowing you to clean the keys one at a time. While the keycaps are off, you can clean the keyboard base with a pipe cleaner or a cloth.
Most places selling electronic goods on the internet will sell you a keycap puller for a reasonable price.
How Do You Clean Keycaps?
Because they are plastic instead of metal, keycaps are much easier to clean than the mechanical keyboard’s chassis.
Others prefer to soak their keycaps in a bowl of soapy water before washing them with dishwashing liquid and a brush. Wipe the keys down with a damp cloth or paper towel, but avoid using any cleaning liquids that contain acids or bleach, as doing so could alter the color of the keys and wipe out the lettering.
Taking a picture of your keyboard’s layout before removing the keycaps will help you put them back in the right spots once you’ve cleaned them.
If you’ve been cleaning your keycaps, you should wait at least two days before reattaching them to the keyboard’s base because the plastic can absorb moisture and become damaged if exposed to it.
Can I Wash a Mechanical Keyboard With Water?
Keycaps and the exterior of the keyboard base can be cleaned with a damp cloth to remove sticky residue and grime, but the interior and any exposed electrical parts should not be cleaned in this way.
It’s best to use dry methods like an air gun, vacuum cleaner, pipe cleaner, cloth, or cleaning gel on a keyboard, even if it claims to be water resistant or water proof.
How Do You Clean a Sticky Mechanical Keyboard?
It is recommended to use a damp microfiber cloth, regular cloth, or cleaning wipe to remove sticky residue from a mechanical keyboard. No matter the cloth, only a small amount of cleaning agent should be applied, and you should avoid using brands that contain acid or bleach.
Natural cleaning liquids and wet wipes containing fruit oils should be avoided because they often leave surfaces sticky.
In the same way, a clean sponge can help remove sticky keyboard keys. To avoid leaving tiny bits of paper in the spaces between and under the keycaps, avoid using a paper towel.
How Often Should You Clean Your Mechanical Keyboard?
Keeping your mechanical keyboard clean from germs and bacteria requires nothing more than a weekly wipe down with a cloth and some mild cleaning liquid. Sharing a computer with other people, even close ones, makes this a necessity.
How often, how dirty, and for how long you give yourself to give your mechanical keyboard a thorough cleaning are all factors. The average computer owner probably doesn’t have the time or patience to remove all of the keycaps once a month and clean them and the base.
You should try to find a few minutes once a week to give your mechanical keyboard a quick surface clean to kill germs, even if a thorough cleaning is too much of a hassle for you to do on a regular basis.
As an alternative to promising yourself that you’ll clean your mechanical keyboard from top to bottom every New Year, you could instead resolve to do so once a year, at the start of the calendar year, and then again when you find yourself with some free time several months into the year. It’s preferable if you can clean it more frequently than this.
How do I clean mechanical keyboard switches?
Following the steps above to remove the keycaps, clean the area around the switches with a brush or vacuum attachment. Use a cotton swab or damp cloth to carefully wipe away any liquid residue from the switches if any got in there. Use dish soap or rubbing alcohol to dampen the cloth or cotton swab if the area is particularly sticky.
How do I deep clean a mechanical keyboard?
Cleaning a mechanical keyboard is as simple as wiping it down with a microfiber cloth and some compressed air, just like you would do with a laptop keyboard. Dismantle the keyboard, soak the keycaps, wipe the plate, and brush and sweep around the switches for a thorough cleaning.
Very novel and intriguing things can be discovered about keyboards, and they provide a wealth of material for researchers to delve into. If you want to learn more about mechanical keyboards, have a look at some of our other tutorials.
We’ve done our best to address your most pressing keyboard concerns. If you are looking for more information, feel free to browse our other posts. Please let us know if you find any inaccuracies or omissions in this article.