Raise your hand if you can’t stop eating at your desk. (Over half of us here are guilty of that crime.) Over time, dust accumulates. Oils accumulate. Cheetos powder and Doritos flakes and Oreo crumbs accumulate. Before you know it, there’s enough gunk and goo under your keyboard keys to give birth to another Flubber.
And you haven’t got the most delicate of movements, so you don’t trust yourself to pop off the keys for a good cleaning–that is, without breaking anything. (We feel you.) So we came up with a list of easier, less risky keyboard cleaning alternatives and a guide to help you figure out which cleaner is right for you.
How to Choose a Keyboard Cleaner – Buying Guide
Your keyboard isn’t getting any cleaner as you’re reading this. In fact, it’s probably getting dirtier. So let’s get to it and talk about what cleaner will work best for you.
The Type of Cleaner Depends on How Dirty Your Keys Are
Depending on how bad the mess under your keys is, you’ll have to use one of four main types of cleaners: goo, brushes, blowers, and hand-held vacuums. You can also use any two or three in conjunction–attacking your keyboard with blowers first to dislodge dirt, for example, and then using slime to clean up any remains.
To Pick Up Moderate Amounts of Gunk: Brushes and Goo
If you are looking to clean your keys before they become a hot sticky mess, then you can go for a goo or brush cleaner. Neither have the power to dislodge anything that’s stuck deep or firmly underneath your keys; however, both are quick and easy to use.
Brushes are good for daily maintenance, picking out any dust or particles that get into your keys before they have a chance to build up. With brushes, though, you want to make sure the bristles aren’t too rough or stiff, or you could the run the risk of scratching your keys.
Goo’s great because it traps all the debris inside itself–so you don’t need to flick things out of your keyboard only to have to flick them off your desk. Just know that once it’s saturated with gunk, you’ll have to toss the slime and buy a new pack.
To Dislodge Deep-Set Stuff: Hand-Held Vacuums and Blowers
With a powerful blast of air, you can dislodge gunk from deep within the labyrinth of your keys. For that, there are blowers powered by electric motors. They’re powerful–to the point that you may want to use them outside, with a pair of safety goggles and a mask to protect you from the dust and chip bits that are going to be peppering your face.
Though more expensive, we do recommend electric blowers over cans of compressed air, especially if you’re concerned about the environment. Most of these cans utilize hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are a potent greenhouse gas. Tetrafluoroethane, a common HFC, has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1,200, whereas CO2 has a GWP of 1.
Vacuums are good because they suck dust up instead of poofing them back into the air. However, before use, make sure your keyboard doesn’t have any keys that pop off easily. Vacuums are also shunned because they run up the risk of electrostatic discharge (ESD), which can zap your electronics. However, most keyboards don’t have many sensitive components, so it’s not as big of an issue.
To Get into Nooks and Crannies: Does the Cleaner Have Customizable Parts?
Many brushes come in sets or at least with multiple tips. These include big, soft, round brushes for quick dusting and fine points for more precise work. Some may even have silicone or rubber scrapers for more stubborn gunk.
Vacuums and air blowers may also come with different nozzles–so you can deliver both big powerful blasts and smaller, more concentrated gusts between keys.
For Extra Piece of Mind, Make Sure it Disinfects
You may have blown away the visible gunk. But, as it is with most things, the biggest danger is what you can’t see–the germs and bacteria that are still lurking between the keys.
Normally, we’d just recommend you finish up the job with Lysol or Clorox wipes. However, if you want to save yourself some trouble, then look for cleaners that have sterilizing agents. Alcohols such as ethanol are popular and effective disinfectants.
Top 10 Best Keyboard Cleaners to Buy Online
Have you got an idea of what you’re looking for? Because it’s time to jump into ten cleaners we think will do a pretty decent job ridding your keyboard of gunk.
10. USHONK USB Mini Vacuum Cleaner
A Light, USB-Rechargeable Vacuum for Regular Maintenance
This vacuum is made specifically for small jobs–sucking the eraser shavings off your desk or the crumbs out of your laptop keyboard. Therefore, suction is quite weak, and it won’t be able to get anything deeply embedded. But it’s good for daily maintenance, and it won’t accidentally pop any keys off the board.
It’s USB-rechargeable and comes with two filters. Because the vacuum is weak, you have to keep the filters spotless for it to really work. There’s also two nozzles–a normal flat nozzle for inhaling things off the surface of your keyboard and desk, as well as a brush nozzle for cleaning up dust and dislodging small debris from around the keys.
9. ieGeek Magic PC Laptop Computer Keyboard Cleaner Set
Flexible Goo for Quick Touch-ups
The consistency is a little watery. It picks up dust and looser debris that line shallow keys but isn’t as effective at reaching down under tall keys. Someone found that using an unbent paperclip to drag the goo between the keys is rather effective–just be careful not to tear off any small bits and get them stuck.
Leave it on your keyboard too long, and it’ll melt into a puddle of goo. The same goes for when you don’t seal the bag up correctly or otherwise expose the slime to air for too long. One pack will last you three or four uses.
8. APBFH 6 in 1 Plastic Anti-Static Cleaning Keyboard Brush Kit
Stiff Bristles for Quickly Scraping off the Gunk Lodged Between Tall Keys
These bristles are pretty stiff, so they do scrub off gunk and old, caked-on dust. They’re especially good for scraping off the sides of tall keys. However, these brushes aren’t very effective on keys that are shallow or set close together. And you might leave behind some scratches.
You can use the finer-point brushes to root around corners, and you can run the long, narrow brushes between the rows to quickly dislodge food and dirt. And you can use them almost anywhere around the house–on a whole host of electronics, in the grouts between tiles, on your coffee maker. Our biggest complaint, actually, is with the packaging; it’s just a normal zip-lock bag.
7. Metro Vacuum MDV-1BA DataVac Pro 4.5 Computer Vac/Blower
Gentle yet Effective Vacuum-Blower Combo for Delicate Electronics
Get this if you want to really pamper your keyboard. This cleaner both blows and sucks–in a good way. It comes with a pin-point nozzle, which you can use to blast air and particles stuck in between your keys. Then you can use the bristle brush and the thin hose nozzle on the vacuum setting to pick up the pieces.
While this may not be a leaf-blower, it is certainly enough to get clouds of dust out of computers and keyboards, so use this outside. The vacuum, likewise, is not that strong, which actually makes it well-suited for electronics with fragile components.
6. MECO Keyboard Cleaner with Cleaning Gel
Ideal for Daily Clean-ups: Clears away the Dust and Small Debris around Your Workspace
This is a small, cheap vacuum you can keep around your workspace. It comes with a USB charger and two nozzles–a flat one that will dig into corners and sweep horizontally along your keys, and a bristle brush that will flick out and inhale dust and hair.
Even with daily use, a charge can last at least a week, though as battery levels drop, suction power will also weaken. Actually, it’s not super powerful to begin with; it won’t pick up, say, clods of dirt or any solid pieces of gunk. You can use the included goo for bigger debris, as long as it’s not caked onto your keyboard.
5. PANDACASHBACK Laptop Cleaner Brush for Laptop Screen and Keyboard
Keeps Both the Keyboard and Screen of Your Laptop Debris-Free on Your Travels
This one’s good for on-the-go cleanups. The bristles keep debris from building up between your keys when you’re traveling. And the soft scraper can be used on your monitor and around the keys–on the touchpad for example–to wipe away dust and fingerprints.
Don’t think you can turn to this for all your cleaning needs, though, as it’s meant to help you maintain your laptop between deep cleanings. The brush is long, perfect for brushing over the keys and in between the horizontal rows. However, it doesn’t give you much control over more precise clean-ups.
4. EasyGo CompuCleaner 2.0
Cost-Effective Blower with Two Powerful Speed Settings
This blower comes with three nozzles, none of which are particularly small. It means you may have to pry on the keys a bit to thoroughly clean underneath. However, the gusts that come out are strong enough to dislodge most particles–and blow all your papers off your desk. (We recommend not using this in the office.) It has two speed settings.
You power the motor with a nine-foot cord. You do have to continually press the toggle to use the blower, and that can tire your hands out after a while. There’s a filter at the bottom that also gathers dust quite easily and will need frequent cleanings, but the product itself should last you a while.
3. OXO Good Grips Electronics Cleaning Brush
Silicone End for Scraping off Gunk and Dirt; Soft Brush for Attracting out Hair and Dust
Nothing allows you to be so precise as a pen or pencil, the tools of an artist. So it makes sense that when you need to reach into the tiny crevices on your keyboard, a brush like this would offer you the most control. It’s got a silicone wiper on one end, which you can use to scrub away gunk without scratching your electronics. The tip is chiseled–much like that of a highlighter–making it easier to dig around keys.
The bristles are soft–wiping away dust, hair, and other small particles, again, without causing any damage. They’re retractable, too, so they won’t get frayed or bent when not in use. That also means you can stuff the brush into your pocket or bag and bring it anywhere.
2. Metro Vacuum ED500 DataVac Electric Blower Duster
Extremely Powerful Gusts of Air and an Expansive Set of Nozzles
Look into this one if you have other expensive tech equipment you need to clean (or if you just really, really love your keyboard). It’s easily more powerful than a can of compressed air, blowing computer mice, notebooks, and lamp stands right off your desk. That’s just one of the reasons you want to use this outside.
The other reason is it’s going to blow loads and loads of dust out of crevices you didn’t even know existed. You do have to keep it plugged in, but the cord is over ten feet long. And while the price tag is hefty, this thing lasts for years. It also comes with a set of nozzles to give you huge, powerful blasts and more concentrated streams for hard-to-reach places.
1. Cyber Clean Home and Office
Disinfects with Ethanol and Picks up Dust and Loose Crumbs
The first ingredient is ethanol, no doubt there to eliminate germs. This goo picks up dust, hair, and crumbs and traps them forever in its gelatinous body. If you use it regularly, there’s a good chance you won’t need to turn to any other cleaners. This will survive months of weekly use, and the body turns green when it’s time for a replacement.
If, however, you don’t clean your keyboard regularly, don’t expect any miracles. You can’t use the slime with stains or anything that’s caked on. (Some people have used a toothpick to root around and kind of loosen things, before finishing up with the goo.) It also leaves a bit of residue on your keyboard–as well as a lingering citrusy scent.
Most of us live at our desks, our hands glued to our keyboards. So we owe it to ourselves to keep the keys clean. While you may still need to pry apart and soak your keyboard for a thorough cleaning, if you use the tools above to regularly maintain your workspace, you’ll be set for a long time.
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