Need an Easier Way to Clean your Keyboard? Try the Dishwasher!

I’ve always been stumped as to how to best clean filthy keyboards. I mean the nastiest of the nasty – grime, gunk, sweat, and plenty of food in between the keys. I’ve gone from using compressed air to my beloved air compressor, and while they do a decent job for 80% of the largest buildup that ends up inside keyboards, cosmetic cleaning is a whole other story.

For years I’ve heard what I thought was a complete urban legend: that dishwashers could effectively clean out keyboards without doing any damage. But that’s a scary proposal in many ways. What about the functionality of the keys after a wash? Won’t the internal wiring that passes data through to the computer get damaged? Will all of the plungers/hinges/mechanics still work after a dousing?

Keyboards not only survive the dishwasher – but they look better than ever after a good spincycle!
Keyboards not only survive the dishwasher – but they look better than ever after a good spincycle!

So I decided to put the legend to the test and give it a try. I had a customer laptop keyboard which was downright filthy (probably the worst I’ve ever come across to be honest… sandwich scraps, crumbs, hair, dust, etc) and also a few internal company keyboards which needed to be cleaned. After a single non-soap wash, they looked fantastic AND still worked! I couldn’t believe it, and was curious how I’ve gone so many years trying to clean these puppies the manual way.

Now, there are a few caveats to using the dishwasher on keyboards. Here are some good tips that I have gleaned off numerous sites which cover the topic:

  • NO soap and NO heat drying. It’s as simple as that. Soap would not treat the internals of the keyboard(s) well, and heat drying would likely warp your keyboard (especially a laptop keyboard).
  • Laptop keyboards can be cleaned, but be sure to remove them from the laptop! As you can see from my photo, I cleansed a Thinkpad keyboard without problem. Just don’t get lazy and toss the entire laptop into the dishwasher. I would not recommend giving an entire laptop a spincycle.
  • Wireless keyboards could be susceptible to damage. While I don’t have any hard evidence to go off of, most people who comment on this topic tend to shy away from washing wireless keyboard (RF or Bluetooth) in the dishwasher. They presumably have more electronics internally that may not bode as well to a rainshower.
  • Just use a rubber band on the USB cord. I merely banded each USB cord from my desktop keyboards so that they would not tumble into the washing mechanism; it worked perfectly, and none of my keyboards experienced any damage in the end.

If you are curious how your particular dishwasher treats keyboards, give an old crusty PS/2 unit a wash cycle first (one you preferably wouldn’t need if it actually died) to test the waters per-se. If your test run proves successful, go ahead and give your nasty laptop keyboards or other keyboards a washing.

I guess not all urban legends are a myth. Try it for yourself, and let us know in the comments section how it turns out. Just remember the no soap and no heat dry rules from above, and you should be golden!