01 August 2007

Can you clean a computer keyboard in the dishwasher? Talk amongst yourselves.

Sally wonders (as do I):

Slashdot had a story about a successful dishwasher sanitizing method for keyboards. Apparently, they have more bacteria than a toilet!!??!! But I’m not sending this to fuel the fears of the germ-o-phobic – I’m more interested in using this hack to get the GRAPE JELLY OFF THE KEYBOARD! I'm still a little hesitant, though. What do you think?


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» Keyboards in a diswasher? from Bridawg Blog
Parent Hacks is asking about putting your keyboard in a dishwasher. Id heard something like that and decided to do it once with a keyboard at work.  I popped of all the keys and washed them individually, then I stuck the keyboard in the sink an... [Read More]

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Don't do it if replacement of the keyboard will be a financial hardship.

Yeah, it'll probably work in most cases.

You'll probably want to pop off the key-tops. How long will that take? Even if not, you need to let it air-dry for a week.

Being essentially computer-less for a week to save--what? $20? Less?--doesn't seem like much of a bargain.

I'd just trot on down to Staples.

Many places in your home and office contain more bacteria than a typical toilet seat. And cell phones and desktops are even more germ-ridden than keyboards.

The key to doing this right is drying it. You see, the only reason liquids kill electronics is because they make connections inside the hardware that shouldn't be made, and that fries the sensitive electronics. But if there's no electricity, then there's no connections being made...just water running over plastic, silicone, and metal.

It won't take a week for your keyboard to dry...not sure why that person said that.

I wouldn't let it dry in the dishwasher, as the heat could be too much for it, and melt/damage the electronics. Maybe if you can do a low heat dishwashing...

I agree that you shouldn't try it if you can't afford to replace your keyboard, but it should work just fine, as long as you make sure it's good and dry before you plug it back in.

To back up Tony's comments....

(No need for dishwasher) I have cleaned keyboards in the pass using the shower our sink. Run the keyboard under hot water to wash out the gunk. Type on the keys while you do this to get the gunk out and to determine if any keys are still sticking.

(Up side down) Give it a good shake and then you MUST let it dry (DONT EVEN PLUG IT INTO THE COMPUTER). I let mine sit on one end for 24hrs, shake again and check for sticky keys. set on the other end for 24hrs.

Make sure its dry and then use it.

They did this on NPR a while back. The writer ran it thru and let it dry for a week. She said it cleaned it very well but there were a few keys that died. She contacted the mfg of her brand of keyboard and of course they told her she was an idiot and even if it was working now it would only be a matter of time.
Good luck- tell us how it goes if you try it :)

In the NPR segment that I remember, the reporter's keyboard worked perfectly after its trip through the dishwasher, no dead keys, and while she did contact a couple of manufacturers to ask for their comments, they didn't call her an idiot or tell her it was only a matter of time until something went wrong. They just told her "we don't recommend that" (classic risk management response).

If you're just worried about getting the grape jelly off, you ought to be able to pop off the keys and clean them by wiping or throwing them into a sink of soapy water. While they're off you can clean underneath them, too. Probably you want to disconnect it from the computer for this part.

Maybe you can put the keyboard in the dishwasher, but I wouldn't try it.

Why not just use compressed air and some antibacterial wipes? I think that would work for normal grime. Jelly on the other hand I don't know about. :)

Drying it outside on a clothesline or somewhere it can hang and drip in the heat of day would work fastest. I've know people who've hung the keyboard, hosed it, and left it overnight. 100 degree weather, it was ready to go next AM.

I don't suggest using the dishwasher. It depends a lot on what type of keyboard you how well it survives.

I'd suggest popping the keys out, vacuuming the grunge out from under them, wipe the keys using a wet wipe, and reassembling. Do it while you're watching TV.

My husband is a Network Administrator for a call center - many computers there! Every couple months he brings home a few keyboards & runs them through the dishwasher & they're ready to go Monday morning. He hasn't had to replace one yet. Don't use the hottest setting & just let it air dry. Most important - don't use detergent!

We've oven dried laptops that have been spilled on - this speeds up the drying process. I'm sure you could do the same for a keyboard. Bear in mind, that we have ovens that can go as low as 37 degrees Centigrade. I would NOT suggest 450degF for 1 hour.

I would go for it. Bear in mind that you may need to purchase a replacement. If you do need to purchase a replacement, I would consider something like these:

For simple cleaning, unplug the keyboard and just pop the keys (carefully... and keep track of them as they can be a choking hazard) and clean them with something like a a couple of Clorox wipes. You can also use the wipes on the surface under they keys. Let everything air dry for an hour or so and them carefully pop the keys back on (this can take a while... take a digital picture beforehand as a reference if you need it).

It should be good to go after that.

I have heard many times, in many different scenarios that the dishwasher/shower/bathtub method works as long as sufficient drying time is allowed. However, I have never tested it myself.

What Sarah said. Running it through a dishwasher seems to have a bad risk to reward payoff. Compressed air will clean things out of the crevices, and antibacterial wipes will address the disease concerns.

No compressed air! It just makes the crud under the keys fly around and in up in the button wells. Worse than washing it in the dishwasher.

Wash it. Dry well. This time of year (northern hemisphere) is good for drying outside.

Why would you trust the Parenthackers more than the Slashdotters on a question of this nature?

Well, if Parent Hacks is to be trusted ;) after you've used the dishwasher, the refrigerator might be the best place to dry it out. I tried the tip on drying out a cell phone by putting it in the fridge and it worked great. See http://www.parenthacks.com/2006/06/how_to_dry_out_.html

I have dropped a Kodak digital camera into a stream( IKES!) but brought it home and took out flash memory and batteries, opened evrything up and put it on my hot water heater for a week.
It has been 4-5yrs ago now and I still use the camera.
If the keyboard is "good" to begin with and PLENTY of dry time is given it will work quite well. If the board is very cheap and prone to failure anyway or you get impatient and try to use it too soon it will fail.
I have tried to wash 10$ boards and had them work fine though. I say it is better to clean them once in a while and replace the failures than suffer filthy keys that stick or do not work.

I've been a computer tech for many, many years so I have seen it all -- from Coke and Cheetos in users' keyboards to spilling an entire bottle of water on my own laptop (yes, it recovered).

First, I recommend using a keyboard cover -- especially if you have kids or like to eat at your computer. Any office supply store will carry these (especially the large chains), but you can also find them online. Keyboard covers will protect the circuit boards underneath the keys from becoming damaged by the larger particles that have a tendency to get down in there. There are keyboard covers for just about any kind of keyboard out there, including laptops.

Second, if haven't been using a cover and you want to clean your keyboard out, I usually start by turning the keyboard upside down or on it's side over a trash can and using compressed air (also found at office supply stores) to really get in there and get the gunk out.

Third, if you have material in the keyboard that won't come out with the compressed air, unplug the keyboard from the computer (or, if using a laptop, turn the laptop off) gently pop off the keys over the affected portion and use cotton swabs dipped in water (not dripping) to clean the area out. Be sure to let the keyboard dry out for about 5-10 minutes before popping the keys back on and using again. As long as you don't use excessive amounts of water, it won't take long to dry.

Lastly, for maintaining a clean keyboard (or keyboard cover), spritz a paper towel or cotton cloth with a mild kitchen cleaner (like the ones you see on TV now that are safe to use on food prep surfaces and don't leave residue) and wipe the keyboard down once a week. Do not soak the cloth. Make sure electricity is cut to anything you are cleaning with a liquid.

So someone decided to try it and videotape it for all to see -- If you want to see a keyboard actually being washed in a dishwasher (with some tips on how to do it), take a look at this video: http://coudal.com/keywasher.php

I am a computer instructor and I've been teaching this tip for years- it works, but as the above folks have stated, it has to be completely dried before you reconnect it, you can't do it with wireless keyboards, and it generally is easier to just buy a new one. My students love the tip, though.

I hear this tip several years ago and tried dishwashing - and the keyboard ended up dead. After reading this discussion, though, I suspect I tried to use it too soon.

Trust ParentHacks to get to the bottom of the issue! :)

Yes you can put your keyboard in the dishwasher. Just make sure you have the heated dry cycle turned OFF or it will ruin the keyboard. Also make sure it is fully dry before you use it again or it will also fry the keyboard. My husband is an IT Tech and does this to out keyboards atleast twice a year.

You shove the whole keyboard in there...? Don't take it apart or anything? Ive heard people doing this, but though you had to still take apart the keyboard and such...but I guess, if precautions are made:

No heat dry
No "dishwasher detergent" (maybe a dab of liquid dish soap used for handwashing? they got stuff with antibacterial...)
Let it air dry good out in the sun (Florida sunshine hehe)

I guess it sounds promising...but see...Im a fan of the simple, 101-key, keyboards from Big Lots :P Costs 10 bucks, and it's no big deal if I have to replace it once every 6 months...

As far as these expensive logitech and other fancy keyboards...mmm, dont think I'd trust this method with those :P

I can't believe that! I would think that it would mess up some sort of hardware within. Good luck!

Might be that you're too worried about the germs:


YES. It can be done. Easy and Nice. Oddly, I washed my 4 year old daughter's keyboard today, dried it out on the back porch in the sun, and she used it tonight. THEN I came across this article. Weird. I've been doing this for years and it works like a charm. I've done it about 10 times. Sometimes I've even washed it with the dishes, even using soap. I've not lost one keyboard. Oh, and I put the whole thing in without removing keys or anything. Seriously, it works!

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