An Intro to Essential Keyboard Care and Maintenance

Keep your keyboard in better shape for years of comfortable typing

A good keyboard makes your work more efficient and your entertainment more rewarding. Yet it’s still a working piece of equipment — and essential equipment at that — with many moving parts that may actuate several thousand times a day. A little proactive keyboard care can go a long way to keeping your trusty board typing smoothly for many years to come.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done keyboard maintenance before. You’re far from alone. This guide will introduce you to some of the basic concepts you need to keep your keyboard in tiptop shape.

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The basics of keyboard care

Your first step before cleaning, repairing, or otherwise maintaining your keyboard should be to check its user manual and warranty information. This will help you find the best way to maintain your particular board. It will also help you steer clear of any keyboard care procedures that could void your warranty.

For instance, you may be able to wipe the keycaps with a damp cloth and vacuum between the cracks to get out dust, but removing the keycaps for a deeper cleaning might be off limits. If you don’t have your manual or warranty information handy, try searching for it on your keyboard manufacturer’s support site.

The next step is to determine the specifics of your board. There are two main factors to consider here:

  • The type of the board itself. For instance, if you have a mechanical keyboard, you may be able to disassemble some parts of the board for deep cleaning or repairs. Other kinds of keyboards — especially those built into laptops — may need to remain in one piece when serviced by their owners.
  • The types of materials used in the board’s construction. Certain kinds of plastics may degrade when exposed to common cleaning agents, such as rubbing alcohol. In particular, try to find out what your keycaps are made of. Some of the most common types are ABS and PBT keycaps.

With those details established, let’s move on to some keyboard care tips that may help you keep your keyboard working better for longer.

Did You Know?:The range of official HHKB accessories includes high-quality, customizable PBT keycaps and tools to help you make the swap.

Preventative keyboard maintenance tips

Some simple keyboard maintenance can help prevent issues down the line.

Keep your keyboard out of the elements

Most keyboards were designed for use in controlled home or office conditions. Extended exposure to sunlight or large changes in temperature may damage their components. If your workspace receives a significant amount of sunlight, consider covering your keyboard with a protective cloth or case when you aren’t using it.

If you stored your keyboard in a very cold or hot space, give it a few minutes to return to room temperature before using it. This will reduce the risk of damage to its moving parts during operation, as they may have swollen, shrunk, stiffened, or loosened due to the temperature change.

Update your firmware

One of the easiest to perform, yet also easiest to forget, parts of keyboard care is updating your firmware. Many modern keyboards have little computers of their own that help them communicate with your computer, manage wireless connections, store multiple layouts, and so on. Keeping your board’s firmware up-to-date will help ensure all its supported features can operate at their best.

If your keyboard comes with an accompanying software tool, you may be able to use it to automatically install firmware updates. Otherwise, make a point of checking your keyboard manufacturer’s support website every few months for new firmware.

Clean your keyboard regularly

One of the best ways to give your keyboard care is to keep it clean. On top of keeping your board nice and tidy, regular keyboard cleaning reduces the chances that dust, pet hair, or other common bits of waste will end up somewhere they shouldn’t.

Here are some easy ways clean your keyboard:

  • Unplug your keyboard, hold it upside down over a waste receptacle, and tap and gently shake the board. This can help dislodge larger pieces of dust and dirt.
  • Use a dedicated keyboard brush, duster, or clean and dry toothbrush to gently remove dust between the keys and around the edges of each key cluster.
  • Use compressed air to blow out smaller dust particles from the inside of the board.
  • Wipe the keycaps and frame with a dampened (not dripping) microfiber cloth.

If you use your keyboard in an area where you also consume food, or where pets regularly come and go, consider cleaning it more frequently.

Did You Know?:Want to try putting together your own mechanical keyboard? Our guide to custom keyboards can help.

Mechanical keyboard maintenance

Since many mechanical keyboards are built to be modified by their users, they come with some extra considerations for proper care. Again, make sure you consult your user manual and warranty information before removing any pieces of your keyboard.

  • Remove your keycaps: Take a top-down picture of your keyboard as a guide for replacing your keycaps later, then use a keycap puller to remove them one by one. Wipe each keycap down with a damp cloth. If your keycaps are dirty, you may be able to clean them by soaking them in a bowl with water and dish soap. Rinse them and let them fully air dry before replacing them.
  • Dust and wipe: With your keycaps removed, you have unfettered access to the inside of your keyboard’s frame. Use the aforementioned dusting tools to remove dust and dirt from the inside of the board. Take special care to remove any dirt that has accumulated around the switches, while working gently to avoid damaging them.
  • Check your switches and stabilizers: Have any of your keys been feeling a little sticky or rough as you press them? Check the mechanical keyboard switches (and keyboard stabilizers if applicable) underneath the corresponding keys to see if any foreign material has become lodged within them. Keyboards with hot-swappable switches let you easily remove individual switches to work on or replace them. If you previously used keyboard lube on your switches, you may need to reapply or remove any excess lubricant.

Try a keyboard that was built to last

Proactive keyboard care can go a long way toward many years of happy typing. So can starting with a high-quality keyboard built for those who type to live. HHKB Professional HYBRID keyboards feature best-in-class Topre switches that eliminate key chatter while providing a more satisfying typing experience, and their compact form factor makes them a perfect addition to a tidy desk — or an oasis of minimalism in a chaotic workspace (we don’t judge).

Find a new keyboard that’s ready for the long haul in the full range of high-end keyboards from HHKB.

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Note: Information and external links are provided for your convenience and for educational purposes only. PFU America, Inc. makes no representations about the contents, features, or specifications on such third-party sites, software, and/or offerings (collectively “Third-Party Offerings”) and shall not be responsible for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of such Third-Party Offerings.