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How to clean a keyboard — and how often you should do it

We type on it for hours with dirty fingers, yet we never think about cleaning our sticky keyboards.
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/ Source: TODAY

Ah, our computer keyboard — we pound on it for hours with Cheetos-stained fingertips, yet we never give a thought to cleaning it properly. But we should.

Let's face it: Grimy keyboards are disgusting. That’s why TODAY Home checked with Logitech and Apple for advice on how to clean keyboards (on laptop or desktop) properly. They should be cleaned one to two times a month using the steps below.

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How to clean a keyboard: External

If anyone knows keyboards, it’s Art O. Gnimh, head of Logitech’s keyboard division. He recommends the following cleaning tips:

  1. The first thing you want to do is turn the keyboard off or disconnect it from the computer before cleaning. “It’s a safety measure when dealing with electronics,” said Gnimh. “Plus, you don’t want to accidentally send someone an email.”
  2. Use only a damp, soft cloth, like microfiber, to wipe the keys and keyboard. There’s a special coating on the keys that prevents the letters from rubbing off. Using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials to clean the keys could irreversibly damage this coating and cause an even bigger problem later.
  3. When it comes to removing dried-on gunk from hard-to-reach places on the keyboard, Gnimh recommends using a slightly dampened swab or a dry, soft toothbrush.
  4. To clean out dust, particles and crumbs, use a can of compressed air. Just make sure to use the straw that comes with the can and never spray while holding the can upside down. Doing so may cause propellant to spray on the keyboard. Don’t have compressed air? Gnimh suggests turning the keyboard upside down and shaking or tapping it gently to dislodge debris.

How to clean a keyboard: Laptop

Because laptop keyboards sit atop the electronic components of the computer, extra care should be taken when cleaning them. Here are the instructions that Apple gives for cleaning a laptop.

  1. Disconnect the laptop and allow it to cool.
  2. Wipe the keyboard using a, clean, lint-free microfiber cloth that’s lightly dampened with only water. Avoid getting moisture directly into any of the openings. Never spray water directly on the keyboard.
  3. To remove debris from between the keys, use a can of compressed air. Make sure the straw’s attached to control the airflow. Do not turn the can of compressed air upside down while spraying. This could spray propellant, instead of air, onto the keyboard.
  4. Apple recommends the following technique when using compressed air. Open the laptop. Hold it so that the keyboard is at a 75-degree angle, tipping slightly backward. Spray the keyboard with compressed air, moving the can from left to right. Keep the end of the straw about a half-inch away from the keyboard while spraying.
  5. Turn the laptop to the right and spray the keyboard again, from left to right, top to bottom. Then turn the laptop to the left side and spray, left to right, top to bottom.

How to disinfect keyboards

There are times when you may want to disinfect a keyboard, especially when using a public computer or one with multiple users. According to Apple’s website, use Lysol Wipes or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to do the job. Do NOT use disinfectant sprays or wipes containing bleach.

  1. First turn off the computer, unplug the power cord and remove the battery if cleaning a wireless or portable keyboard.
  2. Using light, gentle strokes, wipe the keyboard first with a disinfecting wipe. (If a wipe is too wet, squeeze out excess liquid before using it. Don’t allow the liquid from the wipe to remain on the area too long.) Wipe again with a damp, soft, lint-free cloth, such as microfiber.
  3. Dry with another soft, lint-free cloth.

Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

This story was originally published on June 22, 2016.