Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Clean Your Filthy Keyboard in the Dishwasher (Without Ruining it)

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We’ve already shown you some great ways to get your keyboard clean. For geeks that aren’t faint of heart, check out how to make your keyboard dishwasher safe and clean it with half the work and in half the time.

Keyboards can be, and often are, literally dirtier than toilets. But taking off keys and swabbing with alcohol can really be time consuming and painstaking work, where making a keyboard dishwasher safe is a simple ten or fifteen minute job. Here’s how to clean and sanitize your keyboard the How-To Geek way!

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This is a very common PS2 keyboard, as you can see from the prominent Dell logo. You may have a slightly different keyboard, but the fundamentals of this how-to are going to be the same for virtually all readers.

(Author’s Note: As with any how-to involving opening up equipment, you’re risking damaging it if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, most keyboards are extremely simple, so this is more or less safe for anyone with enough skill to operate a screwdriver. Still, DIY is only for the brave at heart!)

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Start with a dirty keyboard, full of caked on food, drink, bacteria, sneeze, and whatever else you might have done to it over the years since you either bought it or—ahem—cleaned it last.

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Don’t’ worry about all the dust bunnies, etc that live between the keys. Pretty much, for our purposes, the dirtier, the better. But, if you like, you can always give it a quick blast with a can of compressed air, or spend some time pre-treating it to get it extra clean.

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Flip the keyboard around to the back, where we’ll need to pop out several of the screws holding the keyboard case together.

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You’ll find there are rather a lot of them. Check all of the visible screw holes, including some of the deeper, counter sunk ones hidden beneath the outer surface.

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An ordinary Philips head screwdriver will get the job done for nearly all keyboards. You may find that some Apple models or various other keyboards may use less common screw heads like hex or torx, in which case you’ll need an allen key, or some other tool. However, most keyboards should be assembled with basic screws and require only basic screwdrivers.

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They keyboard assembly should basically fall apart without the screws. Your keyboard may have a snap or other catch that allows the assembly to fall apart, but most likely if it does not immediately come open, you’ve still got screws holding it together.

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Let’s take a quick look at the parts inside the keyboard. This is the back of the actual “keyboard” part of the keyboard, made with purely mechanical buttons and keys. Nothing but plastic and metal here.

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This is the controller and the dome-switch membrane. You can easily reach in and pull out the membrane with your hands—it is likely not attached to anything.

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The controller will be held in by several screws and attached to the PS2 or USB cable that leads out of the case. Your same screwdriver should remove them without issue.

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Gently remove the cable and controller in one piece, then remove the flexible circuit board beneath. These are the only parts of the keyboard that are water sensitive. Put them away where they’ll be safe, so you can put them back together in this same order.

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Here is the disassembled, disgusting keyboard case.

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And your various parts, including the flexible circuit board, controller and cable, dome-switch membrane, and all the various screws. Again, keep these in a safe place. You won’t be cleaning these.

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And—yecch—here’s a bunch of the dirt that fell off during this process.

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Toss the board in the dishwasher just as if it was a ketchup-covered plate, and wash away. Once it is dry, simply re-assemble it the same way we took it apart, taking care to install the flexible circuit board, controller, dome-switch membrane, and finally keyboard top properly. Not re-installing any single part will cause your keyboard to not work. However, it’s not terribly sensitive, so simply try again until it does.

It may seem sort of risky, but this method is no more likely to ruin your keyboard than spilling alcohol on it while swabbing the keys. The total time taken, apart from the time it takes to run it through the dishwasher, is around 15 minutes, and that is if you’re really taking your time. All things considered, this is quite a fun way to learn about how keyboards work, and get it clean and sanitized without a lot of effort.