How to Remove Finger Oil from Keyboard? [Easy and Safe Ways]

The things we use the most are often the dirtiest items in our homes. Since you touch your computer all day, there is a good chance that the keyboard needs proper cleaning to remove the natural oils from your fingers that have transferred to the keys and touchpad. If you are like everyone else, dust and crumbs need to be cleaned from between the keys on your keyboard.

Thankfully, this is an easy task to accomplish. Whether you need to clean a laptop or a desktop keyboard, you should unplug it or power off the laptop. Next, use canned air to blow out any loose crumbs and dust hiding in the cracks and crevices.

Then, use cotton swabs dampened in diluted rubbing alcohol, gently clean the keys and between the keys. Finally, wipe down the keyboard and touchpad with a lint-free or microfiber cloth. 

Continue reading for specific details about how to tackle this delicate cleaning topic. You definitely want to clean the keyboard, but you don’t want to ruin it. 

How to Clean Finger Oils From an External Keyboard?

1. Unplug and Power Down

If you have an external keyboard, one that plugs in or connects by Bluetooth to your computer, the first step you should take is to disconnect it and power it off. In the event you get liquids into the keyboard while you are cleaning it, you don’t want it to be carrying an electrical current. So unplug it if it plugs in and take out the batteries if it is Bluetooth. 

2. Use Compressed Air to Dislodge Dirt and Dust

As long as you are cleaning the keyboard, it would be best if you worked on the dirt and dust that has collected in between the keys. First, turn the keyboard upside down and shake or pat it gently to dislodge any dirt, dust, or crumbs that have become stuck in the keys.

Then, use a can of compressed air to loosen and remove stubborn dust and dirt. You can purchase compressed or canned air at any electronics store or on Amazon. Attach the straw that comes with the compressed air to the nozzle and direct the air into the keyboard. Push the dirt in one direction so that it will move out of the keyboard. 

3. Remove Stuck Dirt or Crumbs

If the canned air is not removing some obviously trapped dirt or dust, try using a toothpick or a tiny clean paintbrush to loosen the debris. Then use the compressed air again to remove the dirt from the keyboard.

4. Cleaning Finger Oils

Now that the dirt and debris are removed from the keyboard, you can clean the sticky oils and fingerprints off. First, dilute some rubbing alcohol in water. Then using a cotton swab that is barely damp, gently wipe each key and in between the keys. When it gets dirty, use a new one. Be sure that your cotton swab is not too wet because you don’t want to let the liquid get into the inner workings of the keyboard. 

5. Disinfecting Wipes

If multiple people use your keyboard, you might consider wiping down the keyboard regularly with disinfecting wipes. Ensure that they are just damp, not dripping wet, and gently wipe across the keys and touchpad. Give the keyboard time to dry before plugging it back in and using it just in case some liquid leaks into the keyboard.

6. Lint-Free or Microfiber cloth

Once you have finished with the individual keys, give the whole keyboard a once-over with a lint-free or microfiber cloth. Don’t use paper towels or facial tissue because they have lint that can get down between the keys and cause build-up.

How to Clean Finger Oils From an External Keyboard

Cleaning a Laptop Keyboard

1. Power Off the Laptop

A laptop keyboard may be even dirtier than your desktop because you take it more places. While cleaning it, you should also remember that the actual functioning pieces of the computer are located beneath the keyboard, so be extra careful to keep it dry and clean so your laptop lasts as long as possible.

First power off your computer. Gently turn the computer over to loosen any dirt and debris that has accumulated in the keyboard. 

2. Clear Away Dust with Compressed Air

Once again, you can use compressed air to clear away any dirt, dust, and crumbs that have collected on the keyboard. Be gentle with your air cleaner.  Continue to spray the air in one direction so that you don’t push debris deeper into the mechanics of the computer. 

3. Remove any Visible Debris That is Stuck

Because the keys on a laptop are usually flat, chiclet-style keys, you probably won’t have as deep “valleys” between the keys for debris to get stuck in. So you have a couple of additional options to remove loose dirt than you did with the external keyboard. 

You can use tape and slide it down in the open space between the keys and the frame to pick up loose dust and debris. Scotch tape or painter’s tape work well for this. The tape should not be super sticky.

Another option is cleaning slime. It is a soft gel that you form into a ball then press gently onto an uneven surface, like a computer keyboard. It will ooze into the tiny spaces and pick up the dust. You can reuse this gel until it turns dark or becomes too sticky.

Cleaning a Laptop Keyboard
Slimy Gel for cleaning computer keyboard

4. Removing Finger Oils From Keys and Touchpads

Use diluted rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs to clean the keys themselves, the touchpad, and the case. Don’t use the alcohol at full strength because it could damage the plastic or dissolve the letters off of the keys. 

Slightly dampen the cotton swab with the diluted rubbing alcohol and gently clean each key and the spaces between them. Be sure that your cotton swabs are not soaking wet because you don’t want to get liquids into the electronic components of your laptop. 

5. Disinfecting Wipes

Just as you would with your desktop keyboard, you can use a slightly damp disinfecting wipe to go over the keyboard, especially in between different people using it.

6. Use Lint-Free or Microfiber Cloth

You can use a lint-free or microfiber cloth on a regular basis to wipe dust and dirt off your keyboard to keep it maintained and clean. 

Removing the Keys From the Keyboard

If your keyboard is particularly dirty and you can remove the keycaps to clean under them. Be aware that it is easy to damage the clip that holds each key in place, so if you feel unsure about this step, you should take your computer to a professional to have it cleaned. 

The keycaps on both laptops and external keyboards are made to pop off. Look up your keyboard model online to ensure that you are following manufacturer instructions to remove the keys properly. 

They will generally pop off by lifting the edge of a key with a small piece of plastic like a guitar pick or a small flat head screwdriver. You can also purchase a keycap puller tool if you will be doing this often.

Before you remove the keycaps, take a photo of your keyboard, so you know where each key goes when you are ready to put them back. Once you have removed the keys, be sure to put them in a safe place, so you do not lose them. Clean them carefully so that you do not damage them. 

Under each key is a little clip that holds the key in place and a sensor. Clean them carefully with your cotton swab and compressed air.

Finally, you reattach the keys by placing them where they go and pressing down gently, so they click into place.

Other Cleaners Instead of Rubbing Alcohol

One of the benefits of using rubbing alcohol is that it dries quickly, so if you accidentally dripped some into the internal component of the keyboard or computer, it should dry before it causes any damage. However, if you can’t use it for some reason, you can try one of these other options.

A couple of drops of your favorite dish soap or hand soap diluted in water will also work to get your computer keys clean. Once again, remember to use only damp, not wet, cotton swabs or cloths. You only want to clean the surface, not get water or any other liquid into the electronic components of the computer or keyboard.

For a more natural choice, use Simple Green or Seventh Generation cleaners. Still, remember to dilute whatever cleaner you use and only use a damp cloth.

Do not use bleach on your computer systems.

Final Thoughts on Clean Computers

Now that your keyboard and touchpad are clean, you want to keep them that way. Make wiping off the keyboard a part of your regular cleaning routine. Wash your hands before and after using the computer – especially if it is a shared computer.

Don’t eat and drink around the computer. Cheeto dust can ruin your computer experience. You might also consider a silicone keyboard cover to help reduce the amount of dirt and dust that creep into the computer over time.

Take a little time to go over your keyboard with canned air, rubbing alcohol, and a lint-free cloth to make your keyboard and touchpad clean and ready for the week ahead.

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