How to disinfect your keyboard

Zachary Visconti

While disinfecting your keyboard is important, washing your hands is even more crucial, and doing so regularly will also help your keyboard stay clean for longer.

What’s the best way to disinfect your keyboard?

If you’re like many people and work on a computer, you may not clean or disinfect your keyboard very often. As a result, grime and germs can build on your keys and within crevices in your keyboard, sometimes even causing them to stick when you type.

The solution to this is simple: round up a few basic cleaning supplies, turn your laptop or computer off so there’s no power running through the keyboard and disinfect with impunity.

In this guide, we’ll discuss both the materials you’ll need and the steps you’ll need to take to disinfect your computer keyboard.

Cleaning vs. disinfecting vs. sanitizing your keyboard

Before you get to work, it’s important to note a few key differences, according to Medline Plus, between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing your keyboard. With cleaning, you’re making your surfaces safer by clearing away any potentially hazardous germs, whale disinfecting focuses on killing germs with chemicals. Meanwhile, sanitizing can describe either cleaning or disinfecting, depending on the circumstances.

Cleaning your keyboard

The process of cleaning typically involves using soap and water to remove bacteria from a surface. While cleaning is not intended to kill germs and bacteria, it does remove them to the extent that they no longer pose a risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting your keyboard

Unlike cleaning, disinfecting actually uses chemicals to kill the germs living on objects. Most disinfecting processes use bleach or alcohol and include leaving the chemical on a surface for an extended period before wiping it dry. While disinfecting does kill the germs on a given surface, effectively preventing them from spreading infection, it does not remove the germs from said surface. For this reason, it’s important to practice a combination of both cleaning and disinfecting objects to ensure minimal contact with germs.

Sanitizing your keyboard

Another commonly used term, sanitizing, can refer to either disinfecting or cleaning. Sanitizing simply means reducing the number of germs on an object or surface to a safe level. Certain establishments, like restaurants, for example, have government-mandated sanitizing levels which require specific sanitation practices. In either case, the process of sanitizing may use a combination of chemicals, soap and water and physical tools like a mop or brush to remove germs.

Tools needed to disinfect your keyboard

While you may not elect to use all of these in your cleaning process, using a combination of them can help increase effectiveness, ultimately reducing the risk of spreading infection.

Compressed air

Compressed air, like Falcon Dust-Off or Rosewill Compressed Gas, can be a helpful tool for loosening up crumbs, dirt, grime and other solid objects which may become lodged in or around the keys.

Disinfectant wipes

Disinfectant wipes are disposable cloth pieces with chemicals like bleach, alcohol or ammonia, which kill germs and bacteria. The best disinfectant wipes we’ve found are Clorox bleach-free wipes or Care Touch alcohol-free wipes, though any disinfecting wipes will work. In general, it’s a good idea to avoid using bleach-based cleaners on your computer or electronics to prevent damage.

Isopropyl alcohol

For those with MacBooks, Apple specifically recommends using isopropyl alcohol, especially if you don’t have disinfectant wipes to work with. Even if your computer isn’t from Apple, isopropyl alcohol is a safe and effective chemical for killing bacteria, which is why it’s also often used as a first-aid agent. It’s important to use a mixture of at least 70% alcohol to ensure germs are killed.

Distilled water

Distilled water is boiled and returned to room temperature to remove unnecessary minerals and inorganic matter. The reason it’s helpful when cleaning your keyboard is it won’t stain the surface with minerals or other hidden materials in water.

Microfiber cloth

A microfiber cloth is mainly a great tool for cleaning your computer screen, but it can also be used to wipe down delicate parts of your keyboard that might normally scratch with a harsher method of cleaning. You can often find them with laptop cleaning kits, which offer a cleaning solution, a microfiber cloth and sometimes even cleaning brushes or compressed air tools.


For computer keyboards that need an extra level of cleaning, using a Scotch-Brite heavy-duty sponge can let you scrub away hard to clean grime and dirt.

How to disinfect and clean your keyboard

Before you begin, turn your computer off or unplug your keyboard so you don’t accidentally fry the electronics.

To start, you’ll want to do a light cleaning on your keyboard using compressed air to remove all dirt, grime and microscopic particles. Aim the blower in and around your keyboard, trying to get beneath each key if you can, and clearing away as much physical debris as possible.

Then, disinfect the keyboard using either disinfectant wipes or isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth, wiping down the entire surface of your keyboard, including the outsides and lower edges of each key. Take care not to let any liquid get into your laptop, computer or keyboard, as this can harm the electronics and cause them to stop working.

Walk away for about five minutes after disinfecting the keyboard. This will let your keyboard air out and disinfect, making sure to kill every last germ without leaving behind moisture.

After you’ve let the keyboard disinfect for a few minutes, it’s time to clean it by removing germs and grime. Depending on how dirty your keyboard is, you may want to use any combination of a small amount of distilled water, more isopropyl alcohol, a microfiber cloth or a sponge. Using a small amount of distilled water or alcohol, lightly wipe down the entire keyboard again to remove dead germs from its surface. Now, you can use the sponge to lightly scrub any remaining grime from the keyboard.

After letting it dry completely, plug the keyboard back in or turn your laptop on. Your keyboard is now clean and germ free.

Zachary Visconti is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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