[WIP] Cleaning and Maintenance: A Guide

If you’re wondering how to clean or maintain a keyboard related item, or you’re down to share some of your well seasoned techniques, you’re in the right place!

Drop questions, techniques, and secrets in the thread if you don’t see an issue/area mentioned below :slight_smile:

At the moment this is obviously a woefully incomplete thread, but I’m thinking that we can aggregate our knowledge on this topic below, and I/we can sort through it and start building out a wiki up here.

Table of Contents

Cleaning | Essentials
Cleaning | Discrete Tasks

Cleaning | Essentials

Let’s begin with the items and techniques that are sufficient 80% of the time:

Microfiber Cloth

A clean, microfiber cloth is relatively inexpensive and highly recommended.

  • Don’t use a cloth or wipe to clean your PCB (fibers will snag on solder joints, components, etc.)

Soapy Water

Mild, soapy water is likely the safest and most readily available cleaning solution for most keyboard parts.

How to make soapy water

Source: CDC.gov

Isopropyl Alcohol

When soapy water is not enough, 70% isopropyl alcohol is generally safe to clean and disinfect surfaces.

  • While not the most authoritative source, Apple endorses using 70% isopropyl alcohol

  • Occasionally, > 90% isopropyl alcohol will be more effective. See PCB cleaning, once the section is created.

  • Isopropyl alcohol is also referred to as IPA or isopropanol or 2-propanol (Source: Wikipedia)

Cleaning | Discrete Tasks


Flux Residue

Soldering with flux-cored solder wire (or a separate application of flux) will cause flux splatters. While no-clean flux is designed to be non-toxic and non-corrosive, you may still desire to clean it away for aesthetic purposes.

(Nb., If you have a significant amount of splatter, start by lowering the soldering temperature. Splattering is caused by the flux core heating quickly and ‘exploding’ out the nickel/lead wire sleeve.)

Basic Technique
  • Dip a soft or medium-hard bristled brush in 90%+ isopropyl alcohol (the closer to 99% the better)

  • Gently scrub the flux splatters until the residue dissolves

Advance Considerations

Even after dissolving the splatter marks using the method above, a thin film of residue will remain on the board because the flux residue doesn’t evaporate with the alcohol/solvent. To remove the residue completely,

  • Use a spray cleaner (an aerosol flux cleaner or fill a regular spray bottle), spray the solvent onto the PCB and hold the PCB at an angle to allow the solvent to run off the board (carrying the residue with it) before it evaporates

  • Alternatively, a mixture of hot water (130ºF) and a saponifier will (literally) turn the flux residue into soap and allow it to be rinsed off. Make sure to use pure, distilled water and dry the PCB fully before using it.

(Nb., Using only distilled water without a solvent or saponifier will usually be ineffective because flux residue isn’t water soluble. You may be able to wash off residue dissolved by alcohol if the PCB is washed before the alcohol evaporates.)

(Sources: Kester, Chemtronics, Pinsheng Electronics)

(Will add stuff from below, but may be a bit slow :sweat_smile:)


Looks like a lot of work :slight_smile: These are a few things that I do for issues listed:

Raw or Polished brass: rub it directly with a lemon sliced in 1/2 and watch the tarnish go away. Rinse and dry. Microfiber cloth helps but not necessary. Not sure what you do with a built brass plate.

Flux residue, flood with 90% or higher Isopropyl and rub with soft bristle toothbrush or q-tip (q-tip will can leave cotton residue if it catches)

Cloth deskmat: lay in bathtub and turn on water, scrub with a small amount of liquid laundry detergent and a microfiber cloth. Once you have scrubbed well, drain the tub if any water is left and run under shower head to rinse. Hang dry for about a day.

Lifted pad: This one probably deserves a video, really. On a mechanical keyboard there are 2 pads per switch. One pad goes to a diode, one pad connects to the next switch in the matrix (so it will be connected to one of the switches directly North, South, West, or East). Find which pad you need to fix and then jump either to the diode trace or switch trace adjacent. Follow the lines on the PCB to see where it goes, scrape the PCB very lightly with a razor to reveal tiny copper trace near the lifted pad. Use a multimeter with continuity testing on to make sure you’re jumping the right connection. Apply flux and drag solder to the copper trace. Then tin a small wire (I use stranded wires and pull out 2 or 4 strands and twist to crate one very thin wire) and solder to the exposed trace. Connect wire to switch pin where pad was lifted. Cover with Kapton tape (ESD tape).

Multimeter, microfiber cloth, 90% or higher Isopropyl, a nice pair of both flat and sharp tweezers and a basic set of precision screwdrivers. I don’t think you’ll have a successful repair without these basic tools.


Thank you good sir! This is a great start :slight_smile:

I just linked your comment for now re: fixing a lifted pad haha. I’ll need to think of a way of incorporating into the guide (or maybe just link to a separate thread on it).

Someone who is a real engineer should make a quick video. I just know that connecting point A to point B fixes it. Everything I know about keyboards was learned in the trenches :sunglasses:

The fix I listed focuses on reconnecting the trace to the pin. It’s a prettier fix, but requires you to reveal and reconnect to the trace, which is more difficult. You could also run a wire from the switch pin straight to the diode and/or adjacent switch. I prefer the fix with less wire and less damage to other working parts :slight_smile:


U want to dry your washed keycaps straight away?
Put them in a pillowcase, grab the opening and spin (like a slingshot?) and let the centrifugal force do it’s thing. Stop and change direction a few times.


Here I am using a towel to dry them individually like a chump and you’re telling me I could’ve been improving my sling skills? :man_facepalming:

These are the real truths we need to hear


Feels good to learn a old dog to sit. :yum:

I think a video demonstration is in order :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Then I need to tidy up my home :woozy_face:

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Cleaning topic just in time for the beginning of spring!

Random cleaning tips/thoughts:

  • My most used cleaning tool is a duster. This inexpensive one works surprisingly well for removing dust between keys, do it every few days takes < 30 seconds. For convenience I hook it back to the monitor using a command hook. One day will upgrade to a makeup or model brush but if it works, it works…
  • Ultra sonic cleaner w/denture tabs is great for keycaps and switches
  • Building on @skepp idea of the pillow case dry method. Have used a salad spinner to get water off of switches and keycaps
    • Still recommend to wait a day after dunking keycaps or switches in water to ensure they are fully dried out. A drop of water in a keycap crucible or switch housing pole area can be difficult to see.
  • Datavac is all around awesome for bigger dusting an drying off parts in a hurry
  • General surfaces get a wipe with microfiber eyeglasses cleaning cloth (sometimes with water)
  • Most switch lube usually does not dissolve with cleaners remove by wiping with a microfiber cloth.
  • Slightly more controversial if cleaning with isopropyl leaves a weird cloudy film on a PCB, I have given it a wash is demineralized water
  • Try to avoid using magic erasers. They act like very very fine sandpaper and can buff some surfaces changing the finish.

Ooh, good ones Dave! I’ll add these in today at some point :+1:t3:

I learned the denture tablet method from one of Lightning’s streams, and it works pretty well even without an ultrasonic cleaner (for keycaps).

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Logically our keyboards don’t have time to get dirty, given the speed at which we change them for the new and “last” endgame.


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Bahaha. But we have to keep them sparkling even in their cubbies :upside_down_face:

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So typically most of the metal and platic parts can be cleaned with dish washing soap. For the more problematic stains that can’t be wiped off with this I use “Schmutzradierer” (“dirt eraser”). I do not use it on bare metal but coated ones. It’s basically a melamine resin foam based sponge. Even though it has a basic toxicity when absorbed by the body, in mainland europe it’s still a quite commen household cleansing item. Sensitive surfices may get damaged if you apply too much pressure.
Since this sponge usually cleans mechanically instead of chemically I guess you shouldn’t use it on the most expensive GMK set you have. But you know how it goes… :musical_note: I don’t care about plastics :notes:

For remains of adhesives I use acetone. But then again this is also not the healthiest stuff to work with. But this is laso dangerous on PCBs because you knever know with what kind of compound the printed wiring is protected against liquids or acids. So be warned.

Unlike my 5 bucks membrane boards which I usually given to recycling after they were clogged up with dirt beyond economical repair. I’ll remove they keycaps every month to clean them and the plate. As my RK87 has no flex cuts in the plate and the LEDs are hidden between a layer of PE foam between plate and pcb the pcb doesn’t get too dirty if you don’t over-lube your stabs.

The LED cutouts in the switches are the main problem. But I have no other solution then to blow them out with canned, pressurized air.

I’ve also tried to remove G-Lube and Krytox 205 with dish washing soap and a brush/scrubber? from coated metal plates but with mixed results. Switch and stab lubes are just so much more potent than kebap sauce on a plate. :wink:
Even though the result of the failed lube cleaning on a metal plate could only be seen with a spray paint job applied. All stained parts (mostly around over lubed stabilizer wires) heavily failed in accepting the spray paint. Without such an use case I think dish washer soap is ok since dirts didn’t accumulate on the stains where the lube was more than on other parts of coated plates.

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Nice insights! I’m assuming schmutzradierer is what we call a magic eraser in the U.S. (and perhaps elsehwere)?

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Gonna go with yes

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Update: Added the PCB cleaning section. Let me know if there’s any incorrect information!

Lol at the salad spinner, but that is actually a great idea.

  • Try to avoid using magic erasers. They act like very very fine sandpaper and can buff some surfaces changing the finish.

Found this out doing some Gameboy modding. Works great for cleaning, but will take the texture off of plastic.


Probably yes. It is mentioned in the german wikipedia article about Melamine Melamin – Wikipedia but I havn’t read the english one Melamine - Wikipedia.

Yep. Magic Eraser. Found it. Melamine foam - Wikipedia

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