back to article Woman cleans keyboard... in dishwasher

You've got a desktop keyboard. And it's stained, grimy and filled with crumbs - not to mention the odd short, curly hair that really can't have got there through natural means. What do you do? You put it in the Whirlpool, that's what. At least, that's what Michele - the US' answer to our very own Hardware Widow by the sounds …


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  1. Lathem Gibson

    You may think me a madman....

    But I heard this trick long ago from some hardware website, and I've been doing it for years. Never bothered to take anything apart or bag the USB connection, though. Just wash them as is, spray them heavily with WD-40 when the wash cycle ends, and then hang them outside from the clothesline. Never had a problem!

  2. Luke Wells

    Common practice

    It has been common practice for years to put things like old dirty circuit boards in the dishwasher as it makes them so much easier to work on when they are clean. I've never heard of any damage being done (dont let the dishwasher do a hot drying cycle though)

    I dont see why anyone would spend that ammount of time removing keys and refitting them? cheap usb keyboards cost £2 on ebay.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    and this is news because...?

    been doing this for years!!!

    everyone knows that water only kills the device IF the device is switched on whilst there is electricity flowing through it. If it's dry when you turn it back problem.

    Some drinks like Coke and Coffee just kill keyboards and no amount of furtive mopping up will save it unless you throw in in the nearest dishwasher or bath quickly.

    Has the Daily Star taken over El Reg and not told anybody?

  4. Russ Tarbox

    Tried and Tested

    I've washed many a keyboard and membrane in hot water, the key is letting the components dry thoroughly. This has been useful for laptop keyboards which are usually awfully expensive to replace. Of course, this has usually been after a spillage of some kind, whereby the keyboard is faulty. I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to risk a keyboard just because cosmetically it's a bit grimey...

  5. Scu

    No need to remove the keys

    I've run a keyboard through the dishwasher as well. I didn't bother removing the keys, nor bagging the connector (it was PS/2). As long as it's completely dry before plugging it back in, it's just fine. There was some noticable loss in lubrication on the keys; the action wasn't as smooth as it had been originally.

    I find that good keyboards are hard to find these days. The older IBM keyboards have just the right feel, but even the newer ones aren't quite right. I've seen/felt some that are great, but they all seem to have the huge Enter key (taking up space on two rows), making the \ in the wrong spot.



  6. frank denton

    Been there, done that

    Twenty two years ago, I bought a second hand solar powered Casio scientific calculator from a colleague. It was filthy, ewwwww, so I carefully washed the surface using a soft cloth, over a sink full of hot soapy water, then accidentally dropped it in the sink.

    I took it out, rinsed it thoroughly in clean warm water then left it to dry on the radiator overnight. The next morning it was very dry and worked fine. It lives in my briefcase and still works fine.

    Clean water will not damage most commercial and industrial electronic equipment, nor will soapy water provided it's not powered up at the time and you rinse all the residue off and let it dry thoroughly before applying power.

    Oh, remember to take any batteries out first.

  7. Andy Kavanagh

    This is new?

    Er, haven't people been doing this forever? I work in a school, and every summer I dishwash all the keyboards. We've been doing it for about 12 years now. Never had a single failure, either.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM model M owners have been doing this for years... nothing new

    I've owned various IBM model M keyboards (yes, THE keyboard) and I've washed several of mine a couple of times. Never mind the odd spillage of coffee/coke , or whatever else, just rinse it off. Leave to dry for 24h and it's good as new!

  9. Terry Dooher

    Why bother taking the keys off?

    I've done a few oldish MS keyboards like this. It cleans off the accumulated gunk and crumbs well enough, you just have to shake it out and allow it to dry naturally for a day or so before using it again.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Soap oprta

    So, what's new?

    The company I worked for back in 1980 used a combination of dishwasher to handle ex-rental keyboards. And I'm pretty sure we didn't need to remove the keytops.

    The trick isn't the cleaning, but the drying -- following it with an arklone bath doesn't get them any cleaner, but it immediately dispels all water and ensures it dries quickly and without residue.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've been doing this for about 10 years now....

    But I don't wash the PCB with the keyboard controller on it. Disassemble keyboard, pop off keycaps. Keycaps go into utensil tray.

    As long as you don't put these items in the bottom where they are next to the heating element you are OK. It's way faster than manually cleaning up each keycap, and going through the keyboard with alcohol and q-tips, then cleaning up the platic with a cleaner. Plus, the keyboard tends to look like new when you're done.

  12. Daniel Segel

    Not really news

    This has been going on for ages. A simple Google search for "wash keyboard dishwasher" returns over 150,000 hits, most of which appear to be instructions for doing the same.

    I've never bothered removing the keys before, but I also allow for 2-3 days drying time. Maybe if you remove the keys you don't need to.

  13. Daniel

    That's what sock bags are for!

    "Says Michele: 'Just like with socks in the laundry, somehow a couple of our matching keys disappeared in the process. Luckily they were F10 and F11. We never use those anyhow.'"

    That's what sock bags are for - at least I don't THINK the keys will fit through the holes...

  14. davcefai

    Even easier..

    There is an easier way. Open up the keyboard as described in the article.

    Don't remove the keys. Wash the top half of the keyboard in running water with dishwashing detergent, rinse well, leave to dry. Brush out/blow out the crumbs, ashes and hairs from the rest of the board.

    Reassemble when dry.

    Be warned, if, instead of a "mat" you have individual little dome type switches you are in for a long session of trying to put them all back properly.

    I consider this to be routine maintainance.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry, but most Tech's I know have been doing this for years

    This is very common to do in IT at least in my area. We often get keyboards completely soaked in soda and pretty much ruined. At that point it doesn't hurt to wash them. Some never recover, but most come out good. I usually don't even go through the extra work of taking the keys off.

    Just don't have sanitizing heat on and make sure the keyboard has thoroughly dried before plugging it in.

  16. Don Rideaux-Crenshaw

    old news indeed

    Been doing this for years. One of the oldest refurb tricks in the book. Just make sure it gets good and dry -- a little canned air will do the trick.

    Bonus Tip: squirt all the contacts with brake rotor cleaner. It's the same non-residue stuff as electronic contact cleaner and costs far less at the auto parts store. Do this part outside. Inhaling that stuff is bad for the old neuromuscular responses and your typeing giws all to hrll.

  17. Josh

    Done that...

    A long time ago. This was what i always thought was one of the coolest things about keyboards. Many a times this has saved us from someone spilling soda all down the keys. Brings a whole new meaning to 'sticky keys'.

  18. Will Honea

    Someone needs to get out more

    As others have noted, this has been a common practice for as long as I've been around electronics (and that goes back to vacuum tube (valve) days. I've seen every thing from dishwashers to the shower used. Also echoing the key point everyone raised: get it dry before powering it up. My preference is to set it in the direct sunlight all day since my part of the world typically runs 85-90F with relative humidity in the low teens. Using the dishwasher drying cycles does create some interesting geometry, though.

  19. tim chubb

    too much hassle

    y bother with the entire keyb?

    pop the keys, put in the knife basket, jobs a good un

    just wipe the chasis down....

    annother key cleaning trick i often use, is the good old vinegar and water (best with hot water) solution put into a jug, which i put all the keys in, and stir with a fork or whisk (hand not electric) for 5 mins, then give each key a wipe and reinstall

    if stirring is too much hassle, use an empty pop bottle, put the lid on and shake about

    find i can recondition a keyboard in about 30 mins like that, only use a dish washwasher when i have more than 5 keyboards to process

    as for dome style membranes, i find that hooking the top edge then just pushing down the key till it clicks gets them back on fine, dont try to press them straight down like you would a sheet membrane

    if any one has an easy way to reattach a space bar let me know.........

  20. Lol Whibley


    my Vaio had a pint of cocoa spilled on it and got left for a month because the original owner couldn't bring herself to tell her boss. it came to me in a very sorry state, somewhat crystalised to say the least. i figured it was dead and probably not going to get any deader so i took the battery, dvd-rom and hdd out. sat it in 3 inches of warm water with some fairy powerspray. gave it a good swoosh and left it to dry.

    refitted the components and i use it every day.

    it is known as deathbychocolate on my lan.


  21. Scott Silver badge

    There are other fluids...

    Coffee etc is OK but some fluids write off keyboards because of their acidity!

    When this happened where I work, the nurse showed me where the rubber gloves were (I take medium size) and I washed it down in their sluice but uric acid destroys contacts so it was finished...

  22. Alan Donaly

    keyboard washing


    I needed a good laugh thanks all of you.(High

    squeakie voice I have been doing this for years)

    great it's like elreg asked geeks to parody themselves

    and they did en mass chorus "just throw it in the dishwasher

    " perfect.

  23. Arthur Kater


    Dear Michele,

    Thank you for this wonderfull idea.

    How should I proceed to clean the keypad of my notebook? Do you think it's wise to remove the Sony battery since it might bring the water to a boiling point which might affect the laquer of the notebook negatively..

    Kind regards,


  24. Keith Langmead

    Re: There are other fluids...

    Depends on the type of keyboard, with some of the old membrane keyboards used with some terminals coffee just eats through the circuitry. One place I worked for a few months while I college had two incidents of people spilling coffee on their keyboards. The first one called support immediately, and I was able to simply wash it off under the tape, let it dry completely and it worked perfectly. Unfortunately the second one was done on a Friday, and the user decided that since it still worked she wouldn't both calling us. On Monday morning she discovered it no longer worked. By that time no amount of cleaning was going to help it was already dead, and I had to tell her she'd have to tell her line manager to approve a new one... being an old terminal semi-intelligent keyboard they cost a few hundred quid each!

  25. Martin Owens


    What do you do if you don't have a lar-de-dah fancy pants dish washer? I had to take off every key from my old 8088 IBM and wash it.

    By the way the Enter key being on two lines is a feature of all UK keyboards. I can't stand those unfamiliar us keyboards with the / is the wrong place.

  26. Mark

    For safer cleaning....

    Keyboards like other electronics taken for a dunking will work perfectly well if dried out without any power running through them. You'll increase your success rate if you give a final rinse in distilled water, or even better alcohol.

  27. ian

    Ugh! Scott!

    Scott! How? Why? Do I want to know?

  28. Andy Davies


    "It has been common practice for years to put things like old dirty circuit boards in the dishwasher "

    then how come the pcb in my <B> garden watering controller </B> went titsup when it got sprayed by a hosepipe?

    AndyD 8-(#

  29. sheridan

    I've tried this...

    I've tried this a couple of times with my Mac keyboard. I left the keys on, but it took about three days for the thing to dry properly.

  30. Alan


    Does this work for laptops too?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have been using the same key board for the past 7 years, it's been through loads of coffee, tea, coke and anything else you can think off. it also has more crumbs than my toaster and i havent cleaned it once.

    still works fine, washing it is a far way off.

    get a life.

  32. Paul Simmonds

    Old News

    I've never used a dishwasher, but the large Belfast sink in our old film processing lab could take entire Wyse 85 terminal - it needed to when someone had dropped a container of sweet'n'sour chicken (hong-kong style) over it and it's keyboard.

    BTW some flavours of sweet'n'sour are worse than Coke for wrecking electronic kit!

  33. lordasb

    AT keyboard

    even works on AT keyboard that is 8 years old now ;-)

    still working.... bugger that makes me sound old

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