A wet keyboard is the stuff of nightmares. Whether you have just spilled a glass of water on your cheap membrane keyboard from Walmart or your Ducky one 2 mechanical keyboard, you’ll want to dry your keyboard as fast as possible. Before you accidentally fry your keyboard.
This article is going to cover everything you could need to know about drying your keyboard. Why you need to dry it, how you should dry it, what happens if you fail to dry it properly, and most importantly how to dry the various liquids that inevitably end up in the cracks and crevices of your keyboard.
If you spill coffee, water, beer, or any other liquid on your keyboard and need to dry it, the first thing you should do is get it unplugged. Flip the keyboard upside down to avoid the liquid going deeper towards the PCB. For any liquids other than water, do a thorough wipe down to remove any other debris.
None of us are perfect, we all spill from time to time. As someone who has spilled everything from beer to coffee in their keyboard, I can assure you I know how to deal with a very specific type of spill that can save your keyboard from a very nasty death.
Table of Contents
Why do I Need to Dry my Keyboard?
First of all, a wet keyboard is at risk of becoming damaged. You’ll find that leaving liquids to rest on your keyboard is a good way of ensuring that you fry your printed circuit board (PCB). The PCB is the brain of your keyboard, it contains most of the electronic components.
If you use a mechanical keyboard that relies on physical switches rather than a membrane you’ll find that pretty much all of the actual electronic components are sitting directly on the PCB. If you get the PCB wet it can become permanently damaged. Water and electricity do NOT mix well.
Not all liquid is going to do any real damage to the keyboard. For example, water can be problematic but it can also be a complete non-issue. If you don’t end up soaking the PCB you’ll find that your keyboard will probably just air dry over time.
Leaving it for a few days is arguably the best course of action. However, if you spill something that’s not water you are going to be looking at a bit of a sticky situation.
Any liquid that has any kind of sugar content is going to become worse as it air drys. If you spill lemonade, for example, on the keyboard, you’ll find that as the water in the lemonade evaporated the sugar remains. You’ll actually even find that you start off with a sort of syrup on your keyboard before you get a hard sticky crust.
Water will evaporate over time but anything else that’s in the drink will remain. Whether that’s orange juice or coffee, you’ll find that you end up with an unpleasantly sticky substance all over your keycaps and inside the keyboard itself.
If you do get this sticky substance inside your keyboard you may end up with a sticky key situation. Of course, sticky keys are gross and unpleasant to use but they can also make typing an utter nightmare. Repeat keystrokes, failed keystrokes, key inputs out of order, the works.
Getting dried coca-cola all over your switches is the absolute worst! You’ll spend all day trying to clean them and even then you may end up with a fair few that just simply won’t ever work properly again. The springs can be cleaned rather easily but the actual switch levers and other mechanisms themselves are a different story.
This next section will cover how you should go about cleaning your keyboard. If you fail to take the proper steps quickly you might be stuck with a keyboard that’s simply beyond repair. Which, when your keyboard can cost hundreds of dollars, is an unthinkable problem for many of us.
Remember, the best way to keep your keyboard dry is to just NOT drink over it. Or around it. Or at your desk at all. Drink somewhere else.
How to Dry my Computer Keyboard?
So, you’ve spilled something on your keyboard, coffee, water, soup, whatever – this isn’t a place of judgment. It happens to all of us so there is no use getting upset over it while there are still some very simple steps you can take.
This section will cover the first things you need to do when you’ve had a spill followed by some more specific advice for a few liquids in particular.
First, you are going to need to unplug your keyboard. As we have already established water and electricity do not mix. The best way to limit your chances of a short circuit or an electric shock is to remove the source of power.
Once you have done so the next thing you’ll need to do is just flip the keyboard over. The idea here is very simple, gravity is working against you. So, let’s have it work for us. Flipping the keyboard upside down will stop the liquid from flowing down onto the PCB. Instead, it will flow out the cracks in your keyboard onto your desk. Hopefully, anyway.
Next, we need to briefly cover what NOT to do. Do not store your keyboard in rice in an attempt to suck moisture out of the device. What will actually end up happening is you get a ton of rice starch in your keyboard which is SO much worse than just water.
Rice starch becomes thick and sticky as it dries. So, you go from a minor problem to a horrendously sticky one.
Also, avoid using paper towels or tissues. They will break up when wet and you’ll end up with damp towels in your keyboard which won’t be removable without taking the keyboard completely apart.
Instead, use a lint-free cloth or a microfibre cloth. Either is fine. Neither leaves any residue and both are highly absorbent.
Surprise, you will want to take the keyboard apart anyway. There are plenty of other articles that explain how that can be done so we won’t get into that now. Once you have taken the keyboard apart you can more thoroughly dry each component using the various cloths we discussed in the previous paragraph.
You should remove each switch and keycap to ensure that you can pat each one dry carefully. Once the entire keyboard is dry you are good to go with the reassembly. I’d recommend taking a day or two first to ensure that it really is as dry as can be.
Spilled Water on Keyboard
So, you’ve had a spill and it’s just water. Thank god! This is the best-case scenario. Water is very easy to deal with so long as you are quick to act.
If you are dealing with water only then once you have removed the switches and keycaps etc you can pat them dry and then just call it a day. You will most likely have no sticky keys and assuming it truly is just water that will be the end of it.
Spilled Coffee on Keyboard
Coffee is slightly worse than water but still very manageable. The problem with coffee is that coffee granules can get stuck in the tiny cracks and crevices. Furthermore, if you add sugar and creamer we are going back to the original problem of having a sticky layer covering your keyboard.
The best way to combat coffee is to wipe it all up and then gently wipe the keyboard down with a damp cloth. Water will evaporate eventually but the sugar and cream won’t.
Ensure that you get ALL of the solid coffee granules off of your keyboard by using a combination of dry cloths, damp cloths, and tweezers.
Cans of compressed air are a great way of getting the solid chunks out. However, if you have a lot of moisture leftover you may end up blowing that rather forcefully further into the PCB.
Coffee smells very strongly so it’s not a bad idea to hang a car air freshener next to the keyboard to help combat some of that smell. Even if you clean the keyboard properly you will struggle to completely remove the smell.
Spilled Beer on Keyboard
Beer! A beer being spilled on your keyboard is going to happen eventually. It happens to all of us. The general advice In this article is good enough in most cases but I do have one surprising tip. Please, for the love of god, soak your keys in warm soapy water immediately.
You can dry your switches well enough that they don’t cause too many problems relatively easily. However, the sticky layer that can build up on the keycaps themself is near enough impossible.
That’s why soaking them is so important – you can remove the sugar (beer is full of sugar) before it has time to really set itself on to the keycap.
Hopefully, this article will help you clean your keyboard should the almost inevitable happen. Remember, the best way to keep your keyboard dry is to simply not drink anything over it or around it. Ever. Under any condition.
I know it might be tempting but it’s genuinely just not worth it. Water and electronics don’t mix. You don’t want to spill anything on your keyboard, your mouse, or god forbid your computer. Keep the two as far apart as possible.
It’s a good idea to avoid eating over your keyboard too. Even solid foods like chips. Crumbs can be equally as devastating as water.