Cleaning the keyboard

By | September 14, 2009
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In Computers One Step at a Time this time:


  • Previously secret news about the Inner Circle
  • Cleaning the keyboard
  • Cleaning the mouse – and why it’s important
  • A reader recommends a place to buy PCs.


Phew. I’ve been hard at work on the Inner Circle – and it’s very nearly finished. I’ve got some previously secret news for you about it… You can click to read it, (that way it doesn’t clog up the newsletter).

On to the newsletter itself:

How to clean the computer keyboard
Someone asked me this week how to clean their laptop keyboard. And I realised it’s something I’ve never mentioned in this newsletter.

You can clean the keys themselves with a slightly damp cloth (with the PC turned off and unplugged – water and electricity are not a good combination!) if they get a bit grubby.

There’s also any dirt that gets between and under the keys.

If you have a separate keyboard, the easiest thing to do is to turn it upside-down and shake it. Any crumbs from easting biscuits at the computer and any dust will come out.

Or you can use one of those static dusters – I think one make is called “Swiffer”. Take the corner of one of the cloths and poke it between the keys, then move it across the keyboard between the keys to pick up any dust. (Again, turn the PC off first).

If you have a can of compressed air, blowing that between the keys works well, too. Computer shops sell them specifically for this kind of thing. (I don’t recommend just blowing between the keys though, as you can get a face full of dust!)

If you have a tea spillage to clean up or you really can’t get the crumbs out from behind the keys, you can usually take the keys out individually. Use a flat bladed screwdriver to carefully lever them out one at a time. Careful, though – you don’t want to break the keys. And make sure you remember which key goes where! To put the keys back, just press them into place.

But usually a static duster and shaking it upside down will be all you need.

While we’re on the topic, here’s something even more important:

How to clean the mouse
Again, you can wipe off any grubbiness with a damp cloth. But the underside is more important – if that’s dirty the mouse doesn’t work as well. Instead of the arrow moving smoothly when you move the mouse, it’ll jump about erratically like it’s had a few too many dry martinis.

There are two types of mouse. Turn over your mouse so it’s upside-down and look at the underside. If you have a little red light, you have what’s called an optical mouse and all it needs is a quick wipe over to remove dust.

If you have a round bit with a ball inside that rolls on the desk when you move it, you have what’s imaginatively called a ball mouse. And they take a bit more cleaning. Here’s what to do if you have a ball mouse:

  1. Rotate the plastic disk that holds the ball in place. It should come off and let the ball out.
  2. You can clean the ball in warm water but unless it’s really mucky you’ll probably only need to dust it with a dry cloth.
  3. Look inside the mouse. There should be three rollers that the balls rolls against. These are what we’re after.
  4. Look for dirt on them. It’s just dust but it gets pressed onto them hard when the ball rotates.
  5. Scrap the dirt off, making sure it doesn’t fall inside the mouse. You can use a cotton wool bud or a lollipop stick (not the sticky end!) – anything that won’t damage the plastic roller. Fingernails work well but you get filthy nails!
  6. Once it’s all scraped off, put the ball back in, the plastic disk on top and rotate it so it snicks into place.

And that’s it – if the rollers were dirty you should really notice the difference.

One more thing about cleaning mice. Sometimes (on both types) the little pads that the mouse rests on get dirty. Cleaning off any dust stuck to them will help the mouse slide over your desk more smoothly. It won’t affect how the arrow on the screen moves but will make it less effort to move the mouse how you want.

Buying a new computer
Recently I mentioned some companies I recommend for buying a new computer from. (Europc and Mesh Computers) Another one I’ve heard good things about from a reader is

Well, that’s all for now – don’t forget to click here: to read the previously secret news about the Inner Circle!


Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2009

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