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I spilled beer on my keyboard a while back, and some of the keys are sticky.

It's driving me crazy, and I don't have any isopropyl. Can I use vodka to clean it?

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If you're just talking of wiping with a damp rag, pure water or vodka would be fine. Don't let any liquid seep into the keyboard, though. If you have a problem that the beer has make the keys themselves stick down then it is necessary to partially disassemble the KB and immerse the upper part in pure water, then dry for several days. (I've done this several times and it works.) Luckily it was beer and not a cola beverage, as cola will literally dissolve the printed circuit at the heart of the KB if not immediately washed off. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 16 at 11:41
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the mechanical keyboard subreddit has some guides for cleaning keyboards. may only apply if you have a mechanical keyboard though. –  Boumbles Apr 16 at 12:46
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Just make sure you spill some coffee on it afterwards... –  Vector Apr 21 at 0:58
    
This question is on topic for this site. We're talking about computer hardware repair and maintenance, after all. –  DragonLord Apr 22 at 11:14

7 Answers 7

The residue from beer is water soluble, so a damp cloth should do the trick if it's just the faces of the keys that are sticky. The alcohol in the vodka might dissolve the key labels.

If the keys are actually sticking, you've got a bigger problem though, since wiping the visible surfaces isn't going to get the residue out from where it's making the keys stick.

Basically, if you spill something on the keyboard, it's already wet, and when it dries it's going to leave residue behind.

So if you can't wipe it all off, you won't do any worse if you run the keyboard under the tap to get rid of the spillage, and then let the keyboard dry in a warm place like an airing cupboard for a few days. It's worked for me a few times over the years!

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... but only do this if the keyboard is not part of your laptop! –  todofixthis Apr 16 at 11:44
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vodka is not pure alcool, as a test case you can spill it on the table and let it dry.. you'll find it stiky, depending on the "puriness" of the vodka. –  lesto Apr 16 at 12:43
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@lesto Who said vodka is pure alcohol? –  Michael Kjörling Apr 16 at 14:06
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@MichaelKjörling the anser it implicitly thinking that vodka won't leave residue, like the pure alcool does (it vaporize at 9° Celsius) –  lesto Apr 16 at 14:16
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DONT place it on something hot like radioator/heater/warmer - I did and it curved my keyboard to point where keys wont press. –  Ultra Apr 17 at 10:07

I have cleaned a keyboard by running it under tap water - seriously, out of the tap (spilled a latte on the keyboard). Let it dry (like overnight), and good-as-new. I believe this is reliable as long as you let the water completely evaporate.

I also believe vodka is too valuable to be used as a cleaning agent.

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+1 for stressing the value of vodka here! –  Benoit Apr 16 at 17:25
    
This will work provided that the water is 100% clean. Clean water does not cause shorts, and making sure it dries well will prevent the rust. Downside is that on most keyboards, water can cause issues if trapped under the cuircuih membrane –  Jarmund Apr 17 at 6:27
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@Benoit Depends; in mother Russia, all taps dispense vodka! –  Danny Beckett Apr 17 at 23:31
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"I also believe vodka is too valuable to be used as a cleaning agent." (in answer) is correct and should not be confused with the parenthetical use of "too", as in: "I also believe vodka is, too, valuable to be used as a cleaning agent." –  user29020 Apr 19 at 18:59
    
drying tap water could leave residue (calcium? lime? not sure what the correct form of the dutch 'kalk' should be in english), so whenever possible, dry in rice. –  Nanne Apr 20 at 7:28

Do not use anything with alcohol to clean the keyboard. The keys will probably not stick anymore, but alcohol would also dissolve some of the lubricants used under the keys. Also, the word alcohol abuse comes to mind.

Your best bet is a damp piece of cloth, slightly warm, and then compressed air to get any gunk that the beer spill may have trapped.

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Isn't there a risk that the water wouldn't evaporate? –  user1068446 Apr 16 at 7:13
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Not THAT damp :) Besides, disassembling it and leave it to dry overnight is always a good idea –  Jarmund Apr 16 at 7:26
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Lubricant under the keys? Dirty boy. –  John U Apr 16 at 19:12
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"The word alcohol abuse comes to mind". Heh, I smirked. –  Munim Apr 17 at 5:12

My favorite method of cleaning keyboards is putting them inside a dishwasher on a 30-minute program and then letting them dry out on the clothes line. The keyboard is usually squeaky clean afterwards.

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This sounds crazier than it is. I've done this. It does work. I've just set mine to dry inside, over a few days. Good as new. –  Steve Butler Apr 18 at 15:33
    
I thought this was a troll at first, but it looks like others affirm this strategy. However, it's worth stressing that you don't use the heat and don't use soap. –  Michael Apr 21 at 13:21

I would suggest removing the keys*, and applying some warm water and a q-tip (or if you don't mind waiting for it to dry out, run it under water, but then don't plug it in for several days). Finally, you can just swish the keys around in a bowl of water.

If you don't know your keyboard layout by heart, it may be a good idea to take a picture first so you know how to put the keys back, as there's nothing more frustrating then trying to figure out why an "m" gives you "n" and vice versa.

*This depends on the type of keyboard. If it is a separate keyboard, you can usually pry them up easily with a flat-head screwdriver, but for flatter keyboards, like laptop keyboards or some of the slimline keyboard you see today, I wouldn't recommend trying to remove the keys.

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If the keys feel sticky when you press them, it's usually a better idea to forget about this keyboard and buy a new one.

I've soaked my kb in kvass a few years ago and no attempts of restoring it to the original condition succeeded. Water, alcohol, removing each individual key for thorough cleaning… It either will still feel sticky, or it will start making terribly loud noises with each key stroke because you'll inadvertently remove the key lubricant.

Keyboards are not that expensive, it's easier to buy a new one. But if they are, make sure to remember this experience and never spill anything on yours again.

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You can stick keyboards in the dishwasher. –  staticx Apr 17 at 14:18
    
Yeah, but then it'll smell like the dishwasher cleaning tablet thing. That and it would probably melt from the heat. –  user1306322 Apr 17 at 14:50
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You don't use the heat and don't use soap. There are people who have posted for years online on how to do this. Look it up. –  staticx Apr 17 at 14:57
    
Nah, I'm good. I just got myself 2 spare keyboards since then and they're still unpacked. Each cost me $12 and it's a great insurance value. –  user1306322 Apr 17 at 15:34

I'd remove the keycaps, and soak the entire keyboard in distilled water, which is cheap to come by and won't leave any residue after drying.

Removing the keycaps is optional, but if you spilt beer into the keyboard, this may give a better result.

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protected by Oliver Salzburg Apr 16 at 15:09

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