Tech Lolz: Can I Use Vodka to Clean My Keyboard?

keyboardEver since my college years, I have had the impression that vodka has far better uses than cleaning up a keyboard. Also, does everyone out there have a bottle of vodka just sitting around? In the end vodka is a pretty expensive remedy to sticky keys on the keyboard. On a more serious note, real people actually had this dilemma: can they clean their keyboard with vodka? In this first episode of Tech Lolz we would like to take both a serious and a fun look at this question and see whether you should do this or not.

Do People Actually Consider Cleaning Up Their Keyboards with Vodka?

Yes, they actually do. But here's the twist, it's not that bad of an idea, as we've learned from this discussion on Super User:

"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?" asked a user named user1068446.

Beer and a Keyboard

Right, let's look at this pragmatically. You do not have any isopropyl but you spilled the beer a while back? Why are you in such a hurry to waste a precious elixir that can lead you into thinking that you can actually dance? If you look around the house, there are so many other appliances or liquids that you can use to solve this problem. Before we take a crack at it, let's take a look at what our awesome cyber-friends had to say:

"DON'T place it on something hot like radiator/heater/warmer - I did and it curved my keyboard to point where keys won't press." said a user named Ultra.

Oh boy, do we agree with Ultra here. Keyboards use lots of plastic. And as the Physics teacher has taught us again and again, until we managed to pass that one important Physics test, plastics melt under high temperature. So yes, radiators/heaters/warmers are just awful places to put the keyboard to dry off. All who knew the answer to this should definitely send their Physics teacher a box of chocolates.

Gary Huckabone, another user, provided some great insight on the matter:

"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."

As far as we are concerned, the tap water idea is a good one but does not work on all types of keyboards. There are keyboards that can detach the actual keyboard part and leave the circuits safe and sound while you soak the buttons under the tap. The best part of Gary's insight is that he truly knows the value of his liquor. GG Gary!

However, since the Internet is also about getting cultures together, we gained a lot of insight of the Russian culture from British:

"Depends; in mother Russia, all taps dispense vodka!" said Danny Beckett.

I'm sure he visited Russia, at least on Bing Maps. :)

The Right Ways of Cleaning Your Keyboard

Even though vodka is a more... radical way of doing things, we can give you an idea or two on how to get that keyboard sticky-free.

But first, let's get the story straight. Vodka has been a very good friend to people who try to get rid of leftover glue from pricing tags or stickers. However, there is a downside to vodka.
You might say "Yeah right, downside!". The fact is that if the vodka is not of a good quality, the residue left in it after the distillation can harm your keyboard more than help it.

We especially agree with Sydney, who said:

"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."

The best alcohol to use for cleaning keyboards should have around 60% alcohol or more. We recommend the rectified spirit or isopropyl alcohol. You can dip a Q-tip in it and just start cleaning up those keys.

Just make sure that you keep your alcoholic beverages and other alcohols in different cabinets. It's really not a good mix.

Strictly speaking of a standalone keyboards and not a laptop keyboard, compressed air has proved itself most efficient at removing the residue in-between the keys. However, with most laptops nowadays, compressed air won't be able to do the trick since there is no in-depth separation between the key.

IMG_1217

A nice upside of most keyboards is that you can individually remove each key and then clean the base. If you have never done this before, you will be amazed of what you find in there. For this technique, you will need a screwdriver with a flat head, a swiss army knife or whatever you have that can fit under the key to push it upwards. After removing the keys, you can gather them in a bowl with some dish-cleaning detergent and water and leave them there for an hour or so. When you take them out, rinse them in plain water and then use a dry cloth to absorb the water and stick them right back in the keyboard.

#5 - the hard part, getting the keys back in - Macbook Dvorak Keyboard

There are also out there different types of small, USB-powered vacuums for your keyboard or other small gadgets that help you get your keyboard in a clean state. I personally have used weird, gooey compounds (like Cyber Clean 25055 Home & Office Pop-up Cup) that pick up and hold within them the dust and other debris and that can go very well in-between keys.

Cyber Clean - press on keyboard

Conclusion

Nevertheless, what I wanted to point out in this article is that for cleaning the keyboard you need to do the following 2 main steps:

  • Clean the keyboard with whatever you like from the alternatives we presented;
  • Call your friends over to celebrate the cleaned keyboard with the vodka that you saved.

So what is your best pick-of-the-bunch when you clean your keyboard? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.