GBM How-To Series #22 : Cleaning your Tablet/UMPC Keyboard (if it has one)

gbm_howto_1Last week we cleaned up the screen, this week we finish the job by cleaning the keyboard and chassis. If you own a Tablet PC/UMPC with an attached keyboard, chances are just like the screen, it’s gonna get dirty. Well, hopefully not as dirty as the one below :) Today’s How-To provides some quick and dirty (pardon the pun) tips for cleaning it up.





GBM How-To Series #22 : Cleaning your Tablet/UMPC Keyboard

Round up the following before you get started: 

Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, Can of Compressed Air, Cotton Swabs, Distilled Water, Rubbing Alcohol, Paper Towels, and a Small Spray Bottle


Bullet_1STEP 1 : Begin by creating a keyboard cleaning solution by combining a mixture of no more than 50% Alcohol and distilled water, add to this just a couple of drops of Dawn dish soap. One again, I highly recommend that you mix the distilled water and alcohol using a measuring cup to ensure that the mixture is accurate. As well, remember to make sure to seal the spray bottle and shake it well before proceeding to step 2. As an alternative to my H2O and Alcohol solution, you can use just alcohol, or even just the water with a mild soap. Do NOT use solutions that contain ammonia or solvents. The idea here is NOT to remove any of the applied graphics/decals on the keys or system itself, just the grime.


Bullet_2STEP 2 : REMOVE ALL POWER FROM YOUR SYSTEM (Yes, detach the battery as well)! The reason for this is that damage to a system from moisture related accidents is generally because of the system shorting out, not that it actually got wet. I have had good success with bringing systems back to life after a major spill when they were not plugged in or powered up. You just have to wait for several days while the moisture to evaporate. Depending on what got dumped into the keyboard, you might experience some corrosion related problems in the future, but usually you will be OK. Be careful with liquids around your system. They are more lethal than a drop off the bed.


Bullet_3 STEP 3 : Keyboards are a magnet for almost everything you don’t want to get in them. Late night snacks, fingernail funk, dust, hair, etc. Yea, that’s gross. The first job is to get as much of the big stuff out as possible. To to this, get a firm grip of the system, turn it over and give it a good shake. Don’t get to carried away; we don’t want to break anything. You will be surprised how much junk can come out of a keyboard just by turning it over.



Bullet_4 STEP 4 : Take the can of compressed air and gently (no full power blasts) blow between each row of keys so as to push any remaining particles out the opposite end of the keyboard. Repeat steps 3 and step 4 as necessary until you are satisfied that you got the majority of any particles out. If you have any stubborn items remaining, try this Post-It Note trick… 



Fold a Post-It note in half so that you have a V-shape with one sticky and one non-sticky end. Slide the non-sticky end along the groove on the low side to scoop up loose debris. Now, push the sticky end along each of the spaces between the keys to grab the dust bunnies and particles that are really dug in. If you have something stuck under a key, unfold the Post-It note and slide the sticky side under the key to grab it.



Bullet_5 STEP 5 : Almost done. Now for the serious part. Spray a conserative amount of the solution we mixed in Step 1 to a clean paper towel or soft cloth. The cloth should not drip. We want just enough to be moist, not wet. Also, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER spray any solution directly onto your system! Now that I got that across, proceed to wipe each key throughly taking care to not wipe hard enough to remove the applied decals from your keys. Depending on the shape of your keys, you might need to apply just a bit of the solution to a cotton swab to get the edges of the keys. Next, on a clean cloth or paper towel, spray just a enough of the solution to get it moist. Carefully wipe the palm rests (if you have them) and the outside of the system case to finish the job.  If you are using wipes, avoid using wipes that are wet to the touch. These could drip into the keyboard and cause serious damage.

Tips, Tricks & Warnings
  • Make sure that ALL power is removed from your system before beginning. I cannot stress this enough.
  • If you purchase store-bought cleaning products, make sure the alcohol content is below 50 percent and does not contain any harsh solvents.
  • Be careful NOT to get the solution for cleaning the keyboard on the screen. It will leave streaks.
  • Don’t use Windex or other window cleaning products because those products contain mixtures that can remove decals.