Membrane gaming keyboards cost less than mechanical keyboards, but they’re expensive enough that they’re worth fixing. Here’s how to clean a membrane gaming keyboard when it gets fouled with debris.
Get a keycap puller
First things first: You need a keycap puller. That allows you to remove keycaps without damaging the caps or the board. A cheap one that costs under $2 is just fine, if your keyboard didn’t come with one.
Remove the keys
Take a photo of your keyboard so you can put the keys back in place. Don’t count on being able to remember all of them. I’ve known how to type for 30 years and I almost always mix up at least two of the obscure keys. Then, snap the puller onto each key and pull straight up. The keys will take a bit of effort but will pop off. Start with the keys in the middle and work out. It’s easier to get the edge keys if the keys next to them are gone.
Oversized keys are tougher, but just snap the puller on however you can, slide it to the center of the key, and lift straight up. It will pop off.
Washing the keys
Once you take all the keys off, wash them in soapy water. I like to use dish detergent because it cuts through the oils and whatever else is living on the key surfaces. I just dump them in the sink, add a few drops of detergent, then fill the sink with warm water. Stir the keys around a bit and let them soak for about an hour.
Take the keys out, wipe them down, and place them on a hand towel to let them air dry.
Cleaning the debris
The debris under the keys usually shakes out easily enough. Use a brush to brush out any stubborn debris in there. I’ve also been known to use a vacuum cleaner with a small attachment. I prefer not to use any cleaner on the surface under the keys, but if something’s stuck, I like to use a cloth with just some warm water to try to loosen it up.
Let it all dry for at least a few hours. I like to let it sit overnight if I can.
Replacing the keys
The keys just snap back into place. Be sure to position them in the right direction. Start with some obvious keys like the A key, so you can tell when you have a key spun the wrong way around. If you put a key on upside down, it won’t work right. Press the key a few times after you put it back into place. Sometimes the action on the keys isn’t quite right at first, but a few keypresses gets them working again.
The keys with metal stabilizers can be tricky, but on my son’s Hyperx keyboard, they’re much easier than they seem. They snap into place almost exactly like regular keys. Just lower the stabilizer into its horizontal position and snap the key in. Press the key up and down a few times and the stabilizer clips into place.