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Your keyboard is disgusting. Here's why you should clean it with slime

Take a look at your keyboard. Is it bad? It's probably very bad.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Canister of ColorCoral cleaning gel on laptop.

ColorCoral cleaning gel.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Think your keyboard is clean?

Take another look.

If you still think that it's clean, take it into another room -- or better still, a coffee shop or some other public place -- and look at it under different lighting.

Unless you've been keeping on top of cleaning, it's probably foul.

Here's mine, and it's only been a few weeks since I last cleaned it.

Also: The best keyboards: Find your type

Closeup of keyboard with dust on it.

My disgusting keyboard.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

That's unpleasant!

There are a lot of different ways that people can clean their keyboards, but my method of choice is to use a cleaning gel (also known as "slime").

The brand of gel I'm using here is from ColorCoral, but in my experience these gels are all pretty much the same, and I've not really found one to be any better or worse than any other. 

Why a cleaning gel? For a number of reasons.

First, while brushes and canned compressed air can do a good job on the surface, I find that they push dirt and muck under the keys and into the keyboard.

Cleaning gel is also gentle on the keyboard, whereas I've seen a cloth catch on a key cap and lift it off.

Finally, it's quick and cheap. Canned air is expensive and wasteful, and unless you have a lot of keyboards to clean, electronic dusters are prohibitively expensive (although for dealing with lots of dust, they can't be beat). 

Also: This stuff is better than compressed air for cleaning your dirty tech

The gel's easy to use.

Turn off the laptop or computer (so you're not pressing loads of keys). Then, take the gel out of the pot and give it a quick knead.

Hand holding gel by keyboard.

Give the gel a quick knead before use.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Start cleaning the keyboard by pressing the gel in and around the keys. I find a slow, rolling action works best. Remember, you're trying to use the gel to pick up dirt and debris, not knead it into the keyboard.

Gel being used on keyboard.

Start working the gel around the keys -- work slow and methodically.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Keep going until you're happy. You saw the before shot earlier; here's what the keyboard looked like after a few minutes of cleaning:

Clean laptop keyboard

Looks a lot better!

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

It's not perfect, I wasn't going for that, but it's a whole lot less filthy for very little effort.

The gel is reusable -- just pop it back into the pot -- and I find it lasts about six months to a year after opening.

Is it safe?

There are always people who are worried about using gel on their keyboards. I've been using the stuff now for well over a decade and I've not had a single problem. If you are worried, then you'll need to find an alternative way, but this remains my favorite way to clean keyboards.

And cleaning gel is not just for keyboards. It's good for cleaning things like your car's dashboard or items you might want to photograph (especially for close-up macro photography). 

Also: How to clean any flat-screen TV or monitor

It's very versatile stuff!

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