Keyboard in the Dishwasher?

Our new part-timer at work is very young…19, I think…and very nice, eager to learn and all, and seems quite bright. But yesterday she offered to take the keyboards for the computers home and run them through the dishwasher. She says she’s heard it’s a great way to get them clean.

We of course refused the offer. And I know why she offered. She’s new, and I know that when you go to a new place to work, it takes a while to adjust to the surroundings. I am also a little dismayed when I go to other stores and their keyboards are utterly filthy…I usually end up cleaning them if there is any free time. It’s one of those things that there just usually isn’t a lot of downtime to do. And the dirt builds up slowly…when you work there everyday you just don’t notice it. But someone new does. Our keyboards are cleaner than those at other stores because we have more slow time, and it’s one of those things I try to keep up with. So I’m slightly put out that she thinks our keyboards are disgusting, It’s time to clean them, but it’s an implied insult that we never clean them. I make sure when I clean a keyboard at another store that I do it when no one else is around, just so they don’t think I’m criticizing their housekeeping abilities.

But the dishwasher? Can she honestly believe that you can run a piece of electronic equipment with a cord and a circuit board through the dishwasher? We were so stunned we didn’t even try to argue with her, just told her they can’t leave the store and we’d clean it the old-fashioned way.

So what bizarre notions do your outwardly normal coworkers come up with?

Actually, it’s not so weird. If you search around, you’ll find me relating the same advice in some other threads.

However - this is a method of last resort; to clean a keyboard you would otherwise throw away. I’ve used it three times in a long computing career, two cans of pop in the keyboard (both superficially cleaned at the time of the “incident”, then reported days later when they keyboard stopped working), and one substance unknown that caused keys to stick. None of the keyboards were valuable enough to do the whole disassemble-wipe each component-reassemble game.

Two of the three keyboards worked after being dishwashed and dried out for a couple days. The third one worked except for a single “dead” key (unfortunately a typing one, and it wasn’t the kind of keyboard with replacable contacts). If I’d given it another few days, I bet even that key would have come back.

If for some reason you do this, DON’T PUT SOAP IN THE DISHWASHER, and don’t use the heated dry cycle.

Have you considered just buying some new keyboards? You can get them for as little as $8 or so. Probably less than that if you’re willing to buy 10 of them.

Heh. It reminds me of a story several years ago at my old workplace at the factory…

I was working in my mother’s department, sitting in her office with her one day during a break. This department had been laying people off left and right, and many of the women working there were willing to do absolutely anything else in order to continue working. One of these women, a couple years older than my mother (at the time… does math approximately 45 years old) was kept on as a general cleaning lady. Swept floors, cleaned the offices, and acted as gopher when my gophering took me away from the warehouse briefly.
On this day, she had apparently been chatting with one of our male workers, a very sweet older fella who was known for his… hmm… bullshitting, I guess I’ll call it. He never did it to make anyone feel bad, he just did it to make you laugh. It was usually quite obvious, you’d catch it, laugh, he’d pretend for a while that he was being serious, but then he’d start to crack up. He loved playing around and “getting the girls going”. Nothing perverted or sexist going on there - he was a gay man working among a bunch of women. Damn, I miss that guy. Anyway, he was talking with our cleaning lady about how filthy the computers in the office looked. She agreed, but said she had no idea how to clean a computer.

“Why, it’s very simple,” he says. “You just get a tub of warm, soapy water, then take each piece and dunk it in. Scrub them up good, then dry them with a towel. Make sure to wear rubber gloves, of course.”


She went and got the tub and filled it with warm, soapy water, carried some towels over her arm, and she was wearing her rubber gloves when she entered the office, and my mother and I stopped her. She was mad. The fellow apologised to her profusely, but she was understandably upset. I believe objects were flung in his general direction.

Later that I week I printed out a picture of the guy’s head, cut it out and taped it onto the head of the current month’s Chippendale’s photo on the calendar on the ladies room wall (he would see it, too, since he usually helped our cleaning lady out and often cleaned the bathrooms for her). In honour of his antics or in retribution for them, I can’t say. Honour. Definitely honour. I laughed like a loon at that poor lady. I got an object thrown at me, too, don’t worry. I just couldn’t help it.

I second the idea of simply buying new ones.

I have heard this a few times. So I had this old keyboard that was flaky and my usual cleaning methods didn’t work and I gave it a try just to see what would happen. (I was very careful to make sure it dried thoroughly, canned air and such.) Afterwards it didn’t work at all.

I say Do Something Else.

Yeah I had heard it all over the net as well so one time after I spilled a beer into my nice keyboard I tried the dishwasher trick. No soap, no heated dry cycle. I gave it a few days to dry out but it never worked. Can’t hurt to try it if the keyboard is dead anyway though.

Preferable to using the dishwasher in that sort of case is to run the keyboard under a cold tap, then leave it upside down in the airing cupboard over a weekend. But keyboards are cheap enough to simply buy new.

The thing is, the keyboards aren’t even that dirty! Just a little fingerprint grime (we get a bit smudgy unpacking boxes and working with the greasy bits of our machinery) A few keys are a bit soiled. I keep them dusted (love that canned air) and we don’t get really dirty. Tomorrow I’ll be doing the Q-tip and rubbing alcohol wipe-down.

Yeah, I wouldn’t even try immersion therapy for surface grime; only for something like sticky liquid inside the keyboard.

I’m surprised at the number of failures listed here, apparently I got lucky (or the folks trying it didn’t let 'em dry long enough – about three days should be sufficient.)

But I’d still recommend new ones every couple years or so; legend has it that they’re quite the breeding ground for bacteria and other nasties.

I’ve taken one apart a couple times and wiped them out. About the third time, it didn’t work any more.

I’ve drenched seriously cruddy keyboards in cheap, nasty, big-plastic-jug-for-nine-bucks vodka after popping the keys off, both for the solvent action and because it dries a bit faster than water. It worked fine afterwards and was signifigantly less cruddy, but if it’s a plain ol’ keyboard and you don’t have the stuff laying around it costs about the same to get a new keyboard outright.

I’ve done the dishwasher thing with a lot of keyboards. I personally happen to have a 100 percent success rate, but I’m not going to guaranteee it for everyone else, and of course there are failures mentioned previously in this thread, so YMMV and all that.

I wouldn’t do it with a new keyboard, since there is a risk of it not working, but if it’s an old keybaord that is so cruddy no one wants to type on it, or if it’s a keyboard that someone spilled coffee or soda into, go for it. I’ve gotten a bunch of great keyboards from work just because someone spilled something into it and our IT department just tossed it. In fact, the keybaord I’m typing on now was 3 days old when someone dumped their coffee into it. I took it home, stuck it in the dishwasher, and have been using it ever since.

Important notes: Put the keyboard upside down in the dishwasher, don’t use soap, make sure the cord can’t get tangled in anything, and if there’s a heat cycle at the end turn it off (often called power saver dry or some such, in which case you have to turn it ON to turn the heat OFF). Make sure you let the keyboard dry out for a couple of days before you use it.

Around 10 years ago I saw a guy hand-washing his cup and plate in the office kitchen’s sink. I asked him why he didn’t just put them in the dishwasher like everyone else did (or was supposed to, at least). Turns out he had A Theory: dishwashers weren’t hygenic because the same water went round and round, if he designed one it would have a continuous flow of fresh water running through it! I can’t imagine how much water he must waste at home …