This instructable will show you how to clean a dirty keyboard. This project is best done with the whole family so it is important to pick a strategic time to begin. I chose the early morning hours of the first day of spring break. Those few hours when the younger children are awake and quietly reading Facebook or watching Netflix, the older teenagers are still trying to sleep off finals and mom is trying to get just a few more Zs before the day begins.
Step 1: Removing Keys
Using a butter knife gently pry up each key. Depending on your technique, they can fly quite some distance when they pop off so it's a good idea to have several children around to help retrieve the keys as they fly across the room. Depending on your keyboard model, you may not be able to remove the larger keys (like the spacebar) without breaking them. So remove as many as you can and remember, the best keyboard in the world can be had from Amazon for less than $20 with free shipping for Prime members, so have fun.
Step 2: Put Keys in a Container
When all the keys have been removed, you'll need to find a container to hold them during cleaning. This provides a unique treasure hunting opportunity. Since you'll be adding water and dish soap and shaking violently, no ordinary leftover container will do. The kids suggested we finish the jelly bellies or the chocolate covered raisins, but since both of those containers are in the room where my wife was sleeping, I made an executive decision that we should split the last handful of cashews. After washing the container and removing the label, (we used Goof Off, but lighter fluid works also) we put the keys in the container and headed upstairs to the kitchen for the soap and water.
Step 3: Shake Container Violently
Pass the container from child to child, let each one explore the space of the kitchen like Gene and his cowbell. If you do this right the older children will start waking up and coming to see what is going on. Explain the complexities of the task and engage their help. The more the merrier. Continue shaking until all teenagers are awake or the container looks worse than using regular detergent in an HE washer,
Step 4: Rinse Keys
Pour the contents of the container into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.
Step 5: Dry Keys
Arrange paper towels on the counter and pour the keys out of the colander. Now have the children arrange the keys on the paper towel so that no key is touching another and so that no key is upside down where it can trap water. This step could easily take longer than it does for the keys to dry.
Step 6: Clean Keyboard
Turn the keyboard upside down and tap it several times to help the bigger debris come. Then using cleaning wipes remove any additional debris.
Note: It can be helpful the wrap the wipe around the blade of the butter knife to get it into the crevices.
Additional Note: This is a good time to have the older kids make breakfast. This will go a long way toward improving mom's mood when she wakes up.
Step 7: Keep the Kids Involved
While you are cleaning your keyboard, keep track of the debris that you are removing. Show this to the kids and explain that most of it likely comes from their bodies while they are using the computer. You'll know if you are successful if the older children see you getting out the compressed air and implore you to reconsider or at least do it outside.
Step 8: Replace Keys
Now for the fun. Bring the keys downstairs with some new paper towels. First replace all the large irregular shaped keys. These can be tricky, so go carefully. Now pick up each of the remaining keys one at a time and ask a different child where they go. Let the little ones run and go look at another keyboard (I know they have at least one old one up in the toy box), but challenge the older ones to remember where that key was the last time they pressed it. If you left your keyboard plugged in like I did (probably not recommended) you can open notepad (or any other editor) to verify that the key is correct as soon as they pop it in.
Note: Praise goes a long way with children. When they get a key right, praise them like so. "Awesome! You know where the V key goes. That means you can type words with V's in them like liver, love, voracious or vicissitude."