Yes, you can wash your keyboard in the dishwasher…

… but it’s really not recommended by the manufacturers.

You know that a geek story has really caught the public’s attention when it shows up on NPR. That’s where I first heard about how the idea of washing your computer keyboard in your dishwasher was all the rage on the Internets. Apparently it all started with an entry by Scott Moschella over at Plastic Bugs in which he details how he washed his keyboard in his dishwasher with no apparent ill effects that he published back on May 29th. Today NPR was all over the story like butter on bread:

I ran the experiment one night. I put the keyboard on the top rack, cord and all, key-side down. I used a little soap, and hit “normal wash.” (I didn’t want to pots ‘n’ pans it.)

I was encouraged to do this by Scott Moschella, a computer guy who runs a blog called Plastic Bugs.

“I think now when you type ‘keyboard’ and ‘dishwasher’ into Google, my site comes up as one of the first results,” Moschella says. “Clearly, you know, all it takes is one geek to do something stupid, and you’ve got a whole bunch of lemmings who are willing to jump off a cliff with you.”

I was just hoping my keyboard wouldn’t have to be replaced. After its ordeal in the dishwasher, I let it air dry for a week. Then I plugged it in and started to type. I tested the space bar, the return key, all the numbers and letters. It seemed perfect.

Now I’ve not seen this pop up on any of the blogs that I read regularly, but I’m not sure what the big deal is. I’ve washed more than one keyboard in my time, but with a big difference: I dismantled mine first and just washed the shell and the keys. The electronic bits I took a can of compressed air to and then wiped down with some cleaning wipes to help kill off the bugs. This is a bit more work, but it pretty much insures your keyboard will work properly once you’re done. Assuming, of course, that you can reassemble it properly. The manufacturers say that even that is more work than is required as they just recommend wiping it down with the wipes and being done with it.

Since this story started popping up in the news media I’ve had one or two emails asking me if I’d ever heard of such a thing and, yes, I do know a couple of guys who have just tossed their keyboards into the dishwasher in the same manner Moschella describes and still had a working keyboard when they were done, but they report that you can only do this a few times before your keyboard will crap out. In short, I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular thing to do unless you’re not that concerned about whether or not it survives the ordeal.

7 thoughts on “Yes, you can wash your keyboard in the dishwasher…

  1. I’ve taken a few apart myself, and fail to see how it would really do to much as long as you wait for it to dry out.  Hell, the voltage is so low in the device itself that as long as the plug is dry, I can’t see why you’d even really need to wait that long, unless it has a built in USB port or some other fancy stuff. 
    I mean, keyboards get soda and water spilled on them all the time and keep right on working, if they don’t you just let them air out a few days.  Soda just makes the keys stick.  Since there shouldn’t be any exposed circuits in most keyboards, the chances of a short a pretty slim.  Maybe the LEDs might create a risk. 

    Now if he washed his laptop in the dishwasher and got it to work afterwards I’d be amazed.

  2. I had rinsed out a keyboard with an OJ spill in it in the sink.  Got most of it, but not all.  Next day, the ants had found it, and when I was told, the light went on and said to let the ants at it.  Once they were done, the keyboard was good to go.

    Smart thing is to just put a keyboard condom on it.  Especially if you really like your keyboard. My current one (nice heavy metal plate in it) is 10 years old and still has the same cover on it. 

    There are exposed circuits in keyboards.  Just that the water would drain away from them in the normal operating position.

  3. I first heard about this from MaximumPC about a couple months ago, maybe Feb or March.  The chief editor, Gordon Mau Hung (I think I spelled it right) had one of his little articles where he tries out some knew idea or product.  According to him they tried it on three different keyboards and all three worked after just 3 hours of drying.

  4. Send this on to mythbusters. They might try washing a keyboard in the dish washer.

  5. I can’t see why you’d even really need to wait that long, unless it has a built in USB port or some other fancy stuff.

    PC keyboards have an embedded micro controller, they’re not just a box full of switches.  The embedded CPU handles the keyboard protocol between the PC.

  6. I stand corrected. and thus my pitifully lacking knowledge of hardware is displayed for all to see.  I’d still like to see somebody try to wash their laptop in the dishwasher and get it to work though…

  7. I did put my ThinkPad T40 under the tap after spilling a lot of soda on the keyboard, it did take a couple of days to dry, but after that it was good as new. Not so sure about a dishwasher tho :S

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