This 5-minute clean routine will kill the germs and take the ewww out of your keyboard and mouse.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

You may be touching the dirtiest thing you own right now, as you read this. If you’re at your computer, slowly move your hands away and take heed.

Your keyboard may have more bacteria on it than a toilet seat. In fact, the University of Arizona found that there can be 400 times more.

Don’t be too alarmed. A good clean can keep your keyboard — and its desk buddy the mouse — disinfected. Better yet, the process only takes 5 minutes.

How to clean and disinfect your keyboard

Start by giving your keyboard a good clean. Unplug your keyboard from your computer, or turn it if off if it’s wireless.

If you have a laptop, turn it off and unplug the charging cord. If you can easily remove the battery, it wouldn’t hurt to do that too.

Flip it upside down and give it a good couple of shakes to loosen any debris.

Now you need to go after the grime between and under the keys. There are several ways to attack it. One way is to make some cleaning slime that will grab gunk from the nooks and crannies. Another sticky alternative is to use clear tape — here’s how.

cleaning-slime.jpg
Cleaning slime can get the gunk out from under keyboard keys.

Alina Bradford/CNET

If sticky’s not your style, you can blow some compressed air around the keyboard to remove crumbs, dust and other fun stuff from between the keys.

After getting under the keys, wipe the tops of the keys and the palm rest lightly with disinfectant wipes. Avoid wipes with bleach, though. They can damage the finish on your keyboard. Also make sure that the wipes aren’t overly damp by squeezing out any excess liquid before wiping the keyboard.

Cleaning and disinfecting your mouse

Your keyboard is now nice and clean, but don’t forget your mouse. It’s also teeming with germs. First, unplug your mouse from your computer and remove any batteries. Or simply turn it off and remove the batteries if it’s wireless.

If there are loose particles stuck underneath the scroll wheel, turn the mouse upside down and roll the scroll wheel to help dislodge anything that may be stuck inside.

Then, wipe your mouse with disinfectant wipes. Like with your keyboard, make sure that the wipes aren’t overly damp. Also, take care to avoid getting moisture into any openings.

The same cleaning instructions apply for laptop touchpads. Simply turn off your laptop and swipe a disinfecting wipe across the touchpad.

Make sure they’re dry

Before you use your laptop, keyboard or mouse again, make sure they’re fully dry. Drying shouldn’t take more than a minute or so as long as the wipes weren’t very damp. A little dampness can ruin an electronic device once power is running through it.

A word of caution

Just in case you’re thinking about tossing your keyboard in the dishwasher, I don’t recommend it. Putting it in the dishwasher or submerging it in water will likely short-circuit the wiring.

I also don’t recommend that you disassemble your keyboard to clean it. Most manufacturers discourage users from disassembling keyboards, including removing keys. Doing so will probably void your warranty.

Originally published on Aug. 17, 2011.
Update, April 11, 2019: Adds new information and links.

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