How to Remove Mechanical Keyboard Keys In 3 Easy Steps

By Robert David Orr / Last updated: Oct 15, 2022

Have you ever wondered just how dirty the nooks and crannies of your keyboard are? Spoiler alert: it can get pretty bad. But is it actually necessary to clean your keyboard keys? What could happen if you don’t?

How do you even remove the keys to clean your keyboard?

To give your keyboard a thorough clean, you need to remove the keys. To do this, you’ll need to use a keycap puller to lift the keycaps before you can clean them underneath. To avoid damaging the keyboard, gently lift the keycaps with your puller and they should come up with little to no issue.

While it’s certainly possible to do this without a keycap puller, it’s best to err on the side of caution and, at the very least, make a DIY puller to get the job done.

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First – Do You Have a Hot-Swappable Keyboard?

Before you even get started trying to remove the keycaps and key switches from your mechanical keyboard, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard.

Not sure what a hot-swappable keyboard is?

A hot-swappable keyboard is a keyboard gives you the ability change out the key switches by using a switch puller tool without having to solder and desolder them from the PCB.

If you do NOT have a hot-swappable keyboard, then you need to stop and go no further because if you try to remove the key switches from a non-hot-swappable keyboard you can easily destroy it.

Removing Mechanical Keyboard Keys in 3 Easy Steps

programming mechanical keyboard

The desire for convenience is strong amongst keyboard users and I don’t know of a single person who wants to spend hours painstakingly removing their keycaps to clean their keyboard.

The importance of removing your keycaps correctly cannot be overstated. Done incorrectly, the likelihood of damaging your mechanical keyboard, your key switches or your keycaps themselves is too high.

To get it done right, a keycap puller is a lifesaver. But how do you use a keycap puller to remove mechanical keyboard keys?

1. Find or Make a Keycap Puller

While you can certainly purchase a ready-made keycap puller, you can also make your own without much extra effort. In terms of ready-made pullers, you have the choice between wire or plastic.

In general, wire keycap pullers are preferred because it’s easier to get a good grip on the keycap. A wire is also more durable than plastic, so wire keycap pullers are going to last longer than their plastic counterparts.

While wire keycap pullers are preferred, you can also create your own by unfolding a paper clip until it’s a straight line. Bend the paperclip into an “L shape” and then slide it under the keycap before lifting.

If you’re really in a pinch, some mechanical keyboard users swear by using Sellotape to remove keycaps.

To do this, all you need to do is push down on the key and lift it slightly to the side. Attach the tape to either side and gently pull upwards to remove the keycap.

For this method, it’s important to use strong, high-quality tape. You’ll want to use tape with a strong stick to ensure the tape stays attached to the keycap.

2. Insert the Puller Onto the Keycap

The method for inserting the puller under the keycap will vary depending on if your puller is wire or plastic. For wire keycap pullers, you’ll need to slide the metal wires underneath the keys before pulling them upwards.

Plastic keycap pullers, on the other hand, require you to slide it over the keycap until you hear the puller snap to the keycap. After the snap, you can gently lift up and remove the key.

3. Use Gentle Pulls Until the Keycap Comes Loose

Don’t be hasty when it comes to lifting up the keycaps. If you aren’t careful, you can break the cap and cause damage to your keyboard as a whole. For smaller keys, like the letters and numbers, you should be able to gently wiggle and pull the keycap off. For larger keys, like your space bar, you should gently lift one side and then the other.

Larger keycaps are anchored to a stabilizer, so they’re notoriously more difficult to remove than smaller keycaps. After you finish cleaning underneath your keycaps, you should be able to click each keycap back into its rightful place.

Removing a Keyboard Keycap Without a Keycap Puller

If you don’t have a keycap puller or a paperclip on hand, you can still remove keycaps with your fingers. However, using your fingers can be painful as you need to use your fingernail to gently lift the keycap off the keyboard. However, you can usually get by with little added pain once you’ve removed the first keycap.

While removing keycaps with your fingers is doable, it’s worth noting that most modern mechanical keyboards will also come with a keycap puller. This way, you have a puller that is designed specifically for your keyboard design.

Having a keycap puller designed for specific keyboards is beneficial as it reduces the risk of accidental damage during the process.

Benefits of Removing Your Keyboard Caps

Did you know your hand is capable of carrying an average of 3,200 germs from more than 150 species of microorganisms? Kind of gross, right? For that reason alone, you should clean off your keyboard and keycaps at regular intervals. Beyond that, dust and other gunk can accumulate underneath your keys even if you don’t notice anything on the surface.

Keycaps can be removed with a keycap puller and gently washed with soap and water. With that said, you should make sure the keycaps are dried thoroughly before putting them back onto your keyboard.

Although keeping your keyboard clean is certainly important, there are other benefits that also come from being able to remove your keycaps:

  • Fixing and replacing your switches: Over time, your keyboard switches are subject to wear and tear. Now, pair that with a build-up of gunk and dust and you might need to replace a switch or two.
  • Replacing keycaps: If a keycap gets worn down and you can’t tell what the key is anymore, being able to remove it to replace it with a new keycap is nice.
  • Modifying your keyboard: Gamers and electronic aficionados generally place a lot of pride in their computer setup. Knowing how to remove keycaps can help you save money on customizing your keyboard by doing it yourself rather than hiring someone else to do it for you.

Parting Thoughts

Knowing how to remove mechanical keyboard keys isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Whether you’re removing keycaps to clean them or you’re working on customizing your setup, a wire keycap puller is going to be your best friend.

Whatever the reason, consider investing in a good wire keycap puller. If not to make the process more convenient, then to save your fingertips from permanent pain.

Next Steps

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Robert David Orr

I'm an old school gamer from way back as a kid of the 80s - My first console was the Commodore 64. Since then, I've been gaming on everything from PC games to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the Xbox One. Learn more.

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