How-to Guides

How to Remove Lube from Mechanical Switches?

Mechanical keyboards and their switches need frequent lubing. But, when you are about to lube the switches, the first thing that you need to focus on is to remove the old lube from the key switches. So, how to remove lube from mechanical switches? The steps involved in cleaning lube from mechanical switches are rather simple and easy to go with. 


Why Should You Remove Lube From Mechanical Cwitches?

There are several reasons that would necessitate the removal of the lube from the switches. Based on individual preferences, you may decide to remove lube from the mechanical switches. 

If the switches have come pre-lubed from the factory, there is o chance for you to know the lube used. You may want to lubricate it with your own brand. Yet another reason can be that you are not happy with the lubrication and want o start off from the scratch. You may also be looking forward to changing your lubricant and want to remove the old lube from the switches.

How to Remove Lube From Mechanical Switches?

There are several methods used for removing and cleaning lube from mechanical switches. One of them makes use of an ultrasonic cleaner, and another method makes use of Isopropyl alcohol, also known as IPA. 

We would consider the ultrasonic cleaner option a little high-end and something that not an everyday user would be comfortable with. Maybe it is something that you would not need at all in most cases. The method that employs isopropyl alcohol can be something that can provide you access to a greater degree of performance and efficiency. 

Why is Isopropyl Alcohol Cleaning a Better Option?

There are multiple advantages associated with the isopropyl alcohol when used for cleaning your mechanical key switches. But, first, let us explore and find what makes the isopropyl alcohol method a good option.

  • It does provide you with a workable solution to remove lube from mechanical switches. 
  • It can be a good option if you are simply using it to lubing the stems and springs.

How to Remove Lube Using Isopropyl Alcohol?

Having understood that isopropyl alcohol is one of the excellent options for removing lube from mechanical switches, let us now check out how to use it for cleaning lube from the mechanical key switches. 

Materials Needed 

  • Isopropyl Alcohol: The isopropyl alcohol with 70 percent concentration should be one of the excellent options for your needs in an optimal cleaning. You may get the products with around 91 percent concentration from several websites. 
  • A Plastic container: This is just for storing the alcohol while cleaning 
  • Gloves: The gloves for handling the cleaning solution. They can be optional, but since isopropyl alcohol can make your hands severely dry, gloves are advisable. 

The Steps in how to remove lube from mechanical switches:

  • Dismantle the keycaps and key switches. 
  • Take isopropyl alcohol in a container. Pour only the necessary quantity of cleaning solution. 
  • Immerse and dunk all the parts they need lube to be removed in the alcohol. You may skip adding keycaps so that you can prevent discoloration. However, a stronger concentration of isopropyl alcohol can leave the keycaps and the legends on them discolored. 
  • Leave the parts in the alcohol for a minute
  • Take out each of the parts, and spread it out on a sheer.
  • The isopropyl alcohol does not need you to wipe it off the switches. You can simply leave them for a while, and the alcohol should get dry.
  • Leave the parts on the sheet for a day to avoid any sort of contamination. 

That does it. Reassemble the switches and keycaps in the exact position that they were originally were. 

The video here is somewhere closer to what you need to do even when it does not use isopropyl alcohol – 

A Few Warnings For the Use of Isopropyl Alcohol

If you are opting to use isopropyl alcohol to remove lube from mechanical switches, it would be advisable to take care of a few important warnings. Taking care of them and avoiding such issues can be advisable.

The isopropyl alcohol is likely to leave a white hazy look on the keycaps and switch housing. In the case of semi-transparent housings, this white haze can be more prominent. It can perhaps be due to the reaction between the lube and the alcohol. It can also be due to a reaction between the certain kinds of plastics and alcohol. 

Here are a few options that can be helpful in removing the haze, but make sure that these methods work for you: 

  • Soap and water mixture can work, but may not work on kinds of surfaces and plastics. 
  • You may use a toothbrush, or at times a stronger brush than a toothbrush.

You can perhaps avoid the issue of white haze and discoloration if you pay attention to the following factors :

  • Make sure that the isopropyl alcohol or IPA that you are using is pure and clean
  • Remove lube from the components in small batches. Avoiding leaving the parts in the alcohol for a longer time may hasten the discoloration. 
  • Let the parts dry in the air for a minimum of 8 hours. This can help avoid the white haze to a better degree. 

The Detailed Steps in How to Remove Lube From Mechanical Switches

For those of you who are not tech-savvy, we thought of outlining how to clean oil off keyboard switches in a step-by-step guide

Step 1: Dismantle the switches

Take apart the switches and their parts carefully. Before taking off the switches, do ensure that you have taken a photograph of the keys and their orientation. This would be helpful in reassembling the keycaps in the right order. 

Step 2: Wiping off the switches and their parts 

Using alcohol to wipe off the switches and their parts can be one of the easier options to go with. You can use a 70 percent concentration of isopropyl alcohol for efficient cleaning. 

Step 3: Remove extra lube

It may be a good idea to use a Q tip to remove the excess alcohol. You can use any options, such as a dry q-tip, microfiber, or paper towel to remove excess lube. 

Step 4: Remove lube from the bottom housing 

The bottom part may be a little tougher to clean. You may damage the leaf made of copper if you are not careful enough. You can clean it off using an alcohol-soaked q-tip. 

Step 5: Wipe the lube from the top housing 

This would be much easier to clean off. The top housing is made of all plastic, and there may be no need to be extra cautious as in the case of the bottom housing. 

Step 6: Wipe the lube from the stem 

You can use the options such as a paper towel or microfiber for cleaning the stem. You can use a dry cloth first, followed by a damp cloth with alcohol. 

Step 7: Soak the springs in alcohol 

You can soak the springs in alcohol to remove the lube. You can make use of the reverse bag lube method. You may also soak the springs in a bowl filled with alcohol. 

Step 8: Let them air dry 

Let all the components air dry. A 10-minute drying should ideally be enough, but you can leave it to dry for as much time as you would want to. 

Use Soap and Water to Remove Lube from Mechanical Switches

Yet another method that can be handy in removing lube from mechanical switches would include using soap and water. If you are worried about using alcohol and other harsh chemicals, you can settle down for soap and water for as an easier and better option. 

Step 1: Wash the stems 

Put all your stems in a strainer. Make sure that you have a bowl and strainer large enough to handle your stems. Place the strainer in the bowl and fill the bowl with soap and water. You do not need to fill the bowl to the top so as to avoid the stems from floating. 

Agitate the stems in the soapy water with your hands. You can even use  brush to scrub away the excess oil and grease if any. 

Step 2: Wash the Bottom Housing 

Avoid cleaning the bottom housing with soap and water if you aren’t going to dry them enough. Repeat the process in the same way as with the stems. 

Step 3: Wash the top housing 

Make sure that the top housing is cleaned properly and no trace of soap and water is left on the housing. If you are worried, you may use the alcohol method instead. 

Step 4: Clean up the springs

Never handle the springs in a rough way. They can get tangled up or may even get stretched if you are not careful enough. You can switch to the alcohol method if you do not want to damage the springs. 

Step 5: Dry them thoroughly 

Wipe the water thoroughly and then let them air dry. It may be a good idea to leave them to dry for at least a day. 

Use Ultrasonic Cleaners

This method can be considered slightly expensive and something only professionals would need to use. The expenses involved in the method can make it unviable for most normal users. However, if you have a portable or smaller ultrasonic cleaner, this may be a great option to go with as it offers a hassle-free cleaning efficacy. 

Step 1: Fill the cleaner the cleaning solution 

The ultrasonic cleaners come with a need for properly balanced water and dishwashing liquid combination. They ideally need a ph-balanced cleaning solution. It may be a good idea to use distilled water for a better result

Step 2: Put all your parts 

Ultrasonic cleaners come with a plastic basket to put your parts in. You can use a small mesh bag to wash the springs and stems as they may be too small and fall through. 

Step 3: Operate the cleaner 

Run the cleaner as per the instructions. Each cleaner may have different running instructions. You can choose an appropriate timer. 

Step 4: Dry the parts 

Dry out the parts carefully. Some cleaners may come with a built-in option for drying the parts. You can also decide to manually dry them. Make sure that you have dried them for at least a day.

How to Clean Oil Off the Keyboard?

In addition to the lube on the key switches, the finger oil or oil from any other source can also create havoc with the proper functioning of your keyboard. Cleaning your keyboard properly can be a key to improving its durability. 

In most cases, a small vacuum cleaner may be a good option, to begin with. A cleaner with a brush attachment can help you achieve better cleaning. A can of compressed air should be yet another primary option that can prove to be a great one to go with. 

In case you are looking to use liquid cleaners, it may be advisable to use diluted isopropyl alcohol. Use the alcohol on a cloth and rub the surface to clean the oil. You can either buy pre-diluted isopropyl alcohol or dilute it yourself if you are aware of how to do it. Non-diluted isopropyl alcohol may damage the plastic. While a 50 percent concentration is the maximum limit, it may be worthwhile to ensure that you have opted for a concentration of not more than 30 percent. 

The steps here can be useful even when you are searching for information on how to remove grease from the keyboard.

The Concluding Thoughts

If you are looking to clean and remove lube from mechanical switches effectively, using isopropyl alcohol has been considered to be the ideal solution for most of the builds of your keyboards. Some keyboard manufacturers may also come up with a few specific instructions on how to handle the lube and cleaning more efficiently without affecting the proper functionality of your keyboard. 

Having said and understood that isopropyl alcohol should be a great option to remove lube from mechanical switches, it should also be noticed that it will cause a little or more discoloration in certain cases. Therefore, we would advise you to move with proper care in this context.