Can Mechanical Keyboards Get Wet? The Consequences Covered

Many people prefer using mechanical keyboards. They’re more tactile, durable, and faster to type on. But they have one major drawback compared to membrane keyboards: they’re less water resistant.

Many mechanical keyboards can handle minor water spills. But even those advertised as waterproof or spillproof will only tolerate minor degrees of water exposure. More significant water exposure will usually cause permanent damage.

Read on to learn how to decipher the water resistance ratings for different mechanical keyboard models. I’ll also explain what to do if you spill over your keyboard, as that may be why you’re here in the first place.

Can mechanical keyboards get wet?

Can Mechanical Keyboards Get Wet?

Electronics and water don’t usually go well together, and keyboards are no different. All of them include vulnerable circuitry susceptible to damage when water exposes it. 

Moreover, compared to membrane keyboards, mechanical ones are more susceptible to water damage. That’s because the membrane provides a degree of protection from water damage. The membrane is the plastic layer that seals the inner parts.

Mechanical keyboards aren’t entirely waterproof and can only handle minor water spills and splashes.

Since mechanical keyboards don’t have a membrane layer protecting their vulnerable components, they are more likely to be damaged by water. Even keyboards that are advertised as spill-resistant usually offer only minimal protection. 

However, there’s a way to objectively know the degree of protection against water that a mechanical keyboard offers: IP ratings.

IP Ratings Explained

You might be familiar with IP ratings for electronic devices. You probably considered the IP rating the last time you purchased a smartphone.  

The IP or Ingress Protection rating of a device is a standard laid out by the International Electrotechnical Commission. It denotes the ability of the device to resist the entry of dust or water.

IP ratings objectively measure claims to water or dust resistance and help users compare different products to find one that meets their needs. 

The rating is denoted in the form of a two-digit score. The first digit indicates the degree of resistance of a device to dust, and the second conveys its resistance to water. 

The higher the number, the greater the degree of protection offered. Thus, higher-rated devices can be exposed to moisture and dust at greater intensities and for longer before failing. Conversely, lower-rated devices are likely to fail even under minor exposure to dust or moisture.

You will usually need to pay a premium for more durable products.

The following table explains the moisture resistance of any device in terms of its IP rating. A device rated 0 offers no water resistance at all. At the other end of the table, a device rated 8 offers complete protection from moisture ingress, even when submerged deep underwater.

RatingProtection Offered
1Water dripping at 0.4 in (1 mm) / minute
2Water dripping at 0.12 in (3 mm) / minute
3Water sprays
4Water Splash
5Water jets 
6Powerful water jets
7Submersion at depths of up to 3.28 ft (1m)
8Submersion at depths greater than 3.28 ft (1 m)

IP Ratings for Mechanical Keyboards

Even the most water-resistant mechanical keyboards today only come with IP ratings of up to IP65. They are thoroughly dust-resistant and can withstand jets of water.

But while an IP rating of 5 is enough to make a mechanical keyboard withstand the occasional accidental spill, it is nowhere near water-resistant.

Moreover, lower or mid-range products will offer even less water protection. Often, these may come with a water-resistance IP rating of only 2 or 3. Such products will only resist minor trickles or sprays. Anything more is likely to damage the product.

Thus, the vast majority of mechanical keyboards offer poor water resistance

But why is this the case? What about mechanical keyboards makes them so vulnerable to water damage?

What Happens to a Mechanical Keyboard When It Gets Wet

Mechanical keyboards may be primarily made of plastic. You may think their plastic components should make them waterproof, if not highly water resistant. 

However, they also include electronic components. These electronic components are why mechanical keyboards are susceptible to water damage

When a mechanical keyboard gets wet, the water enters the electronic circuitry beneath the plastic switches. This can cause a short circuit, usually causing permanent damage.

To understand why this is the case and better appreciate the vulnerabilities of mechanical keyboards, it helps to know what they are made of and how they work. Learning about the components of a mechanical keyboard will also come in handy if you want to recover your device in the event of a minor spill. 

What To Do if Your Mechanical Keyboard Gets Wet

In the event of minor spills, you may be able to stop the water from entering and clean up the keyboard before it is damaged. The better the spillage resistance a specific manufacturer indicates, the more leeway is available.

Here are the steps you need to follow after a spill.

1. Disconnect a Wet Keyboard Immediately

Once you’ve gotten over the initial panic, immediately unplug it from the USB slot it is attached to. Those who still own a PS/2 keyboard should shut down their computers first. Failure to do so may damage it or your machine’s motherboard.

2. Set the Keyboard Aside To Dry

Drying the keyboard is the most obvious and important step, but you’ll need to do more than leave it out in the sun.

  1. Lay out some paper towels or a clean cloth on a table. 
  2. Turn your unplugged keyboard on its face and gently shake it to remove excess moisture.
  3. Remove all the keycaps. There is probably water inside the keycaps, so you must remove them if you want them to dry thoroughly.
  4. Leave it face-down on paper towels or cloth. 
  5. Cover it in paper towels or cloth until most of the excess water has drained off.
  6. Leave it aside to dry out for at least 48 hours in an open, dry area away from direct heat.

3. Clean the Keyboard

Once the keyboard is dry, use a lint-free cloth to mop up any moisture in the spaces between the switches. Check for any sign of damage before you put the keyboard back together.

Then, reattach the keycaps and use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush head to gently clean the top of the keys.

4. Test the Keyboard

Finally, plug the keyboard back in and reboot your computer. Test every key to see if they work as they should.

If some keys don’t work or seem to operate erratically, your keyboard may be damaged. In this case, you may have no option but to replace it.

Can I Clean My Mechanical Keyboard With Water?

You can clean the plastic components with water, but it’s better to wipe them with rubbing alcohol using a microfiber cloth. It would be best if you didn’t immerse your entire keyboard in water.

A keyboard is made up of both plastic and electronic components. The electronic components can’t stand water. Immersing it in water will likely expose its electronic components of water and, hence, shouldn’t be attempted.

However, keyboards do get dirty from time to time and must be cleaned. Additionally, if you’ve accidentally spilled a sugary beverage over your keys, you will certainly want to thoroughly clean. 

You must take it apart and clean the different parts to clean it correctly. This way, you can be more or less aggressive in your cleaning depending on how much exposure to water and cleaning agents the different components can take.

Before starting to clean your keyboard, gather all the tools you’ll need:

  • A soft brush.
  • An airbrush.
  • Q-tips.
  • Cloth or paper towels.
  • Soap, cleaning solution, or rubbing alcohol.
  • A glass bowl.
  • Hot water.

If you have an expensive keyboard, it may be worth investing in a keycap removal tool. While you could remove keycaps using your fingers, doing so by hand can damage keycaps or switches if you use excessive force or pull at a hard angle. 

If you don’t want to get a keycap removal tool, you can also try removing keycaps using a pair of tweezers. 

1. Shake Out Any Dirt That May Be Stuck Between Keycaps

Turn your keyboard over so that the keys are facing downwards. Then, give the board a firm but gentle shake. Any bits of dirt stuck in the spaces between the keycaps and switches should now fall out.

Doing this process step regularly is a good idea, even when you are not doing a full cleanup. That way, excessive dirt will not accumulate over a long period.

Soak Your Keycaps in Soap Water

Once you’ve cleaned any dirt that’s easy to dislodge from the keyboard, you’re ready to wash your keycaps.

  1. Remove your keyboard’s keycaps one by one. Take care not to damage the caps as you remove them. If you have a keycap remover, use one.
  2. If you’re unsure about the placement of the keys on your board, photograph the board before you remove the keys. This way, you can track where each key goes when cleaning.
  3. Add a few drops of a cleaning agent like soap to a bowl of warm water. 
  4. Drop your dismantled keycaps into the bowl. Make sure the keycaps are submerged, and give the water in the bowl a little stir to activate the bubbles. 
  5. Once the keycaps have soaked for an hour or so, remove them from the bowl. Dry the wet keycaps with a cloth or paper towel and set them aside to dry.

Remember to let the keycaps completely dry before returning them to the keyboard. If you are in a hurry, you could use a blow dryer to speed up the drying process. 

However, remember not to use excessive heat to dry the keycaps. Also, don’t soak them too long or frequently in a soap solution. Don’t use an excessively strong cleaning solution.

While a little heat, water, and mild soap will not damage keycaps, excessive exposure, even if it doesn’t damage them, can erode the symbols inscribed on them over time.

Cleaning Under the Keys

You can begin cleaning the space under your keycaps even as they soak. This is often the dirtiest part of a keyboard because it is cleaned most infrequently. 

However, because of the delicate circuitry underneath the casing of the board, you can’t simply soak it in soap water to clean it.

  1. Begin by using an airbrush to go over every exposed nook and cranny of your board. Then, turn your board over again and shake out any bits the airbrush may have dislodged.
  2. Next, use a soft brush to go over the board again. Again, turn the board over and shake out any loose dirt.
  3. Use the Q-tips to spot-clean any remaining stains. You can dip them in rubbing alcohol if the stains are hard to remove.

Depending on how dirty your keyboard is, you may need to do more than one round of each step. Once done, let it dry out completely before re-placing the dried keycaps. And voila! You have yourself a squeaky clean keyboard.


Mechanical keyboards can handle getting wet to a certain extent. As long as the water hasn’t come into contact with the printed circuit board, you can recover it using the simple steps I’ve outlined above. 

However, if water comes into contact with a mechanical keyboard’s PCB, it will short-circuit it, leading to permanent damage. Avoid exposing it to water as much as possible.