How Long Does Keyboard Lube Last Before Needing Reapplied? [SOLVED]
There is no such thing as a lubricant that is designed exclusively for use on mechanical keyboards.
Keyboard lube instead takes the form of many products, with various sub-reddit forums lauding the benefits of fluorinated grease and oils, di-electric grease and even silicone grease for use on mechanical keyboard switches and stabilisers.
The majority of the mechanical keyboard community tend to agree that PFPE (Perfluoropolyether) greases and oils provide the greatest functionality as keyboard lube because they are available in varying degrees of viscosity in both grease and oil forms.
Moreover, PFPEs do not damage plastic, cause corrosion of metal, are non-flammable and chemically inert.
If you opt to use a high quality fluorinated PFPE grease such as Krytox 205 grade 0, provided no environmental factors (such as dirt, dust, sugary liquids) have undue influence, a freshly applied coat of lubricant will in theory outlast the lifespan of the keyboard switches and stabilizers.
There should be no need to reapply PFPE lubricant when it is used as a keyboard lube, even over a period of 5, or even 10 years, as they have properties that are resistant to change from oxidation or temperature. It will not dry out.
Moreover, the shelf life of 205g0 if stored at ambient temperature has also been demonstrated to be in excess of 20 years!
So if you pick up a small jar now it’ll be there waiting for you to use it once again on your next keyboard, and on your next keyboard, and on your….you get the idea.
Do I really need to lube my keyboard switches and stabilisers?
Like any piece of equipment that has moving parts, there will come a time where components don’t operate as they once did when new.
For a mechanical keyboard these moving parts are the switches and stabilisers, and sometimes that time comes when the keyboard is lifted straight out of the box.
The build quality of cheaper models of mechanical keyboards are often found wanting and lubricating the board can immediately help dampen unwanted rattling noises generated by loose stabilisers, or plastic on plastic friction caused between switches and their housing.
It’s not entirely necessary to lubricate mechanical keyboard components but with advantages being smoother travel, less friction and a more pleasing sound it’s easy to understand why keyboard enthusiasts who have made the modification once don’t think twice about adopting it as an essential step in all future keyboards.
If you are exploring keyboard lube options because the keys on your board have become a little too noisy – there are plenty of other steps you can take immediately to hush your typing.
How often should keyboard lube be applied?
If you use a high quality PFPE grease, such as Krytox 205g0, there should be no need to re-lubricate your switches or stabilisers once first completed.
This is of course conditional on the fact that the lube is applied correctly in the first instance, and your keyboard remaining clean and free from spilled liquids that might leave a residue once dried.
PFPE oil (such as Krytox GPL105) if applied too thinly could have too small an impact on the imperfections that you are trying to mask or improve so may require a second thicker coating.
To prevent this from happening it’s a good idea to reassemble one or two keys post lube before proceeding with the rest of the set.
Generally PFPE oil owing to its viscosity is reserved for use on mechanical keyboard springs only whilst grease is favored for application upon plastic components.
How much keyboard lube should I apply to switches?
A 5ml glass container of the ever popular and versatile Krytox 205g0 from Divinikey should provide more than enough lubricant to complete at least 2 full sized keyboards.
Before cracking on however, it’s important to be reminded that the tacticity of keystrokes will be impacted irrespective of what type of lubricant you choose to use, and that different types of switches will be impacted differently by the same lube.
Linear switches – If lubing linear switches with grease remember less is more. When coating the housing of the switches you don’t want to visibly see the white of the grease. A slight sheen on the plastic is what you are aiming for.
Tactile switches – Too much lubricant added to a tactile switch can cause the tactile bump within the keystroke to be made less resistant thus giving the impression of smooth travel similar to a linear switch.
Clicky switches – For this style of switch it’s best to avoid lubricating all together. You will end up muffling or losing the clicking sound altogether as well as risk creating an inconsistent typing experience across the board.
An excellent tutorial on how to apply lube to keyboard switches has been put together by Taeha Types.
There is a wide spectrum of greases that are sold in similar packaging but with contents that have varying degrees of viscosity. Many of which will be too thick to use in a keyboard switch and actually create an unwelcome level of resistance.
Be careful to check the product description of PFPEs carefully before buying.
If this is your first time tuning up your keyboard, lubricating switches can get messy so you’ll also want to pick up an inexpensive lube station with a switch opener and paintbrushes.
How much keyboard lube should I apply to stabilisers?
A very thin layer of lube should be added to the housing of the stabilizers but a thicker coating can be loaded onto the wire stems.
A thicker application, or a lube with a higher viscosity, should be used to surround the wire because it is intended to create resistance and slow down the wire before it hits the plastic housing.
A warning though, applying too thick a layer of grease will make stabilisers feel sluggish!
Do you need any specialist kit to apply keyboard lube?
If this is the first time considering lubricating your keyboard you should be aware that it’s not as simple as buying the lube, popping open the switches and away we go.
Switches are soldered into position onto the PCB and so will require de-soldering before they can be removed and taken apart.
For this a soldering iron and solder sucker (included in inexpensive bundles on Amazon) will be needed to free your switches, and then to reverse the process and solder them back on after they have been freshly lubed.
There is however an altogether quicker method of spray lubing that can be completed without the need for any soldering whatsoever.
As you might imagine, spraying lube from an aerosol straight into the tiny housing of each switch can be difficult to control and ends up getting a little messy. There have also been reports that too much lube injected by the aerosol can prevent the switch contacts from registering a keystroke.
Spray lubing might save you time in the short term but you run the risk of spending more time cleaning up or correcting mistakes. A mistake which can be exacerbated if you choose to use WD-40 as your lube of choice.
If possible, practice on a spare board before using on your main one if you want to pursue this lube channel.