Most users are fascinated with mechanical keyboards as they offer a better sound and improved tactile feedback. This is all thanks to the switches that lie beneath every keycap.
However, if you want to keep up with its sound quality, it’s important to lube them occasionally. Some even prefer getting factory-lubed switches, but we do not recommend this as lubing a switch can easily be done at home.
Moreover, lubricating switches can also impact the feel factor. For example, if you lube your tactile switches too much, their tactility can be lost, and you’ll feel like you’re using a linear switch. Hence, we recommend lubing as little as possible.
Well, lubing all the switches can be time-consuming, but it’s not as tedious as you might think. So, in this article, we have included a comprehensive guide on how to do it the right way.
When Should You Lube Keyboard Switches?
After lubrication, your mechanical keyboard switches provide a much better sound quality than before. Basically, we lubricate switches to improve the keyboard’s overall performance. Apart from that, here are some of the other scenarios when you should lube them:
- Your keys start to sound scratchy and cranky
- The smoothness of your mechanical keyboard isn’t the same as before
- You start hearing the sounds of the springs when typing, which can also reduce the haptic feedback
- You want to reduce the tactile bumps in the tactile switches
- To make your keyboard quieter
- While cleaning your mechanical keyboard
Types of Switches in Mechanical Keyboard
Depending on the feel factor, switches are categorized into three different types. And there are certain things you need to consider before lubing each of these switches. In this section, we will guide you through what these switches are and how you should lube them.
Tactile switches offer tactile bumps when you type, hence its name. Well, they produce a pretty good sound when you press each key and don’t produce much noise. CHERRY MX Brown is the prime example of this type of switch.
Interestingly, tactile switches are popular among writers who always look for satisfying bumps on their fingers. Moreover, these switches are also best for beginners looking to try out mechanical keyboards.
When lubing switches, we may sometimes over-lube them. But we must consider certain things while lubing the stem legs and stems in tactile switches as over lubrication might negatively impact their tactility.
Clicky switches make your keyboard more fun, providing a click sound every time you press a key. So, it’s pretty obvious that you will produce more noise when typing. If you have a mechanical keyboard using the CHERRY MX Blue, know it’s a clicky switch.
Well, few users like clicky switches as they offer acoustic feedback, as each press is clear and loud. However, many will despise it if you use the keyboard in your office or in public.
Like tactile switches, excess lubing of the clicky switches can impact their sound. So, we recommend lubing them only when necessary. Also, you need to remember that high-quality lubricants should be used, and you should apply very little lube to each clicky switch.
Linear switches are the ideal ones that do not produce noise. Basically, mechanical keyboards adopting these switches are smoother, and it feels like you’re using a membrane keyboard.
Often, they are used by gamers in competitive shooting games. Well, the best example of the linear switches is CHERRY MX Red.
When linear switches aren’t lubed well, you might hear rattly and scratchy sounds, which can be irritating. So, it’s best to lubricate linear switches occasionally, but you should never lube them too much.
Parts of a Mechanical Keyboard Switch
Before moving on to lubing, let’s first focus on the different components comprising a mechanical keyboard switch. In fact, you need to disassemble the parts before starting the process. When you do so, you’re going to get the following five components that make a switch:
The top housing of the switch combines with the bottom housing, and between them lies the stem. Interestingly, this part has four main components – stem hole, nameplate, LED slot, and legs.
Well, the stem hole is simply the location where the stem sits and operates. The next part of the top housing is the nameplate, where we see the manufacturer’s logo or name imprinted.
Moving on, the LED slot is the tiny location below the nameplate where an LED sits. However, some cheaper mechanical keyboards do not have this section.
Finally, the legs are the important parts of the top housing that help attach to the bottom housing. These days, most switches come with four-legged top housing.
Indeed, the stems are the most vital parts of mechanical keyboard switches. These are the ones that we press for a key to register.
Even the stem has five different compartments – a mount, plates, center pole, rails, and legs. Firstly, the mount, also known as the stem head, helps attach the switch to a keycap. Interestingly, the mount, along with the center pole, has a distinctive color that lets us know the type of switch.
Moving on, the front and the back plates are simply those regions that connect two sides of the stem. On the other hand, the center pole attaches both the mount and plates. Moreover, when we press a key, the center pole goes all the way down and meets the bottom housing.
Furthermore, the rails are important parts of a stem that connects with the internal parts when pressing a key. Also, the legs play an important role as they communicate with the leaves and register a keystroke.
Generally, the springs on a switch are made of metals and offer tactile bumps when we press a key. Basically, they lie between the stem and the bottom housing.
Moreover, springs are the ones that give switches their weight. Interestingly, spring can come in three colors: silver, black, and gold.
Very few are aware that leaves are the ones that are joined with the PCB. So, these are the important components responsible for registering keys on your mechanical keyboard.
Well, the leaves are made up of two metal plates. The larger among them has pins that connect directly with the PCB and the bottom housing. On the other hand, the smaller plate lies just in front of the bigger one and helps communicate with the stem.
The bottom housing sits at the bottom and meets the circuit board of the mechanical keyboard. It consists of the following four components – leaves, rails, LED slot, and center mast.
As we discussed earlier, leaves are built-in into the walls of the bottom housing. And they are responsible for registering keystrokes.
Next are the rails that are present on both sides of the bottom housing. Well, they help the switch move vertically. On the other hand, the center mast is a small hole where the center pole of the stem sits.
As in the top housing, there are tiny holes for LED slots. While the LED sits on the top housing, its pins are connected to the bottom housing.
Different Types of Lubes to Use
Indeed, you can use any lube that is non-flammable. These lubricants possess phosphate esters, polyol esters, and water glycols that help prevent your keyboard switches from accidental damage.
Moreover, we must also consider viscosities while lubing them. Generally, you can have higher viscosities for the linear switches and lower for the tactile switches.
Well, the most popular lubricants for keyboard switches are Krytox 205g0, Tribosys 3203, Trbisosy 3204, and Krytox 105 Oil. Basically, the numbers beside each of them indicate their relative viscosities.
Below is the guide on the two types of lubricants you can use to lube a mechanical keyboard switch.
The grease-based lubricants can be used on linear switches as they have greater viscosities. Basically, you can apply them to the main switch parts, including the housing, stem, and spring.
Moreover, some larger keys like stabilizers require thick-based lube. So, using grease-based in such components will reduce friction so they can glide smoothly.
Despite several benefits of grease-based lubes, we do not recommend them on the upper surfaces of the switch. This is because it may degrade the feel factor of the mechanical keyboard.
So, that’s when oil-based lubricants come into play. Generally, these lubricants have lower viscosity and are best for lubing housing, stem, and other general parts of the switch.
How to Lube Switches? Here’s the Step-By-Step Guide
Well, there are various ways to lube your keyboard switches. So, this totally depends on one’s preference.
Interestingly, you can find dedicated spray lubes for mechanical keyboards, which let you lube switches without taking them off. Nonetheless, this is not as reliable as using a brush to lube each switch part.
In this section, we will guide you step-by-step on how to lube your mechanical and gaming keyboards.
Remove Keycap & Switch From Your Mechanical Keyboard
The first step is removing your mechanical keyboard keys. If your keyboard is hot-swappable, you can easily use a switch puller to remove the switches.
However, if the switches are permanently attached to the PCB, you’ll need to desolder your mechanical keyboard. To do so, you’ll need a desoldering kit to detach the switches soldered onto the PCB board.
Well, here’s a complete guide on how you can remove both keycap and switches from a hot-swappable keyboard:
- First of all, take a photograph of your mechanical keyboard.
- Next, adjust two ends of the keycap puller to a key and vertically pull it upwards to remove it.
- Repeat the same process to all the keys on the peripheral.
- Similarly, place two ends of a Switch puller to a switch and pull it with a little more pressure. Continue removing all the switches from your keyboard.
Disintegrate the Switch Parts
Now, you need to dismantle the switch parts, and it’s quite an easy task. However, you need to be careful as you might break the legs of the top housing. Here’s how you can do it the right way:
- Adjust both sides of your switch and place it on a switch opener.
- Now, push the switch gently. This will separate your top and bottom housing.
- Next, carefully take off the two ends, ensuring that the inner parts of the switch do not fall off.
Alternatively, you can disintegrate the two housings using a flat screwdriver. While doing so, do not break the leg, as you will have to replace the entire switch if it’s broken.
- Then, carefully place all the components (top housing, bottom housing, spring, and stem) in a safe area, so you do not lose any of them.
Lubricate Top & Bottom Housing
Finally, the next step is lubricating each part of the mechanical keyboard switch. So, the first thing to do is get a lubricant and a small cleaning brush. Then, follow the below steps to lube the top and bottom housing:
- Take very little lubricant on the cleaning brush and apply it to the legs of the top housing.
- Next, lube the nameplates of the top housing as well.
- Brush off all the parts, ensuring no chunks of the lube are left behind.
- Move on with the bottom housing and lube its rails. While doing so, also apply little lubricants to the top corners of the center mast.
- Then, start lubing the two leaf plates. Here, you need to take extra care as even little lube left behind can make your switch malfunction. In fact, we do not recommend lubing the leaves of clicky and tactile switches.
- Finally, brush off all the corners of the bottom housing. Ensure that no white residue is seen on the peripheral.
Lubricating stems can be risky. Since these are the most vital parts of the switch, extra care needs to be taken:
- Use a Stem Holder or a pair of tweezers to hold the stem so you can lube it properly. Well, you can even ask a friend to hold it for you.
- Now, take a little lubricant on a brush and gently apply it to the front and back plates.
- Next, apply lube to the rails.
- Then, brush all the areas of the plates and rails, ensuring there’s no white residue.
- Now, take a little lubricant again and apply it to the mount and center pole. Brush them properly as well.
- Then, use a little or ignore the stem legs, as over lubrication might reduce the tactility of your mechanical keyboard switches.
- Finally, brush all the areas again so each corner is lubed well and no chunks of the lubricant are left behind.
The metal springs of mechanical keyboard switches should be lubed, so you do not hear scratchy and cranky sounds. Moreover, lubricating them will offer more tactile bumping, enhancing the way you type. Here’s how to properly lube the springs:
- Take a little lubricant and apply it on the top and brush it well.
- Similarly, apply a little lubricant to the bottom of the spring and brush the portion so that no white residue sticks there.
- Well, it’s not necessary to lube the middle portion. Nonetheless, you can still apply very little lubricant and brush it well.
Indeed, this method of lubing will be time-consuming for all the metal springs on your mechanical keyboard. So, here’s an alternative method to lubricate all of them at once:
- Firstly, disintegrate the keyboard switch parts and collect all the springs.
- Place them all in a container.
- Apply a little lubricant to the walls of the container.
- Close the lid and shake it well. This will lube all the springs at once.
Reassemble & Attach Keys Back to the Keyboard
Now, the final step is to attach all the switch parts and place them back to the keyboard circuit. Also, we attach the keycaps right above them. Here’s the exact way to do it:
- Place the metal spring over the bottom housing’s center mast.
- Next, adjust the corners and place the stem such that its center pole meets the top section of the spring.
- Now, take the top housing and carefully place it, ensuring it is connected to the bottom house. Well, you might mistakenly align and adjust it differently. So, take a quick look at the logo in the nameplate, ensuring you’re doing it right.
- Finally, keep pressing the stem to see if the attachment is successful.
- Then, carefully align and adjust the switch back to the keyboard circuit. Apply a little pressure to ensure it has been attached properly.
- Finally, take the dedicated keycap and apply a little pressure to reattach the keyboard key.