Can I Use WD-40 To Lube My Mechanical Keyboard?

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Lubricating your keyboard’s switches is one of the most effective ways to modify your keyboard. It helps smooth out any sticking or scratchiness and helps you type more evenly. Best of all, lubrication will do away with any annoying clack of keys that have been subject to wear and tear over time. 

But can you lubricate your mechanical keyboard with WD-40 in particular?

WD-40 is an excellent penetrant but should not be applied as a lubricant to mechanical keyboard switches. WD-40 is low in viscosity and over weeks will dry out inside the switch housing. When it does it will not only provide zero benefit to reducing friction or buffering imperfections in key travel, but may also leave behind a residue that could scratch plastic components and create a new source of unwelcome noise. 

Instead, you should consider using a perfluoropolyether (PFPE) lube such as Krytox 205g0 that will never dry and has been tested to a great extent by mechanical keyboard enthusiasts worldwide.

In this article we’ll explore further the prospect of using WD-40 as a keyboard switch lubricant, and give you a few ideas on alternative products you might want to use instead. 

If you want to learn more about just how long often you should consider lubricating your switches, you can check out our full guide here

What is WD-40?

It would be surprising if you weren’t already familiar with WD-40. After all, it’s one of the most common household lubricants in the nation. 

But do you really know what’s inside that iconic blue and yellow spray can?

WD-40 is a mixture of lubricating oils and several different chemicals that help it stay liquid even in cold temperatures:

  • Mineral oil – The main lubricating ingredient; mineral oils are a clear distillate of petroleum released from petroleum jelly (think Vaseline).
  • Paraffins – Also known by their scientific name ‘alkanes’, paraffins are a class of waxy substances used to give WD-40 more body and keep it stable.
  • Dimethyl Naphthalene – A chemical solvent that helps break down rust.
  • Carbon Dioxide – A propellant gas that allows you to spray WD-40 from the can.

All in all, WD-40 works through a two-step process—first, it breaks down and displaces rust, dust, grease, then lubricates surfaces to keep them working smoothly.

Why WD-40 shouldn’t be used as a keyboard lubricant

There is a train of thought that WD-40 will melt your switches into pools of plastic owing to its mineral oils and paraffin compounds coming into contact with the ABS plastics generally used to build keyboards.

As a proprietary mix it’s difficult to match the compounds in WD-40 against every type of plastic to know whether it will cause damage to a keyboard, however the WD-40 Company themselves advocate using their multi-use product to clean plastics with the exception of polycarbonate (car headlamps, baby feeding bottles) and clear polystyrene plastic.

In any case, many real life tests have proven the melting plastic concern to hold little truth, at least at the small volume of WD-40 required for keyboard switches and the length of time that the two come into contact.

The problem with WD-40 isn’t that it won’t lubricate your keyboard either. It will. At least in the immediate and short term. 

Instead, WD-40 is unsuitable as a mechanical keyboard lubricant because it is extremely low in viscosity, thus providing only a thin layer of lubricant which itself has the potential to dry out. Whilst WD-40 might not even provide an adequate buffer to fully reduce friction, it will eventually dry out and leave behind a small amount of residue that can increase wear and tear and increase noise.

Rattling has been observed by many keyboard owners that have chosen to trial WD-40 as a lube.  

What can you use instead of WD-40 to lubricate a keyboard?

Ideally, you should invest in a proper keyboard lubricant. These products are specifically formulated to work with mechanical keyboard switches and stabilizers. You’ll know your keyboard won’t be negatively affected if you apply these products and you’ll end up with a better result.

Here are some of the top options for you to consider:

Krytox 205G0 – A thick grease reminiscent of butter that goes well with both tactile and linear switches

Tribosys 3203 – A thinner fluorinated polymer lubricant perfect for tactile switches and clicky switch springs.

Krytox GPL105 – An oil applicable for use on all switch springs as it is less viscous than grease and won’t clog up the spring and create resistance

Permatex 22058 Dielectric Tune-Up Grease – Applicable for all switches, though go light on application especially if lubing clicky switch springs

You can find most of these products online or at your nearest office supplies store.

What to look for in keyboard lubricants

Before you pick a keyboard lubricant, though, be sure you know what to look for. Lubricants are often classified by their composition and viscosity:

Composition

  • Oil lubricants – Oil lubricants are thin and watery, allowing you to quickly lubricate all of your springs or switch stems by shaking them with the lube in a bag.
  • Grease lubricants – Grease lubricants are thicker and last longer but must be applied using a brush to each part of the switch housing.

Composition

  • Thick viscosity – Thicker viscosity is better for linear switches and stabilizers as they have the potential to create resistance in tactile or clicky switches. 
  • Thin viscosity – Use a thinner viscosity for tactile switches (you should think twice about lubricating clicky switches). They need less lubrication since they are supposed to have some resistance.

Be warned, if your mechanical keyboard has clicky switches, go light on the lubrication. Over lubing clicky switches can eliminate their iconic clicky noise and turn them more into the feel and sound generated by a tactile switch.

Conclusion

Although it might seem like a good idea to use WD-40 as a keyboard lubricant, the inconvenience it will cause will outweigh the short term benefits that you may attain. 

For linear and tactile switches, find a thicker grease-based lubricant. For clicky switches, if you must, go light with an oil-based lubricant. You’ll be far more satisfied with the end result and your keyboard will be better protected for longer than if you used WD-40.

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