One of the biggest reasons why people are drawn to mechanical keyboards is because of their satisfying sound. The clickity-clackity of each keypress is what separates mechanical keyboards from their membrane counterpart. But, as time passes, you might notice that you’re not getting the same satisfying sound anymore. This is where lubricating your switches comes in.
Lubricating your switches is one of the best ways to take care of your mechanical keyboard and preserve its sound. It’s one of the most common and effective ways of modding your keyboard. Lubricating your switches help to make your keyboard sound much better than it already is. It also helps to deepen and smoothen the sound, leveling up your overall gaming and typing experience. This way of modding can make a great gaming keyboard even better.
It might seem like a daunting task to take apart your keyboard and lubricate your switches, but in reality, it’s quite an easy task — and even therapeutic for others. Just as long as you know what you’re doing, you can become a pro at taking apart your switches and lubricating them in no time! So, let’s get into how to lube switches!
Switch Components You Need To Know Before Lubrication
There are four main switch parts that you should know: the lower housing, the spring, the switch stem, and the upper housing. Knowing the main parts of a keyboard switch will allow you to have an idea of what we mean once we use these words in this guide.
The 2 Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switch Lube
Most switch lubricants can be divided into two main groups which are oil and grease. There are also water-based lubricants, but we highly recommend that you stay away from water-based lubricants when lubricating your key switches. This is because water-based lubricants are too thin, meaning, they evaporate quite fast. But regardless of what group they’re in, they all have different levels of viscosity.
Viscosity is the resistance of a fluid to be able to change in shape or movement when poured. Higher viscosity (thicker lube) means that it’s harder to pour and lower viscosity (thinner lube) means it’s easier to pour. Each type of switch requires different levels of viscosity in the lubricant you’re going to use.
But between the two main groups, which one should you use? Objectively, neither one is better than the other when it comes to performance. But, in terms of application, there is some noticeable difference which we’ll talk about.
In terms of application, oil-based lubricants are much easier to apply since they’re less thick, meaning, they’re less viscous than grease-based lubricants. If you choose to use oil-based lubricants when you’re lubing switches, you can simply put all the springs and lubricant inside a plastic bag and shake it well.
On the other hand, grease-based lubricants can be harder to apply since they are thicker and have a higher viscosity than oil-based lubricants. You can’t simply put your springs and lubricant inside a plastic bag like the previous lubricant we mentioned. Instead, you have to apply grease-based lubricants with a brush, and only with a brush. Using a brush is easier on every part of your key switch except for the springs.
Generally, you don’t have to worry too much about what type of lubricant you use because both oil and grease-based lubricants perform well. Most keyboard enthusiasts go for their own personal preference.
Switch Lube Recommendation for Specific Switch Types
As mentioned earlier, each switch type has a “preferred” lubricant. Depending on the switch you’re using, you would have to use a lubricant with a low or high level of viscosity.
When lubing linear switches, the best lubricant is a lubricant that does neither have a too low nor too high level of viscosity. Not too thick nor too thin. The Krytox 205go is the go-to for linear switches.
When it comes to tactile switches, a lubricant that has less viscosity (thin lube) is the best. One of the best tactile switch lubricants is the Krytox 203.
With clicky switches, it might be tricky because lubricating switches will tone down the sound of clicky switches, which is the opposite of a clicky switches’ purpose. It’s actually recommended to not lubricate switches of this type in order to preserve the switches’ sound. But lubing clicky switches while maintaining their sound is still possible, as long as you’re extremely careful of where you apply your lubricant and what level of viscosity your lubricant is. A low viscosity lubricant like the Krytox 105 is the best choice for lubing clicky switches.
Tools You Need to Lube Your Mechanical Keyboard Switches
In order for proper lubrication of your key switches, there are 6 tools that you need to have which are:
1. Keyboard Lube
Choosing the lubricant you’ll use is the hardest part of the lubing process. You have to choose the one that best fits the type of switch you’re going to lubricate. We’ve already mentioned the two main groups of lubricants and what type of lubricant goes with certain keyboard switch types above.
2. Keycap Puller
The second tool you’ll need is a keycap puller. You can’t start lubing switches without removing the keycaps of your keyboard, right? So, you’ll need to use a keycap puller to be able to remove the keycaps, then remove your switches using a switch puller or a soldering iron (if you have to desolder it off the PCB). Use an aluminum keycap puller since a plastic keycap puller might cause damage or abrasions to your keycaps.
3. Switch Opener or Flathead Screwdriver
To lube your switches properly, you have to open up your switches first. To open your switches, you have to use a switch opener. We recommend you use a metal switch opener as they are much more stable than a plastic one. If you don’t have a switch open on hand, a flathead screwdriver can also do the job. Just make sure you’re careful to not snap off the plastic on the switch.
4. Soldering Iron or Switch Puller or any Soldering Tools
Before you can open your keyboard switches, you have to pull them out of your keyboard. If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, removing the switches from the keyboard is easier with the use of a switch puller. But if the switches of your keyboard are soldered onto the PCB (printed circuit board), then a switch puller will not suffice. You would need a soldering iron or any other soldering tool to remove the switches from the keyboard. If you’re going to solder the mechanical key switches out of the PCB, then make sure you have a soldering wire for when you re-solder the keyboard switches back to their original places.
5. Small Brush or Paintbrush
Next, you’ll need a small brush or paintbrush to apply the lubricant properly to the inside of the switches and on the springs if you’re using a grease-based lubricant. We highly recommend a size #2 brush or a 5mm size paintbrush to lube keyboard switches properly.
Switch parts are very small and if you’re someone with large hands or fingers, tweezers will help with picking up the small switch components. Tweezers will also keep you from getting lubricant on your hands and fingers.
7. Lube Station
Your lubing station isn’t really a “tool” but an area where you can properly lubricate your switches. You can use a clean desk and lay down a clean mat, newspapers, or paper towels to keep your table grease or oil-free.
Steps to Lube Switches: With Desoldering
We’ve listed for you 9-steps to lubricate your mechanical switches.
Step 1: Remove your switches from your mechanical keyboard.
The first step when lubing your switches is to remove your keyboard switches off your keyboard. If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, then you can simply take off the keycaps and remove the key switches using your switch puller.
But if you have a non-hot swappable keyboard, then there are different steps to remove your switches from your keyboard. To take off your switches, you have to pull apart your keyboard and desolder the switches from the PCB using a soldering iron or any other soldering tool in order to lube them properly.
Step 2: Take apart the switches.
The next step is to separate components of the key switch. Once you have removed your switches from your keyboard, you have to pull the switches apart to lubricate them. You can use either a switch opener or a flathead screwdriver if you don’t have a switch open in hand.
To take them apart, loosen up the 4 clips that hold the upper housing and lower housing together to get them to separate. Make sure that you’re gentle when trying to pry them open as you might chip off a piece of the housing. It might seem hard at first, especially if you’re a beginner, but you’ll get the hang of it once you’ve done it a couple of times.
Step 3: Lube the springs.
There are two ways you can lube your coil spring depending on what type of lubricant you’re using.
If you’re using an oil-based lubricant, you can put all of the springs in a small plastic or ziplock bag and pour your lubricant inside the bag and shake them all up. This is the easiest way to lubricate your springs without too much mess. This way is also great for when you are lubricating a big batch of springs.
But if you’re using a grease-based lubricant, then you can use your tweezers to pick up the spring and use your brush to apply a thin layer of lubricant. This may take some time, so you might want to sit back and lube your springs while watching your favorite show.
Step 4: Lube the bottom housing.
Once you’re done lubing the springs, set them aside and now, you can lube the bottom housing using a small brush or paintbrush. You have to be careful when lubing the lower housing, making sure to avoid applying lube on the metal leaf as much as possible as it can damage your switch.
Using a small brush, apply a thin coat of lube on the inside floor, the inside and outside of the cylinder in the middle, and where the stem rails hit. Don’t forget to avoid the metal part to avoid switch damage.
Step 5: Lube the stems.
When it comes to lubing the stems, it’s quite straightforward. Start by applying lube on the rails and where the spring makes contact with the stem.
You can also apply lube on the stems’ legs, however, it’s best to apply lubricant on the legs if it’s a linear switch. Applying lube on the stem of a tactile switch is not recommended as it will reduce the tactile bump and tactile feedback.
Step 6: Lube the top housing (optional)
Applying lube on the top housing is optional because it helps to reduce the scratchy sound of the switch, however, it’s not really necessary. But if you do want to apply lube on the upper housing, then apply the lubricant where the stem rails make contact with the top housing.
Step 7: Put back the switches together.
Once you’ve lubricated the parts, you can start by putting them back together. You can put them back together by placing the spring on the lower housing then the stem on top of the spring, and lastly, put the upper housing on top and snap them back together. The only thing you have to be careful of is to make sure you don’t get lube on the metal leaf.
Step 8: Reassemble your keyboard and switches together
Great job on lubricating and putting your switches back together! Now, it’s time to put your mechanical switches back on your keyboard. If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, just snap them back to their places. If not, you will need to resolder the switches back to the PCB.
Step 9: Test your keyboard
The last step to completing your keyboard is to plug in your keyboard and test out if everything is working and that the switch actuates properly. Make sure that the switches work and that each keypress is registered. There’s nothing that sucks more than putting back together your keyboard to find that one or more switches are not working.
If a switch is not working, you might have soldered it wrong or the switch wasn’t pushed down correctly. There’s also the possibility that you might have accidentally applied or rubbed lubricant on the metal leaf, causing the switch to get damaged.
But if everything is working perfectly, then congrats! You’ve accomplished lubricating your switches!
Steps to Lube Switches: Without Desoldering
We’ve talked about how you can lubricate your keyboards’ switches with desoldering. Now, let’s talk about how you can lubricate your switches without having to desolder and resolder them back to the PCB.
We know that desoldering and resoldering back your switches can be a time-consuming task to do, especially for beginners. Thus, we’ve listed for you 3 easy ways you can lube your switches without having to desolder them. These 3 ways are a lot easier to do compared to the first process. Plus, not having to solder them saves a lot of time! So, let’s get into it!
1. Lubricating Using a Brush
The first, and easiest way you can lube your switches without desoldering them is to use a brush.
Tools You’ll Need
- Switch Lubricant – the first tool you’ll need to successfully lubricate your key switches is, of course, a switch lubricant. You can choose between any oil or grease-based lubricant, as long as you put into consideration the type of switch you are going to lubricate (refer to the lube recommendations above).
- Keycap Puller – next is a keycap puller. You need a keycap puller to remove all of your keyboards’ keycaps in order to lubricate your key switches.
- Small Brush or Paintbrush – you’ll also need a small brush for you to apply your lube on the switches.
- Tissue or Cotton Swab – make sure you have a tissue or a cotton swab beside you so you have something to clean any lube that you might have accidentally applied on the outside of the switches.
- Tweezers – lastly, you’ll also need tweezers to press down on the stem of the switch when you are applying lubricant on the switch with a brush.
Step 1: Remove up all the keycaps.
The first step to lubricating your switches is to remove all of your keycaps. This is the easiest step and it doesn’t take a lot of time to remove all of your keycaps. Use an aluminum keycap puller because it’s a lot safer than using a plastic keycap puller.
Step 2: Press down the stem and apply lube to the switch gaps while the stem is pressed down.
To apply your lubricant on the switches, dip your small brush or paintbrush in a bit of lubricant and then press down on the step and apply a thin layer of lubricant on the gaps of the switch. That’s it! Just apply it on every switch, then you’re basically done.
Step 3: Put back all the keycaps and test your keyboard.
After applying lube onto your switches, you can now put back your keycaps and test out your keyboard if everything is working perfectly.
2. Lubricating with a Spray Lube
The second way you can apply lube without desoldering is by using a spray-type lube to spray on your switches.
Tools You’ll Need
- Spray Lubricant – you’ll need a spray lubricant to apply the lube. (We highly recommend the Super Lube 31110)
- Gloves – it’s recommended that you use gloves when using a spray type of lube to prevent the lube from getting on your hands.
- Tissue and Cotton Swab – you will need tissue and/or a cotton swab to clean up any lubricant mess.
- Keycap Puller – a keycap puller is needed to remove the keycaps of your mechanical keyboard.
- Mask – just like how gloves are needed in this process, a mask to cover your nose and mouth is also necessary to avoid inhaling any fumes.
Step 1: Prepare your spray lubricant and put the red pipeline of the spray.
Before you start the process of spraying lube on your switches, make sure that your spray-type lube is prepared. Put on the red pipeline of the spray. After you’ve prepared your lube, you can now move on to the next step, which is removing your keyboards’ keycaps.
Step 2: Remove all the keycaps.
The easiest step is none other than removing all of your keycaps. Always remove your keycaps before lubing your switches to avoid exposing your keycaps to the lube.
Step 3: Press down on the stem of the switch and spray a bit of lube spray on the switch housing (a tiny spray will be enough).
Once you’ve removed all of your keycaps, to start applying the lube, press down on the stem and spray a tiny bit of lube on the switch housings.
Pressing down on the stem will open up a small gap in the housing of the switch. Make sure to spray inside that gap with just a bit of lube. Do not spray too much lube since a spray-type lube is very runny and can flow to other parts of the switch that shouldn’t be lubed like the metal leaf.
Step 4: Press down on the stem a few times.
Make sure to press down on the stem a few times to ensure that the lube has spread evenly. Ensuring that the lube is spread evenly will make the mechanical switch smoother and lighter.
Step 5: Clean any lubricant mess.
With the use of the tissue and cotton swab, clean up any of the parts that were sprayed with lube.
Step 6: Put back all the keycaps and test your keyboard.
Once you have cleaned up all the lube mess, you can now start to put your keycaps back on the keyboard and test if your keyboard is working properly.
3. Lubricating by Dripping Lubricant onto The Switch
The last way you can lubricate your switches without desoldering is by dripping a bit of lubricant onto the switch.
Tools You’ll Need
- Lubricant – the most important tool is the lubricant. We highly recommend an oil-based lubricant with this step, but a grease-based lubricant will also work if you don’t have an oil-based lubricant in hand.
- Cotton Swab – a cotton swab to clean up any mess.
- Tweezers – you’ll also need tweezers to press down on the stem of the switch.
- Pipet (optional) – if the lubricant you have does not have a thin or small opening, then using a pipet to drip the lubricant on the switch will help reduce mess.
- Keycap puller – a keycap puller will allow you to remove your keycaps faster and easier.
Step 1: Remove all the keycaps.
As always, the first step is to remove all the keycaps from the keyboard. Use a keycap puller to remove all of your keycaps so that they don’t get lube on them.
Step 2: Press down on the stem and while pressing down, drop a bit of lubricant in the gaps of the switch.
Once you have removed all of your keycaps, use your pipet to suction up a bit of lube. After that, press down on the stem and while you’re pressing down on the stem, drop a bit of lubricant on the gaps of the switch. Make sure to don’t overdo it, just a tiny drop on each gap is enough. Wait until the lubricant flows into the switches’ housing evenly.
Step 3: Press down on the stem a few times until the lubricants spread evenly.
Press down on the stem a few times to ensure that the lubricant spreads evenly using your tweezers.
Step 4: Clean any excess lube on the outside of the switch.
Never forget to clean off the excess lube from the switch. This is to make sure that any dust or other dirt particles don’t stick onto the switch, causing it to get dirty.
Step 5: Put back all the keycaps and test your keyboard.
After cleaning off the excess lube, you can now put your keycaps back and test your keyboard!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Should You Lube Your Switches?
Lubing your switches isn’t really a necessity, but if you have the time, the equipment, and the passion for mechanical keyboards, then we highly recommend that you start lubing them. Lubed switches make sure your switches feel and sound better. It helps deepen the sound and clears up any scratchy or plastic-y sound. It also helps to reduce friction, allowing your switches to have a better feel. Having lubed switches also makes the switches just a tad lighter.
Should Most Switches Be Lubed?
Not all the switches should be lubed, like a clicky switch. A clicky switch is known for its clicky sound, which will be reduced if you lube it. However, you can lubricate your linear and tactile switches.
What Are The Advantages of Lubing Switches Without Desoldering
Lubricating your switches without desoldering is a lot easier and faster than desoldering them since it takes a lot of time to desolder and resolder them back to the PCB. Another advantage is that you won’t have to take apart the switch parts, you would just need to press down on the stem and apply the lubricant to the gaps of the switch.
Should Every Switch Be Lubed?
No, there are certain brands of switches that you should avoid lubing. But why is that? It’s because certain brands produce switches that are impossible to take apart. One example is Kailh Box Switches. This is because they are designed differently and they’d most likely leak if you apply lube on Kailh Box Switches.
Lubricating your switches is one of the best ways you can upgrade your mechanical keyboard and enhance your keyboard experience. It improves its sound and performance, so if you have the extra time and cash for equipment, then we highly recommend that you start lubing your switches if you haven’t already!
If you’re having a hard time choosing which type of switches you should get, you should read our article about the best switches for gaming.
We hope this guide helped you to start your switch lubing journey! Happy typing!
Roel Mahalin is the founder of Techzumo. His hobby is playing video games. He’s always on the lookout for new deals to share with his readers, so he can make sure they don’t miss out on anything good! He decided to use his experience and what he has learned to provide individuals informative content about these new technologies.