Lubing your keyboard is an integral part of the entire process of owning a mechanical keyboard. While it is not necessary, lubing allows you to make the most out of your switches and typing experience as you’ll end up seamlessly moving through your keypresses with no qualms whatsoever. With that said, this begs the question, when you do end up lubing your keyboard, how long does it last?
Why is Lubing Done?
The mechanical keyboard enthusiasts use lubrication as a tool to make the switches sound better and to reduce the friction, which makes the key travel smoother on pressing it. A good lubricant can significantly reduce the scratchiness of the keyboard switch to let the user type really fast. Also, proper lubrication can reduce the wear and tear that the switches undergo while you use it.
- Pleasing sound profile
- Enhanced smoothness
- Reduce wear and tear
- Increases switch lifespan
However, there are certain types of lubes to be applied in a justifiable quantity to be used, as over-lubrication can result in reducing the accuracy.
So, is it necessary to lube your switches? Not at all. The keyboard you have purchased is excellent to use without lubing it. But, it will enhance your experience by a significant margin.
How long does keyboard lube last?
Typically a good quality keyboard lubricant can last for up to 5 years, but it also depends on the number of other factors as follows:
- Quality and type of lubricant
- How long the keyboard is being used. Some people use it for up to 20 hours a day, while some use it just for an hour or two.
- Type of switches – A clicky switch might hardly need lube in 10 years. Linear or tactile need to be lubed every 2 years or so, depending on other factors mentioned here.
- Number of keypresses
- The intensity of keypresses – Some users press the keys very softly while others believe in tough hits.
- Local climate – If you live in a more humid area, you might need to lube it more often to protect metallic parts from corrosion.
How long on average do mechanical keyboards last?
Type of keyboard switch lubricants:
The type of lubricant you want to use will determine the way your switch behaves after lubrication and how long it will last. Also, as we know, mechanical keyboards can have different types of switches, and hence one lube is not suitable for each one of these. Let’s discuss the lube types based on different switches:
Linear Switches: They are already smooth and produces minimal sound on the keypress. You just need a little bit of lubrication for these type of switches. Lubrication with less viscosity. In other words, a thinner lube is best for linear switches.
- Recommended viscosity standards: 3204, 204, 104, 205 of 206
Tactile Switches: These switches with a little bump feel on the keypress might sometimes feel scratchy. To lube these switches, you can use slightly (and I really mean just a little) thicker lubrication (oil or grease) to improve the sound and overall smoothness. Mildly thick lubricant can help strike a good balance in improving switch sound and smoothness.
- Recommended viscosity standards: 3203, 203, 3204, 204, or 104
Clicky Switches: They are chosen by the people who love the clicky sound of the switch when a key is pressed. Hence it is advised to be careful while lubing it, as it can hamper the sound it is made to create.
Inappropriate lubing of these switches can convert them into tactile or noiseless switches. A very thin oil should be used in a tiny quantity should be used. It is never advised to use grease on clicky switches.
- Recommended viscosity standards: 3203, 203,
Stabilizers: You need a thicker oil or grease for lubrication of stabilizers for this, we recommend using dielectric grease.
An essential thing to understand is there are no lubricants specially made to lube mechanical switches, and it’s your choice to use one which is safer to use and has long-lasting effects. You can use different types of less viscous grease (dielectric, fluorinated, or silicone grease) and thin to slightly thick machine oils.
Though, while choosing a lubricant, take care of the following things:
- It should be plastic friendly. Otherwise, you might end up damaging your switches
- It should not expose metallic parts to corrosion
Learn more about keyboard switches
Oil vs. Grease Lubricants: In terms of performance, both are fine, but you have to choose carefully, as mentioned above. Though the primary difference lies in the way, they are applied. You can use oil more easily, while greasing needs individual brushing of individual parts. For beginners, we recommend sticking with Oil.
Perfluoropolyether (PFPE) based Lubricants: These are considered high-performance maintenance lubricants used in a wide variety of applications. These are acid and alkali-resistant lubes and can stick very well to the surface, especially metal parts. It is available in the form of oil as well as grease. It doesn’t pose any harm to the plastic components and is also non-flammable. If correctly and appropriately applied, they can last up to 5 years.
Is lubing a switch necessary?
No, it is neither important nor mandatory to lube a switch. Probably, if you have bought a keyboard with some cheaper quality switches, then might feel scratchiness while using them, and you can consider lubing them. It’s all matter of your choice and experience.
Mechanical keyboard fans love to experiment with their switches to enhance their usability smoothness and customize them as per their preference. Hence, they use lubrication to achieve the desired level of smoothness.
How Much Lube Should You Apply?
There is no accurate answer to this in terms of numbers and figures. But, it just takes very little lubricant to lube all the switches in a keyboard. For instance, 2.5 ml to 3 ml is sufficient to lube all the switches in a full-sized keyboard. It also depends on the type of switches (linear, tactile, clicky) your keyboard has.
If you are new to lubricating the keyboard switches, we recommend you lube just 2-3 switches with a very small quantity and then increase the quantity to see how they perform. Once you are satisfied and understand how much lubricant is required, you can lube the rest of the switches.
However, you will require a little bit more lubricant than the switches for stabilizers. It is recommended to apply a very thin layer towards the upper and lower housing, whereas a thick coating is to be applied on the stem.
Can over lubing damage the switch?
It will not actually damage the switch physically, but it can make them unresponsive and inaccurate, as a thicker layer might intervene in a real electrical connection. So, if lubing leads to some erratic behavior, you’ll need to dry up the lube. After that, you’ll be good to go!
Can I use Vaseline to lube switches?
No, it is a petroleum by-product that can damage plastic components over a period of time. Plus, their viscosity leads them to be quite unreasonable picks for most keyboards. So, they aren’t great lubricants for keyboards in the first place.
Can I use the switches without lubing them at all?
Yes, you can absolutely use your keyboard without lubing them. In fact, if you have a new keyboard, we suggest you use it without lubing it for several months to get accustomed to its natural feel. After a few months or a year or two, you can lube a few switches to see how they perform if you want to play around.
Lubing your keyboard switches or not is all matter of personal choice to achieve a customized experience. You can, of course, enhance the smoothness and the sound out of your keyboard. Ultimately, the decision is completely yours. However, we recommend lubing your keyboards once. Its an experience that you might just end up falling in love with!
Check out some other related articles:
How-swappable keyboards explained
Why mechanical keyboards are better for gaming
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I work from home. To do the best possible job I need the right accessories - the right desk, the right chair, the right keyboard, the right monitor, etc. When I work I want to feel comfortable. I review everything that's related to home desk setup - focusing on Monitors & Keyboards.