One of the best parts of buying a mechanical keyboard is all the customization options available. And one of the quickest and most eye-catching ways to customize your keyboard is by changing the keycaps. But removing keycaps might feel a bit intimidating if you’re new to the hobby. Worry not, though: our guide will teach you how to remove keycaps like a seasoned veteran.
The basic method we’re showing here applies to almost any mechanical switches you can find, from common Cherry MX to rarer vintage switches. Stabilized keys will differ slightly depending on the switch (and stabilizer), but this should cover the most common mechanical keyboard switches out there. Let’s get started.
How to Remove Mechanical Keyboard Keys
The Keycap Puller
First off, you’re going to need a keycap puller. Some commercial mechanical keyboards will come with plastic keycap pullers included like these. They’re alright, but I’ve had them slip out from the bottom of the keycap and scratch the sides. It’s not a huge deal if it’s just a cheap stock ABS set, but you definitely don’t want that happening with a pricey aftermarket key set like this one:
If you think you’ll be removing and installing keycaps regularly, I highly recommend spending a few bucks and buying a stainless steel wire keycap puller. I’ve been using mine since 2014, and it’s still in perfect shape. I’ve had no issues pulling keycaps even from more exotic vintage switches.
Mine is very similar to this one, albeit without the keycap stem loosening and tightening tool. The extra weight of the stainless steel construction makes it feel great to hold, too, and not at all flimsy like other plasticky wire keycap pullers you can find online.
Another advantage of these wire pullers is that you can stretch them out to fit longer 2.25-unit keycaps like left Shift or Enter. For this guide, I’ll show you how to remove mechanical keyboard keys using my stainless steel keycap puller.
If you don’t plan to remove keyboard keycaps very often and need a cheap solution, check out our guide to making a DIY keycap puller from three paper clips.
When using a wire puller, I like to ease the wires apart slightly before slotting them over the keycap I want to remove. Then once the wires are under the keycap, I twist the puller clockwise so that the wires are under the top-left and bottom-right of the keycap. You can go counter-clockwise too, of course; it just depends on your preference.
Once your puller has a firm hold on the keycap, pull it straight up and the keycap should come off. Pulling straight up is safest, as pulling to the sides may damage your switches or even your keycap stems if you’re unlucky. Also, you may find that some keys are particularly tight on the stem; if that’s the case, try wiggling slightly as you pull up. That often does the trick.
The same method applies to longer keys like the left Shift. The great thing about using a wire keycap puller is that you can stretch the wires just enough to get them over and under the corners of the keycaps. Once your puller has a firm hold on the corners, it’s much the same as with the alphanumeric keys: wiggle and pull.
The only real exception to this method is the Spacebar. Removing the Spacebar depends a lot on what type of stabilizers your keyboard uses. Thankfully, Cherry MX (and Topre) stabilizers are quite straightforward, with no wires to worry about. Just remove the keys to the left and right of the Spacebar and gently pull it up.
You can use two key pullers to pull up both sides simultaneously, which is how I learned to do it back in the day. But I prefer just using my fingers for the Spacebar. Hook the tips of your index fingers under the edges and pull up firmly (but gently). The Spacebar should come off cleanly, without issue.
The idea is to pull the Spacebar off the stabilizers at either end. This can take a bit more force than you might expect, especially on a Topre keyboard like I’m using for this demonstration. It will feel a bit intimidating, but take it slow and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Another option is to pull each end up individually. You can hook a wire keycap puller under the end and pull up. I’ve used this method too in the past, although I still prefer using my fingers for the Spacebar.
Knowing how to remove keycaps is an essential part of using mechanical keyboards. Yes, it may feel scary and dangerous the first time around, but you’ll get used to it very quickly. And, before you know it, you’ll be pulling keycaps off and replacing them like it’s second nature.
Knowing how to remove keys isn’t just about changing keycaps, though. It’s also a crucial part of keeping your keyboard clean. Dirt and hair fall in the gaps between your keycaps, and the best way of cleaning it all up is to remove the keycaps and blow all that debris out. Check out our guide to cleaning your keyboard for the low-down on that.