How to Clean and Disinfect Your House Keys

updated Mar 10, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

You carry hand sanitizer in your purse and you’re vigilant about washing your hands. The remote control gets a regular wipe-down with a disinfecting wipe and you regularly clean your cell phone and keyboard.

You’re waging a valiant defense against germs. But what if you found out you were pawing a germ magnet every day, multiple times, without a second thought? You handle it and may even pass it back and forth between family members or put it on your kitchen counter and it’s probably never been cleaned. Face it: Your keys are dirty. And if you just nodded and ewwwed, we’re right there with you.

Cleaning your keys with soap and water will help wash away most germs. But if you or someone who handles your keys were recently sick, you may want to follow up your cleaning with targeting disinfecting.

How to Clean Your House Keys

This process is fast and easy. All you really need is a bowl, dish soap, an old toothbrush, and a towel.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

1. Remove keychain items that aren’t keys, including car remotes or decorative items that shouldn’t get wet

Plastic keychains may be able to withstand a run through the dishwasher, but if there’s any question that it may melt, wash it by hand. If you have plush key chain items, follow instructions for washing stuffed animals. You can shake them in a bag with baking soda and then shake off and spot clean. Or you can hand wash and hang to dry.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Fill a bowl with a solution of warm water and a few drops of dish soap.

Swish and swirl your keys around inside the solution.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Use a brush to scrub any dirt or debris that’s lodged in the grooves and crevices of your keys.

You can use a special detail cleaning brush, but an old toothbrush works just as well.

4. Swish around again in a bowl of clean water to remove the loosened grime.

Replace the water from before so you’re rinsing with a clean, soap-free bath.

5. Dry your keys thoroughly with a towel.

To make sure no moisture is left behind (you don’t want to risk rust), wipe down your keys with cotton ball moistened with isopropyl alcohol.

How to Disinfect Keys

If you need to disinfect your keys, make sure you follow the steps to clean them first. (Disinfectants can only work on a clean surface.) Then follow it up by using a disinfecting wipe or spray on all of the surfaces of your keys and keychain, following the instructions on the label. You can also use rubbing alcohol or a diluted bleach solution to disinfect—just apply your solution to a rag and apply thoroughly to your keys, allowing them to air dry.

If you have soft or plush keychains, you can sanitize them with hot water or steam (such as from a steam cleaner, or a spin through the laundry or dishwasher), or use a disinfecting product approved for use on non-porous surfaces.

How to Remove Rust from Keys

If your keys are rusty, you can soak them in a mixture of half water, half white vinegar for half an hour. Use your cleaning toothbrush to scrub off the rust. Repeat 30-minute soaks followed by scrubs until the rust is gone. Dry with a clean rag.