Mechanical keyboards are all the rage, both in the world of gaming and in the world of typists who like to get a little more out of their keyboarding experiences. A backlit mechanical keyboard doesn’t come without any required maintenance, however; you’ll have to know how to keep your machine running well for both the keyboard’s and your wrists’ sake. One popular and effective way of keeping your keyboard and hand health in check is by installing keyboard o-rings, rings which are installed beneath the keys of your keyboard and act as shock absorbers, quelling both noise and impact.
O-rings are devices which serve to dampen the hit that a key has on the keyboard, upon your finger hitting it. You might ask, “What’s so bad about this hit?” It might not seem like it at first, but high-impact keys can do a number to both the base-plate of your keyboard and your hands, over time. The impact force of a key is due to the traveling distance of the un-activated key to its base-plate. For instance, many mechanical keyboards used for gaming today have a travel distance of 4mm, from where they stand to their lowest point on the keyboard. The travel time or travel distance is a large contributor to arthritis brought on by consistent spells of typing. The shorter the travel time, the less harm you’ll be doing yourself and your keyboard.
O-rings shorten this travel time; it’s easy to see why they’re so useful! O-rings on a mechanical keyboard contribute to a drastically different typing feel. On top of reducing the impact of the keys, they’ll also inadvertently reduce the noise you produce from typing. While this might not be an incredibly important issue, it can make typing more comfortable for you and those who your work around.
While some mechanical keyboards are equipped with switches that prevent persistent impact and loud noises such as cherry black switches, many mechanical keyboards are much better off with O-rings installed. Below we’ll review five popular brands of o-rings, in incredible detail.
We’ll give a general glance at the features and then look at a pros and cons list. After we go through the brands, we’ll briefly talk about how you can efficiently clean your keyboard, and we’ll discuss some popular tools that can make both cleaning your keyboard and putting on o-rings a simple task. Let’s get started!
Rosewill has done well here – for a low price you’ll get more than enough rubber O-rings for your cherry MX keyboard. You’ll find that they’re quite easy to put on, dampen noise well, and can be doubly applied for a more intense effect.
Consensus – The Rosewill Rubber O-Ring Sound Dampeners for Cherry MX Key Switches are great for sound reduced typing, and make for excellent o-rings. However, you might need to purchase an additional set if you’d like to double up on your keys or if your keyboard is larger than normal. Overall, they are a great buy!
These Cherry MX rubber o-rings are perfect for the typist or gamer who wishes to reduce bottoming out while keeping the satisfying clicking sound that’s reminiscent of early model typewriters. They come in two bold colors, and will easily adapt to your typing style once they’re on your keys for a few days. They’ll also almost eliminate the sound that you get when you bottom out, making for a relatively noise-free typing experience.
Consensus – They’re great for reducing impact; they’ll reduce bottoming out to the point where it’s almost non-existent. They might take a little while to get used to, but we’ll assure you that the wait is worth it! They’re also thicker than normal rubber o-rings.
These MGA rubber o-rings will surely give your keyboard a slightly less noisy sound, without stifling the tactile feedback that many typists, programmers, and gamers love. They suit mechanical keyboards composed of anodized aluminum particularly well; they silence the metallic echo that is common when typing on a keyboard with a baseboard made of this material.
Consensus – These MGA o-rings are an excellent choice if you’re looking for noise reduction, as well as total keyboard coverage. Too often do o-ring sets come ill-equipped with the numbers needed to satisfactorily cover a large keyboard! You might not notice that much of a difference if you don’t bottom out your keys when you type, and they can be tricky to install at first. Overall, these o-rings are a great purchase, however, and should be high on any consumer’s shopping list!
Smooth and silent, these ReFaxi keyboard o-rings will reduce your noise while you type, and change the feel of key actuation. They do their job and do it for a fraction of the price of bigger sellers. They’re easy to install as well; let’s learn more!
Consensus – Overall, these ReFaxi silicon o-rings are a great buy for a typist who wants to reduce the impact of the keys bottoming out on their keyboard, while retaining most of the sounds of the keys being pressed on their keyboard. They aren’t exactly noise reducing, mostly due to their lack of true thickness. They are cheaper than most brands of similar pedigree and do the job just as well. They’re a great buy for mechanical keyboard users who are on a budget. You might want to buy a couple sets, however, if you have a larger keyboard!
The Captain o-ring rubber o-rings will fit any cherry MX mechanical keyboard perfectly. They work well to muffle the sound on most mechanical keyboards, particularly the sound that’s produced from bottoming out. In this same sense, they’ll also reduce the impact that occurs when keys bottom out. Let’s see what else these bright o-rings have to offer to the world of mechanical keyboards!
Consensus – They aren’t noise canceling, but they’ll cut out most of the noise associated with the key to baseplate impact. They might be hard to get used to initially, but once you get used to them you may see an increase in your typing speed, due to the lower travel distance of each key. These o-rings are a decent purchase for noise and impact reduction, even though they’re on the pricier end of the spectrum.
Now that you’ve had a glimpse of several great sets of o-rings, let’s talk about an important part of keyboard maintenance – cleaning! After all, what good are o-rings and other accessories if your keyboard is too dirty to function properly! This is especially true for backlit mechanical keyboards. Let’s take a look at the steps you’ll want to take when you begin to clean your mechanical keyboard.
First, you’ll want to remove the standard-sized keys. For most purposes, standard size keys include all keys except the bigger keys, such as the space bar, return keys, and shift keys. For keyboard removal, you’ll need a tool to perform it quickly and efficiently. We recommend getting a keyboard removal tool, such as the WASD Keyboards Wire Keycap Puller Tool! It’ll make removal of your keyboard’s keys twice as fast and much less tedious. Pulling off the larger keys usually isn’t recommended unless you know what you’re doing, due to the complex structures present under keys of larger sizes.
Next, you’ll want to clean the gunk and dust out from the spaces between the keys. This task can be easily accomplished with a q-tip. After this, it’s time to wash down the spaces where the keys were. You can use a slightly damp sponge or paper towel to complete this step. Let’s put emphasis on “slightly damp” – you won’t want to cause any electrical or internal damage to your keyboard because of intrusive water! After you finish wiping down the areas beneath the keys, dry everything out thoroughly. The final step you’ll want to take, before reassembling the keyboard, is to wash each individual key. You can wash these keys as if you’re washing dishes – keep a bowl of soapy water and bowl of rinse water handy, dip a key into the soap, follow with the rinse water, then dry it thoroughly. To keep track of your keys, it helps to arrange them in the order you’ve taken them off the keyboard. After you make sure every element of your disassembled keyboard has been completely dried off, you’re free to reassemble it!
For a complete cleaning and maintenance experience, you’ll want to buy a cleaning kit that has plenty of tools and cleaning supplies, to keep your keys in top shape. We recommend checking out the Hapurs Cleaning Kit or the ENHANCE Mechanical Keyboard Cleaning kit. Not only will you get a key puller and other important key maintenance tools, but you’ll get a set of o-rings included with the purchase, for dampening a loud or high-impact keyboard. It’s the surefire way to keep your keys in tip-top shape!