Why should you lube your switches?
Lubing your switches has many advantages. Notably, it provides a smoother typing experience and a unique, dampened sound that appeals to most in this hobby. Additionally, lube will alleviate most of the crunch or ping that you can hear from your springs and leaf as the mechanisms interact throughout your keystroke. Once you've experienced a set of lubed switches, it's hard to go back!
What do you need?
At the bare minimum, you'd need the following items:
- When selecting a brush, we highly recommend size 0 as it’s difficult to navigate the small corners and edges within a switch with large brushes.
- We recommend using 205g0 for your switch parts (Housing, stem, and leaf), and 105 oil for your springs.
- For tactiles sometimes a thinner lubricant such as Tribosys 3203 is preferred.
- Switch opener
- You’ll need this to open your switches! Make sure your switch opener is compatible with your switches. There are two main types of switch latches – MX and Kailh. MX style latches have 4 prongs, while Kailh latches have 2 flat tabs.
- Clean surface/desk
- We don’t want your switch parts getting lost amongst any clutter!
The following items are optional, but if you have them, they'll greatly improve your quality of life while you're lubing switches.
- Switch Stem Holder
- Switch lubing can get messy. Being able to hold your stem with a switch stem holder ensures less lube ends up on your fingers.
- Switch parts can be small, and fingers can be big. Tweezers can help you hold things better. Additionally, if you bag lube your springs (more on that later), having tweezers prevents you from getting lube on your fingers!
- Lube Station
- Lube stations allow you to lay out a large number of switches in a specific orientation. This allows you to go down the line and lube each portion more quickly than if you were to pick up each part individually.
- Containers (Bowls, trays, etc. – something to hold all the switch parts)
- 70 switches break down into – 70 top housing, 70 bottom housing, 70 stems, and 70 springs. That’s a lot of parts! It helps to have containers to stay organized.
- Zipper bags (sandwich bags)
- This is mainly for bag lubing springs which we’ll get into later.
Figure 1: SP-Star Melon Soda Linear Switches with lubricant and tools.
Why do we recommend 205g0 for linear switches?
Linear switches work best with lube that has a semi-thick/thicker viscosity to produce a smoother feel and dampened sound. 205g0 is the most popular lubricant and its viscosity is graded by a number. In this case "g0" means grade zero, and the consistency for grade zero lubricant is very smooth.
What about tactiles?
205g0 can also be used on tactiles, but you wouldn't want to lube the legs (more on that below)! You'd also want to apply only a thin coat to prevent any loss of tactility. Sometimes less viscous lubricants such as Tribosys 3203 are recommended because they're a bit more forgiving if you apply too much.
The Lubing Process
Now if you have all your materials ready, let's walk through the steps of lubing your switches. Please note that the switches we have here are linears, but we'll touch on how to lube tactiles as well.
As a reminder, here's parts of the switch that we'll be referencing throughout the process.
Figure 2: Linear switch components separated from one another.
- Top Housing: This is the covering/ top part of a switch that clasps together with the bottom housing to maintain all the components within the switch
- Stem: The part of the switch that the keycap is mounted to, and the stem shape can vary between different types of switches.
- The Crosspoint Metal Contact AKA “Leaf”: The crosspoint metal contact is in the bottom housing. This is what hits the Printed Circuit Board (PCB of your keyboard) to register a keystroke.
- Spring: A coiled thin wire that wraps around the bottom portion of the stem and registers a keystroke. This spring will also bring the key back into its original position.
- Bottom Housing: The bottom housing encases everything above, but also has metal prongs underneath. The bottom housing is what allows the switch to be mounted to the PCB of the keyboard.
First, we'll prepare a clean working surface or containers to hold the components of the switches. If you haven't already, carefully remove the switches from your keyboard.
1. We’ll begin by opening the switches. It’s important to have a good grip on the switch opener to prevent damaging the housing. Place the switch onto the switch opener and carefully press down until you feel and see that the parts have released. You might hear a little pop as an indicator that the top and bottom housing separated. Gently remove the top housing from the bottom housing. After that you will see the spring and stem, separate those parts as well from the bottom housing. A useful tip is to separate the components into different open containers (bowls and Tupperware will work perfectly). Also be careful when working on smooth surfaces because the spring might roll away!
Figure 3: Linear switch's top and bottom housing separated on a switch opener.
Figure 4: Linear switch components separated into Tupperware and containers
2. Then use a thinly bristled brush and slightly dip the brush into the lubricant. A little goes a long way in this instance! To get an even coating on both sides of the brush you can evenly dab any excess onto the side of the lubricant tube or cap. Once the brush is evenly coated, the brush should appear clean or until the white lube is not apparent.
Figure 5: A thin bristled brush with evenly coated lubricant.
Moving onto lubing the Bottom Housing
3. Take the bottom housing and make one brush stroke to cover the sides of the bottom housing, where the sliders of the stem will come into contact with the side walls.
Figure 6: Bottom housing of a linear switch with indications.
4. Lubricate around the stem holder hole, but be sure NOT to get any lube in the stem holder hole where the stem sits.
Next we'll lube the stem.
5. If you’re using the prong holder to hold onto the stem, grab the top part of the stem. If not, you can try to hold the stem with your fingers or in the palm of your hand. Re-coat your brush with lubricant, once again evenly coating the brush. As a reminder, there should be a light sheen on the brush. Carefully brush both sides of the sliders. Evenly distributing the lube on the sliders.
Figure 7: Aerial view of linear stem with indications its various sides.
6. Lube on the tiny stem legs is great to help with the smoothness of the switch. (If you’re lubing tactile switches, you would NOT want to lube the legs to make sure you don’t lose any tactility!)
Figure 8: Linear stem on a stem prong holder with indications of the legs.
Figure 9: Tactile stem on a stem prong holder with indication to not lube the legs.
7. Brush on the front and back of the stem (one swipe across should be enough, but be sure to evenly coat the surfaces).
Figure 10: Linear stem with indications of various sides of the stem.
Finally, we will lube the spring
8. There are two ways to lube the spring.
a. The first way to lube springs are by placing your springs in a zipper sandwich bag. Take your lube oil (we mentioned 105 oil earlier) and put in 1 drop per 10 springs (ex. You have 20 springs so you will put in 2 drops of lube oil). Before fully sealing the zipper bag, blow a bit of air into the bag to help with distributing the oil onto the springs. Once the bag is fully sealed, gently shake the bag until the springs are evenly coated.
Figure 11: Springs of switches placed in a zipper bag for a quicker lubing process.
b. If you are going to lube switches individually, you can follow this step. With tweezers, evenly coat your brush and lube the top and bottom of the spring, as well as along the length of the spring.
Figure 12: The spring of a switch with indications of where to apply lubricant.
Now you're all set!
Reassemble the pieces in this order on your surface.
1. Take your bottom housing and place your spring inside.
2. Carefully place the stem into the center of the spring, and make sure your stem legs face the metal leaf.
3. The top housing will close over these components. Please make sure your top housing is facing the correct way. The LED slits of the top housing should match with the LED slits of the bottom housing. If you place the top housing on in the opposite direction you will damage the metal leaf.
4. Gently press down until you hear a click. Be sure to have a good handle on your switch or the spring will bounce back, and you may lose your parts everywhere!
Figure 13: Linear switch top and bottom housing separated on a switch opener.
Congrats, you've successfully lubed a switch!
As always we're here for you, and if you’re thinking about purchasing lubricants or switches we have many options to choose from here.
Don’t be afraid to shoot us a message if you’re having trouble with any of the steps above! You can always reach us at email@example.com