Clean clickety-clack keyboard

Not for the squeamish

From time to time a key on my clickety-clack keyboard gets stuck and refuses to register. Usually, I just prise off the keycap, fiddle about with an unbent paperclip or something and hope for the best, but the last time it happened it was one of the letters I need for my password and it was a royal pain. Plus, I've been saying for weeks, if not months, that the keyboard deserved a jolly good seeing to. (I've had it just over nine years now; it's the least I could do.)

Yesterday, with no urgent work on the horizon, I took the plunge. I began, as one begins all such tasks, by watching a Youtube video. I won't bother linking, because the only important advice it offered was to use plain warm water as a solvent. Had it been damaged by coffee or something nastier, perhaps I might have needed isopropyl alcohol, but in fact warm water turned out to be fine.

So, I started off with photos of the keyboard as it is, more to help replace they keys when the time came than to immortalise its state. But why not?

dirty keyboard surface

Once I had removed a couple of keys I was totally horrified. How had all that grunge accumulated. Luckily it takes a lot to disgust me.

close up of filthy keyboard with caps removed

I carried on removing keys, using an old credit card to lever them up. The big ones with the stabilisers I didn't even attempt, because really there weren't that many of them and how much grunge could hide there?

dirty keyboard with all keycaps removed

With all the keys off it was a matter of carefully removing the accumulated cruft -- a mixture of dog hair, my hair and who knows what -- with a stiff brush and then, more carefully still, with a dampened Q-tip. There was a lot of it.

accumulated grunge and dirty Q-tips

close up of cleaned keyboard with keycaps removed

I rinsed the keycaps in warm water for a while and then scrubbed at them with an old toothbrush. The water here is very hard indeed, so I thought it would be worth rinsing them in de-ionised water before setting them out to dry. I also used damp Q-tips to clean the keys I had not removed and the case. And then, a couple of hours later when I judged the keycaps to be dry enough, I consulted the photos and replaced all the keycaps. The only difficulty was the inverted-T arrow keys, which took a bit of juggling (before clicking them back on) to get right.

cleaned keyboard surface

I won't say it is as good as new. But it is jolly spiffy again, and after a day well spent it feels very satisfying to have finally given it the TLC it deserves. And, just as I said nine years ago, I now feel more motivated to invest a little time in creating some more useful keyboard shortcuts. Any suggestions?

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