What's the best way to clean keycaps?

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zslane

02 Oct 2015, 19:36

So one of the guys in our Systems department where I work found a dusty old IBM Model M in a drawer and gave it to me since I've acquired some kind of reputation for being obsessed with keyboards. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it really needs to be cleaned up.

So what is the best way to deep-clean the keycaps?

User avatar
scottc

02 Oct 2015, 19:39

Some people put them in a dishwasher. Some just use soapy water. I like using very hot water, denture tablets, and a toothbrush. One word of warning: keep ABS AWAY from boiling water! I have a right-angled Cherry spacebar from making that mistake before. That goes for many Model M spacebars too.

User avatar
seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

02 Oct 2015, 19:44

When I have time and the caps are nice enough (vintage sphericals) I wear kitchen rubber gloves and have a small cup with kitchen detergent at hand and keep dipping into the detergent and rub the caps clean with my fingers. After that treatment a regular wash in the dishwasher or per hand.

Findecanor

02 Oct 2015, 19:52

The method I always use is this:

Put the keycaps in a washing bag - the kind that women use for washing their push-up bras.
Put half a dozen denture cleaning tablets into the bag also, and close the bag.
Place the bag with keycaps and tablets into a high-walled bowl and pour warm (not hot) water from the tap, just so much that it covers the keycaps.
Leave it to fizz for an hour or longer.
Drain the bowl and rinse several times, perhaps by repeating filling the bowl with water and dipping
Hang to dry for at least a day.

This is very easy and the keycaps are almost always very clean afterwards. It was only when someone had written on a keycap with a marker that this didn't work: that was cleaned off with a q-tip and some alcohol.

User avatar
chzel

02 Oct 2015, 19:53

I usually use warm water (60-70 degrees) and denture tablets (1 for normally dirty caps, 2 for more filthy ones), leave them for a few hours and then wipe with a cloth before rinsing.

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chzel

02 Oct 2015, 19:54

Half a dozen? I think it's overkill...I might do a second run with another couple of tablets for extremely filthy caps, but no more!

andrewjoy

02 Oct 2015, 19:57

Hot water and dish washing powder or biological washing powder.

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Hypersphere

02 Oct 2015, 19:59

I use warm water and dish washing liquid detergent. Soak overnight. If the caps were very dirty, I might use some scrubbing with fingers while wearing rubber gloves. Rinse thoroughly, drain in a colander, spread on a towel to air dry overnight.

Sometimes I include a light scrub with 70% (v/v) isopropyl alcohol.

User avatar
seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

02 Oct 2015, 20:03

chzel wrote: Half a dozen? I think it's overkill...I might do a second run with another couple of tablets for extremely filthy caps, but no more!
Right never more than a second run, and that very seldom.

andrewjoy

02 Oct 2015, 20:18

Also magic erasers work wonders to take any shine off mild shiny space bars

Findecanor

03 Oct 2015, 00:41

"Magic Erasers" are supposedly similar to sandpaper.

terrycherry

03 Oct 2015, 06:44

I put the keycaps on water with body wash first. Then using the toothbrush with toothpaste to clean keycap and switch plastic shell one on one...
When it dry, I use the natural alcohol tissue to clean it deeply.
That takes me 3+hours but 100% clean all the time.

User avatar
Compgeke

03 Oct 2015, 08:10

I use a mix of dish soap, oxy clean and fairly warm water (aka max heat from the sink). Let it sit for a few hours, rinse, dry. Never had a problem doing this although I can't promise cheap pad printing will survive - never done it to really cheap caps.

On something like a Model F spacebar you don't want to remove simple green and a clean rag\sponge works wonders.

andrewjoy

03 Oct 2015, 10:41

Findecanor wrote: "Magic Erasers" are supposedly similar to sandpaper.
Exactly! Well not quite , but they are very good for getting rid of shine on a space bar or on double shot caps.

User avatar
OleVoip

03 Oct 2015, 12:02

Findecanor wrote: Put the keycaps in a washing bag - the kind that women use for washing their push-up bras.
I also use such a bag - and simply wash them along with other laundry, 60°C cottons program.

tigpha

03 Oct 2015, 15:41

Soaking key caps, either ABS or PBT, overnight in a bucket of warm water and common liquid laundry soap has been satisfactory so far, followed by two thorough rinses and blow-dry using a foot bellows, the sort that pumps air into inflatable mattresses. The blow dry avoids water stains and lime scale deposits, and clears out water from nooks and crannies. Washing with softened water is a bonus.

User avatar
jou

03 Oct 2015, 16:39

I use dental tabs, 2-4 of them depending on dirtyness, and soak them for an hour or two in warm tap water.

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ramnes
ПБТ НАВСЕГДА

03 Oct 2015, 16:46

I'm not using dental tabs anymore, since it has put some white marks on some of my keycaps several times. And anyway it's just as ineffective as hot water + soap.

I'm still searching for a simpler way to clean keycaps thoroughly than washing caps one by one.

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Muirium
µ

03 Oct 2015, 17:00

One by one is the only way. Good for the soul. Dental tabs are asking for trouble.

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clickykeyboards

03 Oct 2015, 21:42

Earlier this year, I started to feel my hands getting old and I switched from cleaning tiny keys in the sink by hand (all 101 keys) to using an industrial-grade ultrasonic cleaner with warm water and a drop of detergent. Simply load the removable wire basket, warm water to 35'C, turn on ultrasonic motor/vibrator. Then I clean the keyboard front case in the sink by hand and 5 minutes later, all the keys are mechanically deep cleaned. It works great in removing 20+ years of dirt, grime and grease and is very consistent and helps to increase my workflow throughput. Since switching, I've seen my water bill drop significantly and am using much less detergent and the ultrasonic cleaner has now paid for itself. (Of course, we typically clean 20-30 keyboards every 30 days).

If you just have one keyboard to clean, then cleaning the keys individually in the sink with a bit of detergent and a kitchen rag is the cheapest.
11705775_10153436522811203_3483497623354411413_o.jpg
model m ultrasonic cleaner
11705775_10153436522811203_3483497623354411413_o.jpg (235.47 KiB) Viewed 5004 times

User avatar
Hypersphere

03 Oct 2015, 21:55

@clickykeyboards: Looks like a tasty batch of fries you've go there! ;) Seriously, though, the ultrasonic method looks good. Thanks for sharing this technique.

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clickykeyboards

03 Oct 2015, 22:04

Wish I had switched sooner. Whenever I look at the old metal cutlery basket that I used to manually clean the individual key caps in, I just imagine all water, detergent, and time that I could have saved and all the waste that literally went down the drain.
10557760_10152541890551203_3775458187993858853_o.jpg
old metal cutlery basket for cleaning model M keys manually.
10557760_10152541890551203_3775458187993858853_o.jpg (214.43 KiB) Viewed 4995 times

User avatar
Chyros

03 Oct 2015, 22:18

I've thought about using the ultrasonic cleaner from the lab but it's kinda of powerful so I'm afraid of shattering my caps, especially the PBT ones xD .

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clickykeyboards

03 Oct 2015, 22:53

Well.. :D I can only personally attest to my personal experience and confirm that the sonic cleaner works great with the model M dinosaur bones.

Findecanor

04 Oct 2015, 00:05

chzel wrote: Half a dozen? I think it's overkill...
Maybe. I remember it was half a dozen in the original recipe I read years ago on GH and because that worked, I stuck with it. I found it reasonable because the relative surface area of one set of dentures compared to 105 keycaps.
I have never needed a second run.
ramnes wrote: I'm not using dental tabs anymore, since it has put some white marks on some of my keycaps several times. And anyway it's just as ineffective as hot water + soap.
There is a little bit of hydrogen peroxide in the type that I use. (Corega Tabs) I know you could get white marks if you retr0bright keys for too long, but I don't think there is nearly as much hydrogen peroxide in the tablets as in retr0brite solution.

Anyway, the big points of the method are:
- Using a washing bag helps a great deal.
- The fizz and abrasive particles from the tablets should make rubbing unnecessary.
This means that there is no need to handle any individual keycap other than when pulling them or putting them back. Very convenient.

I use this H-shaped keycap puller which makes the act of pulling a keyboard very fast - I think I could pull a full-sized keyboard in under a minute if I really tried. I know some people here are afraid of scratches from such a puller, but I have never noticed any. I think that maybe the H-shaped puller could be somewhat safer than ring-type pullers.

andrewjoy

04 Oct 2015, 00:09

clickykeyboards wrote: Earlier this year, I started to feel my hands getting old and I switched from cleaning tiny keys in the sink by hand (all 101 keys) to using an industrial-grade ultrasonic cleaner with warm water and a drop of detergent. Simply load the removable wire basket, warm water to 35'C, turn on ultrasonic motor/vibrator. Then I clean the keyboard front case in the sink by hand and 5 minutes later, all the keys are mechanically deep cleaned. It works great in removing 20+ years of dirt, grime and grease and is very consistent and helps to increase my workflow throughput. Since switching, I've seen my water bill drop significantly and am using much less detergent and the ultrasonic cleaner has now paid for itself. (Of course, we typically clean 20-30 keyboards every 30 days).

If you just have one keyboard to clean, then cleaning the keys individually in the sink with a bit of detergent and a kitchen rag is the cheapest.
11705775_10153436522811203_3483497623354411413_o.jpg
You think something like this would work ?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stainless-Profe ... R160%2C160_


Ideally i would like something bigger that i can clean PCBs with too.

User avatar
webwit
Wild Duck

04 Oct 2015, 00:48

I find the description of the capacity funny, "Professional ultrasonic cleaner with 3L capacity, but the real capacity is 2.6L."

Uhm, ok, so it's a cleaner with 2.6L capacity.

Good thing they stopped right there, otherwise the rest of the description would read something like this:

Completely in Stainless Steel with 3 powerful transducers, but the real number of transducers is 2.
120 Watt of ultrasonic power (100 Watt really), 100 Watt of heating power (the real number is 80).
etc.

User avatar
002
Topre Enthusiast

04 Oct 2015, 01:33

Stainless steel...ok you got us it can actually stain (and it's plastic)
120 Watt of ultrasonic power...wait did we say ultra? it's more like maybe "super"
100 Watt of heating power (when placed on a 100 Watt stove element)

User avatar
kbdfr
The Tiproman

04 Oct 2015, 06:39

To clean Cherry caps, I use an old G81 with its case removed.
I put the caps on the switches (respecting the layout, so repopulating the original keyboard afterwards will be much easier)
and the whole assembly on 6-8 dental tabs in a fitting plastic box which I then fill with hot water, just covering the caps.
The metal plate of the G81 is heavy enough to keep the whole assembly under water.
After 10-15 minutes, I thoroughly brush (all sides of) the caps with a smooth paint brush,
rinse the whole assembly under clear water,
remove any remaining water drops with a cloth
and let the whole thing dry.

This way I don’t have to grip every single cap but still perform mechanical cleaning of each one,
there is no water at all in the stem of the caps as they remain on switches during the whole procedure,
and putting each cap back in its right place is very easy.

User avatar
zslane

04 Oct 2015, 18:50

Okay, so once I've cleaned this bugger, how do I confirm that all the switches still work? Does someone make an USB or PS/2 adaptor cable for this thing?

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