Removing "deep grime" from beamspring keycaps

User avatar
snufflecat

30 Jun 2021, 12:15

Hey everyone,

I was recently lucky enough to acquire two(!) beamspring keyboards for a relatively good price, and I've slowly started picking one apart for cleaning and much needed maintenance.

As one would expect I've run the keycaps through several baths in my ultrasonic cleaner, hoping to get most of the "deep grime" away, but so far this has yielded results that are sub-par. In other words: The damn keycaps are still grimy.

My plan B was to go over them with baking powder and water, but this also has not helped at all.
My next step is to possibly wet sand them with the highest grit sandpaper I can get my hands on, but I'm naturally afraid that this will be too excessive.

Does anyone have similar experiences and any possible advice on how to get the keycaps looking close to their original whiteness?

Attached is an image of one of the keycaps in question, before the ultrasonic bath.
I'll post more images of the keycaps (and boards) if anyone wants to see more. :)
IMG_8281.JPG
IMG_8281.JPG (2.36 MiB) Viewed 1367 times

User avatar
TNT

30 Jun 2021, 12:32

What solution did you use in your ultrasonic? I have the same problem with some other caps. Got rid of some of the grime with a mixture of water, dish soap, and dental cleaning tabs. Also I took em out after each run and gave em a good old scrub with a toothbrush and a towel. I'd advise against using any kind of abrasive method. Maybe I did it wrong but I completely ruined a set of priceless vintage caps that way. Maybe all the tips regarding cleaning stains on other parts of the board, like the case do apply here too?

User avatar
snufflecat

30 Jun 2021, 13:30

TNT wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 12:32
What solution did you use in your ultrasonic? I have the same problem with some other caps. Got rid of some of the grime with a mixture of water, dish soap, and dental cleaning tabs. Also I took em out after each run and gave em a good old scrub with a toothbrush and a towel. I'd advise against using any kind of abrasive method. Maybe I did it wrong but I completely ruined a set of priceless vintage caps that way. Maybe all the tips regarding cleaning stains on other parts of the board, like the case do apply here too?
I used the cleaning solution that was sold with the machine, plus lukewarm water. It's worked very nicely on other keycaps, so I'm kinda scratching my head here. I tried removing the basket from the cleaner, thinking it might "soak up" some of the vibrations in the water and that way giving lesser of a clean, but it didn't seem to matter.

The beamspring keycaps are doubleshot plastic, too, so I'm not too afraid that wet sanding them would cause irreversible damage. That said I would of course prefer to clean them as gently as possible. 8-)

Usually when I clean cases it's either just soapy water or a good ol' scrub with baking powder and water to really get in between "the pores" of the board, and so far that's worked nicely. Still.. we'll have to see if the case is so dirty that it'll require a complete stripping and re-painting.. (perks when you have a 1,5mm thick steel case!).

User avatar
AJM

30 Jun 2021, 15:19

Have you tried putting the caps in water with very much dish-soap and then letting them soak for several days?

User avatar
raoulduke-esq

30 Jun 2021, 15:25

Please no abrasives. Under that grime on the sides is a smooth, shiny ABS cap.

User avatar
AJM

30 Jun 2021, 15:41

I'm also advising against abrasives.
1. You would probably lose the side print.
2. The tops are (unless they were used a lot) usually textured, which means you would have to sand quite a bit, which would then mean that you would slant the top rim too much and "ruin the lines" of the caps.

If the soaking in dish-soap for a few days doesn't help I would try 70% alcohol.

jmaynard

30 Jun 2021, 16:03

Might be worth trying an enzyme mold remover, too...something like Moldzyme.

User avatar
TNT

30 Jun 2021, 17:31

snufflecat wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 13:30

I used the cleaning solution that was sold with the machine, plus lukewarm water. It's worked very nicely on other keycaps, so I'm kinda scratching my head here. I tried removing the basket from the cleaner, thinking it might "soak up" some of the vibrations in the water and that way giving lesser of a clean, but it didn't seem to matter.

The beamspring keycaps are doubleshot plastic, too, so I'm not too afraid that wet sanding them would cause irreversible damage. That said I would of course prefer to clean them as gently as possible. 8-)

Usually when I clean cases it's either just soapy water or a good ol' scrub with baking powder and water to really get in between "the pores" of the board, and so far that's worked nicely. Still.. we'll have to see if the case is so dirty that it'll require a complete stripping and re-painting.. (perks when you have a 1,5mm thick steel case!).
The manufacturer of my ultrasonic specifically advises against cleaning anything without the basket, since stuff that touches the vibrating bottom part can be damaged, allegedly. Don't know whether that applies to relatively simply structured keycaps or not, but still.

User avatar
TNT

30 Jun 2021, 17:35

AJM wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 15:19
Have you tried putting the caps in water with very much dish-soap and then letting them soak for several days?
Also this, this has worked for me on several occasions. Got rid of virtually all the shmutz on my beamspring case that way.

User avatar
Half-Saint

30 Jun 2021, 18:32

I used denture tabs and an old toothbrush. Let them soak in warm water (add a couple of tabs) a few hours and then use the toothbrush to remove the dirt. As an alternative, put the keycaps in the dishwasher.

User avatar
E TwentyNine

30 Jun 2021, 20:10

TNT wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 17:35
AJM wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 15:19
Have you tried putting the caps in water with very much dish-soap and then letting them soak for several days?
Also this, this has worked for me on several occasions. Got rid of virtually all the shmutz on my beamspring case that way.
I've found blue Dawn dish soap works best for this (or any kind of grease/grime in general). Don't know if other brands can match it but it definitely does a great job.

User avatar
snufflecat

01 Jul 2021, 09:31

AJM wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 15:19
Have you tried putting the caps in water with very much dish-soap and then letting them soak for several days?
Nope! Gonna give it a try, plus get some denture cleaning tablets and see if it does the trick. And rest assured I'll stay away from abrasives and the likes. Don't want to ruin the caps!
TNT wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 17:31
The manufacturer of my ultrasonic specifically advises against cleaning anything without the basket, since stuff that touches the vibrating bottom part can be damaged, allegedly. Don't know whether that applies to relatively simply structured keycaps or not, but still.
Alright, that's noted.
Half-Saint wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 18:32
I used denture tabs and an old toothbrush. Let them soak in warm water (add a couple of tabs) a few hours and then use the toothbrush to remove the dirt. As an alternative, put the keycaps in the dishwasher.
Alright, I'll give it a shot!
jmaynard wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 16:03
Might be worth trying an enzyme mold remover, too...something like Moldzyme.
Thanks! If none of the aforementioned tips work (lots of dish soap, denture cleaning tablets etc.), I'll definitely give this a try if I can find such a product here in Norway. 👍

orihalcon

01 Jul 2021, 13:10

Wondering if that grime is really printer toner? That stuff is about the hardest to get off of anything, so perhaps look into chemicals that can remove toner. Agree with the above that abrasives aren't ideal, but a magic eraser and some 91% isopropyl alcohol might just do the trick and won't cause much shine if any. Be aware that this also will remove your front facing legends.

You should post some pics of what the cap looks like after the ultrasonic cleaning with what you've tried as I'm curious how much grime remains. A good ultrasonic cleaner usually will completely remove the front facing legends as well (PF6 in this case).

User avatar
troglotype

01 Jul 2021, 16:45

orihalcon wrote:
01 Jul 2021, 13:10
Wondering if that grime is really printer toner?
Was also my first thought, but it's difficult to ascertain. If it is printer toner, try to get your hands on "Xerox Formula A" cleaner.This link (https://www.xerox.com/download/ehs/msds ... .en-us.pdf) downloads a PDF data sheet with ingredients.

mode1ace

04 Jul 2021, 09:18

Half-Saint wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 18:32
As an alternative, put the keycaps in the dishwasher.
They're ABS, won't they soften and warp?

Dishwashers run quite hot, this is only safe for PBT and even then I wouldn't go with this method, there's anyways a risk one gets loose and damaged.

User avatar
Half-Saint

04 Jul 2021, 14:51

mode1ace wrote:
04 Jul 2021, 09:18
Half-Saint wrote:
30 Jun 2021, 18:32
As an alternative, put the keycaps in the dishwasher.
They're ABS, won't they soften and warp?

Dishwashers run quite hot, this is only safe for PBT and even then I wouldn't go with this method, there's anyways a risk one gets loose and damaged.
Hmm, I actually only tried this with thick cherry PBT caps and it worked great. You have to put them in a laundry wash bag of course.

mode1ace

04 Jul 2021, 19:15

Half-Saint wrote:
04 Jul 2021, 14:51
Hmm, I actually only tried this with thick cherry PBT caps and it worked great. You have to put them in a laundry wash bag of course.
This does not surprise me, it's a really bad idea for ABS caps, I hope OP hasn't done this.

User avatar
SneakyRobb
THINK

04 Jul 2021, 22:23

Also be careful it's not that hard to remove the front "PF 6" legends by abrasion!

User avatar
snufflecat

05 Jul 2021, 06:21

orihalcon wrote:
01 Jul 2021, 13:10
Wondering if that grime is really printer toner? That stuff is about the hardest to get off of anything, so perhaps look into chemicals that can remove toner. Agree with the above that abrasives aren't ideal, but a magic eraser and some 91% isopropyl alcohol might just do the trick and won't cause much shine if any. Be aware that this also will remove your front facing legends.

You should post some pics of what the cap looks like after the ultrasonic cleaning with what you've tried as I'm curious how much grime remains. A good ultrasonic cleaner usually will completely remove the front facing legends as well (PF6 in this case).
Hmm, yeah, who knows.. I've now tried giving the keycaps an ultrasonic bath, followed by a bath in both hot water and denture tablets, hot water and dish soap and finally a trip to the dishwasher. The grime is still there and the caps remain intact as far as I can see (no warping or anything, front facing legends are still there etc.), but the surface is (mostly) smooth as heck. Also there's the yellowing, but I suppose a sunbath for a few hours should take care of that.

Pictures. All taken after all washing and futile attempts that I just mentioned.
Spoiler:
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Photo 04-07-2021, 15 45 41.jpg
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Photo 04-07-2021, 15 45 54.jpg
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Photo 04-07-2021, 15 45 59.jpg
Photo 04-07-2021, 15 45 59.jpg (1.16 MiB) Viewed 930 times

User avatar
AJM

05 Jul 2021, 12:51

These keycaps must have had an "interesting" life! But after all these treatments I think we can call these caps "clean" even if they don't look like it. Actually I find the look quite nice - if it's somewhat consistent over all keys.
The yellowing just adds to the mystery, because if it would be yellowing caused by UV light, it would be yellow at the top and have it's natural color at the bottom, where the least light gets to.

User avatar
ifohancroft

05 Jul 2021, 14:01

Have you tried soaping up the keycaps and scrubbing them with your fingers, letting them sit for a bit, then wash your hands, and rinse them with hot water while again scrubbing them with your fingers?

User avatar
Half-Saint

05 Jul 2021, 20:45

There's one more thing you can try, if you can get it in your country:
https://www.conrad.com/p/mellerud-plast ... -ml-892922

User avatar
snufflecat

06 Jul 2021, 08:37

AJM wrote:
05 Jul 2021, 12:51
These keycaps must have had an "interesting" life! But after all these treatments I think we can call these caps "clean" even if they don't look like it. Actually I find the look quite nice - if it's somewhat consistent over all keys.
The yellowing just adds to the mystery, because if it would be yellowing caused by UV light, it would be yellow at the top and have it's natural color at the bottom, where the least light gets to.
Definitely! And they are as clean as they can get, I suppose, but I really want to give them one last chance with a "magic sponge". After that it just has to stay the way it is, even though I of course would wish that I could get them back to the original colour.
ifohancroft wrote:
05 Jul 2021, 14:01
Have you tried soaping up the keycaps and scrubbing them with your fingers, letting them sit for a bit, then wash your hands, and rinse them with hot water while again scrubbing them with your fingers?
No, I haven't tried that specifically. Given the fact that all my previous methods haven't given me the result I'm after, I'm somewhat pessimistic that soap + finger rubbing will do the trick, but I'll keep it in mind nevertheless.

User avatar
snufflecat

06 Jul 2021, 08:40

Half-Saint wrote:
05 Jul 2021, 20:45
There's one more thing you can try, if you can get it in your country:
https://www.conrad.com/p/mellerud-plast ... -ml-892922
Thanks! Looks like they do ship to Norway, so if the magic sponges doesn't work I'll give this a try.

User avatar
ifohancroft

27 Jul 2021, 19:51

Any progress with the cleaning?

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