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October 11, 2007

Washing My Keyboard

My keyboard at work developed some pretty nasty-looking growths when it was in storage for 4 months. I have a theory on this: our fingers deposit sketchy amoeba-like things on the keys while typing, but they also remove a certain amount of them at the same time. Keys that are pressed less frequently might get "cleaned" less often, but they also have fewer fungi to begin with. Thus there is a consistently small amount of goop on the keys, but it's constantly being refreshed so it never has time to turn into anything with medicinal properties.

However, if you take a previously active keyboard and stick it in storage for 4 months, then there is an opportunity for a thousand mold spores to bloom. Which is basically what it looked liked after we moved into our new office and I unpacked my desktop computer (I had used only my laptop during the construction).

I had heard of people washing their keyboards in the dishwasher. It seemed worth trying and worst case was I destroyed the keyboard, but there are lots of keyboards lying around Microsoft. Based on advice I found on the Internet I washed it on a quick cycle (the "China/Gentle" one, to be precise) and turned off heated dry (I also washed the furnace screens at the same time). I used the standard Kirkland Signatures detergent that they sell at Costco.

The results were impressive from a cleanliness perspective. These are some before/after pictures (no need to say which is which):

But would it work? The initial "wash your keyboard" meme from whenever-it-was talked about prying off the keycaps and letting it dry for a week, but that seemed excessive. I kept the keys on and let it dry for 3 days in our house, turning it every 12 hours or so. At that point it seemed pretty dry so I plugged it in, but got only the "no keyboard" beeping when I booted. So I left it sitting in my office (which is air-conditioned) for 3 more days, and when I plugged it in then it seemed to work fine. Evidently 3 days is too short but 6 days is enough, and if you try it too soon it won't (in my sample size of one) do any permanent damage to keyboard or computer. Let's see, "Quartz glyph job vex'd cwm finks"...yup, looks good.

Posted by AdamBa at October 11, 2007 10:18 PM

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Wow, thanks for blogging about your keyboard wash. I do have keyboards in desperate need of washing.

But what surprises me is why you don't use the new 4000 keyboard? You should get one of those from your admin, really the best one microsoft hardware has come out with.

Posted by: Sid Singh at October 12, 2007 10:10 AM