Monday, 29 October 2001
How does one clean a keyboard?

It is a questions that torments me. My keys look terrible. The coffee stains are probably several years old.

The keyboard is an old IBM model PS/2. It is so antiquated that it still has mainframe commands like SysReq and Pause. The thing is indestructible. It is typing heaven, especially to a veteran like me that types blindly with ten fingers. It's an excellent keyboard. Well done, Big Blue.

Fine, but it is still filthy. What to do?
Dishwashing bowls
and other


  • Shall I polish every key cap separately? That sounds like it could take forever.
  • Wash all of them in the ever-so-Dutch dishwashing bowl? No, too much work as well.

Chicken little, from small problem to big success

Will the keycaps survive the washing machine? Tricky question. I'd better start on a small scale and chop this project into pieces.

I test the idea with the function keys, the least-used row. It's probably not a good idea to put the caps into the drum seperately. They get stuffed into a cotton bag, with a bit of washing powder, and they join the coloured laundry.

One hour later all the function keys are still intact and magnificently clean. Wonderful, wonderful, what a successful test!

Iterative approach

So, next are the row of numbers and QWERTYUIOP[]\. Yes, a bit by bit approach, seeing that I'd like to continue typing during the cleaning process. It's surprisingly difficult to type blindly with ten fingers when you miss the key labels. One missing row is just about the maximum I can handle.

This round is less fortunate. The cotton bag has come undone and the keys have scattered into all corners of the drum. It takes a while to find all of them. For a while the W remains missing. I fear that I have to get along with a Q ERTY keyboard, but eventually I find the W hiding in a piece of clothing.

Learn from mistakes

The final rows go in. I don't want another quest for missing keys. So, a double knot now secures the cotton bag. It works well.

I clean the body of the keyboard. It is shining, as good as new! Only the mainframe keys give its age away.

Quick & Clean

So, should you see a rapidly written piece of my code soon: I did not write it Quick & Dirty, but Quick & Clean.

Till next week,