Keyboard Hygiene

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
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Cornwall, UK
This morning, I had a strange issue with the keyboard of my Acer Aspire 3, which saw the Backspace key behaving in a bonkers way—sometimes, it wouldn’t work at all—other times, it deleted everything I’d typed! :confused:

Panicking, I searched for solutions, fearing a virus (rare with Linux) or a failed driver. After two hours of trying different solutions, including those offered by YouTube experts, I finally noticed the problem. Digging down the side of the Backspace key with a plastic toothpick dislodged detritus, probably mainly flakes of my skin. Carefully prising the key off, I found more of me! Yeuk, but a few dabs of ethyl alcohol on a cotton bud cleaned things well and the key snapped back on, working correctly.

Shining a bright light on the keyboard showed how stained the keys are, so I’ll be doing more cleaning. Some laptops have keyboards that are easy to replace, as I pointed out in an old thread, so it’s hardly worth cleaning them.

My two-year-old Acer has a different style of keyboard, which is only replaceable by dismantling the case and drilling out plastic securing rivets. However, the keys unclip from the front.

Like this:

Should you be a fan of WD40, this video may reassure you that it’s safe to use:

Be aware, though, that it shows the keyboard removed from the laptop. I wouldn’t spray WD40 willy-nilly onto a live laptop, as who knows how the motherboard would be affected. It’s worth remembering that one of the ingredients of WD40 is petrol! I once saw a biker set his Norton alight by spraying its damp electrics with WD40, which ignited on the hot engine.

Removing a keyboard or undoing a computer’s case can reveal a shocking amount of fluff, hair and skin particles, however clean you keep your house. A laptop’s cooling fan sucks in a lot of gunk, so I clean mine a couple of times annually.

After all, you don’t want to end up with this:

 
I do an annual clean (using compressed air mainly) of the computer (it's an all-in-one, but the backs do come off if following the right instructions), and replace the keyboard at the same time. Yes, I break keyboards. Not just fading the letters, but the pounding they get wears out the points below. A new keyboard every year for my birthday, and the old one gets attached to the laptop so I don't destroy that! It might last the whole of the following year. Sometimes. If I don't use the laptop too often, that is.
C'est la vie.
 
Gosh! I didn't know WD40 was petrol! I thought it was some kind of grease. I have a can of it which I've never used, Just as well!
WD-40 gets its name from being the 40th formulation to Displace Water tried by the developers. It's designed to move water from electrical components—not as a lubricant—though that's what people commonly use it for.
 
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