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Once Upon a Keyboard

Some six years ago I was working abroad, and one coworker bought a Microsoft Natural Keyboard Pro. I tried it out briefly and figured I'd love to use one. On my next trip to Finland I bought one, and started using that at work. A bit later on I bought another for home use as well. I would have bought one for my wife, but unfortunately they're not manufactured anymore, so we ended up buying some other kind of "natural keyboard" for her.

Anyhow, after six years of daily use, the keyboard had gathered some dirt..

The keyboard in question

Now, having used it daily, often snacking in front of it, etc, its condition did not disturb me too much, as I had not experienced any drastic change in the state of my keyboard, but my coworkers started hinting something about hazardous toxic waste..

Details, details..

When I had some idle time, I tried to clean the keyboard a bit by scratching off some of the dirt, so what you're seeing isn't exactly as bad as what it really was.

"Mostly" clean keys..

One interesting detail that I noticed was that the keys that I did not use often - for instance the swedish 'Ä' key, were dirtier than the more often used keys.

Anyway, to give you some kind of idea how dirty this thing was before I started, here's a detail picture off a side:

Oops.

So, maybe it was time to really clean it. Off with the screws (one of which was handily hidden behind the ergonomy warning label):

Under the cover..

Note that the space key is part of the cover. Let's look a bit closer..

25000 bacteria per square inch? I beg to differ.

Hm, maybe I should do something about those LEDs at some point. But that's a project for another time.

Another detail shot.

Yep, it's still dirty. But what about the space key on the cover?

The space bar has a wookie's worth of hair in it.

Sometimes I wonder whether there's any special disease research centers specialized in keyboard research.

Under the left side of the keyboard.

The keyboard's keys are not bolted in in any way; you can simply lift them up. If you're planning to do an autopsy for your natural keyboard, there's a couple of screws under the keys that need to be removed.

The final two screws keeping the keyboard together are next to the USB ports:

The last screws on the board.

Now the cover and the bottom are free, and can be washed. I was a bit worried about the keys themselves, but as it happens, they were relatively easy to remove, and most of them could simply be pulled out.

The escape key escapes.

Like I said, most keys. There are a few longish keys that have are slightly more complicated.

The bars on the numpad end of things.

I ended up just pulling them out as well, hoping I wouldn't break anything and that I could put it together. Nothing seems to be broken so far..

Some of them complicated keys.

Okay, so most of the keys can be removed easily. And what lies beneath?

Hair and.. well, more dirt.

The next bit I was worried about were the special keys. Luckily, they also pull out easily.

I wonder whether I should replace the sleep key afterwards..

Now that the keys were pulled off, I dumped them into a bucket along with warm water and a healthy squeeze of dishwashing liquid. Next I used a vacuum cleaner and a small brush to clean off the base.

Not perfect but definitely better.

Next I scrubbed the cover and the bottom of the keyboard with the dishwashing liquid and hung them to dry.

I expected to spend the next couple of hours scrubbing all of the keys separately, but as it happens the liquid had managed to dissolve all the crud off the keys. I washed the soap off the keys and set them to dry.

A hundred keys'a'drying..

After waiting for the parts to dry for some time, I started putting things back together. The tricky keys with the metal bars were, in the end, rather simple to put in, and the trickiest bit was to figure out the order of the special blue keys =)

Drying some of the keys out would have been much easier if I had had a can of compressed air..

Presto!

Regardless of my utter disregard for static electricity and my haste on not waiting for the parts to completely dry out, the thing still works. There are some scratches from where I had tried to get rid of the crud at the beginning, but apart from that it looks as good as new.

Now then, there's my other keyboard.. *sigh*

While you're here, why don't you check out some other cool stuff I have on my site?

Any comments etc. can be emailed to me.

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Possibly modified around: May 01 2010