How to remove pet hair from (deep inside) external keyboard?
December 24, 2015 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I have a great IBM keyboard that I assume is irreplaceable at this point. My cat likes the attention of plopping herself down on it. (I now move the keyboard to underneath my desk on a tray when she comes around, but she sheds a lot, and the hair still eventually gets into the keys.)

I've tried vacuuming and all's that seems to accomplish is to bring up the hairs from underneath just enough to be annoying (feels like I'm typing on a cat). There's not enough suction (even with the hose from a hard-core floor vacuum) to pull them all the way out.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

(And in case anyone was wondering, yes, it's true, what Jews do on Christmas Eve is clean their keyboards.)
posted by Jon44 to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are there any fasteners hidden by stickers or rubber plugs on the underside? I'd try to carefully disassemble it to remove the lower tray, and possibly the business part of the guts. Once that's free it will be easier to blow it out from the side with canned air into a waiting vacuum.

Better if you do this while you're eating Chinese food.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:06 AM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do the keys pop off? For my (non-IBM) 108-key cat platform, I carefully remove all the keys* and wash them in a veggie strainer with dish soap and water. With the keys out of the way, the key bed can be easily cleaned of all debris. I like this gummy stuff to clean out tight corners but cotton tipped ear buds + patience work just as well.

To save your sanity, take a photo of your keyboard before you pull off any keys. You might think, "I've been typing for decades, I know where all the keys go!" Trust me on this, there's at least one whose original location is a complete mystery.

*I've heard that for some models of IBM keyboards, only remove the square keys because the others are very difficult to re-install.
posted by jamaro at 11:16 AM on December 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

IBM Model M? The clickety kind?

Probably not irreplaceable. I have 1 or 3 I could probably send you. MeMail me if interested.
posted by jferg at 11:19 AM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There are a lot of screws underneath--I might try unscrewing one side of it and seeing what happens.
And it's a Thinkpad external keyboard with trackpad (action of keys is just like Thinkpads of old).
posted by Jon44 at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2015

With cat hair I usually have to remove the keycaps. Check one of those sites that shows you teardown tutorials. Vacuum to pull the hair up like you did. Then remove caps and any other removable parts and store away from curious felines. Turn keyboard upside down to shake out anything loose. Use scotch tape to remove anything left.
posted by oneear at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2015

Know anyone with a real air compressor? Many carpenters and mechanics have them. They have much more blastout power than the puny canned air.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:39 AM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Or puny canned air might be enough. Flip the keyboard upside down while spraying so gravity works in your favor, or if you've got someone to help, you could combine with a vacuum hose.

And seconding the suggestion to add Chinese food - just don't get it in the keyboard :)
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 11:47 AM on December 24, 2015

Canned air, a pair of tweezers and 45 minutes to pull hair out. After the initial time investment, just canned air should be enough to keep it pet-free.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:59 AM on December 24, 2015

If it's an IBM model M, you should be able to just pop off the keycaps and clean underneath. You can get a keycap pulling tool to make it easier to pull the caps off without breaking them, but you can probably just pry them off with a butter knife if you're careful and patient.
posted by Aleyn at 12:02 PM on December 24, 2015

I have a mechanical keyboard, and when I opened it up to clean it I found that inside there was a crust of tobacco, hair and tea-spillings between all the keys. Simple Green and a large brush made medium work of it.
posted by rhizome at 12:16 PM on December 24, 2015

I've cleaned in between the keys of a keyboard using an interdental brush before now. They're small enough to get in between the gaps but firm enough that they can be pushed and pulled every which way to gather up all of the crud.
posted by Solomon at 12:26 PM on December 24, 2015

Try running a post-it (sticky side down) along the gap between the keys to pick up as much stuff as possible.
posted by essexjan at 12:33 PM on December 24, 2015

I've never successfully put Humpty Dumpty back together again after removing keys, so I usually clean using a toothpick or squewer to catch and pull the hair to one end and then I do the rest with tweezers and canned air.
posted by quince at 12:44 PM on December 24, 2015

IBM Model M's are still manufactured today, in very similar style, by a US company called Unicomp. Typing on one right now.
posted by jgreco at 1:08 PM on December 24, 2015

You have to be careful with high pressure air. Most non-paint quality compressors will have water and oil in the air stream which can have deleterious effects on electronics. Safer to just use the canned air stuff.
posted by Mitheral at 2:23 PM on December 24, 2015

If it is the keyboard I am thinking then you can remove the keys. Do this very gentle with special care with the space bar. Once you get the keys off then cleaning is pretty easy. I use alcohol to clean things because it evaporates nicely with no residue.

Cleaning a model M keyboard is easier but your keyboard is the same method of using a butter knife or the edge of a hard plastic card to gently pop one key an then popping off each key. Once you remove the keys then assess whether you want to get at the trackball and be careful of the rubber pointer, if you have one. Pro tip: take a photo of the board before dismantling to replace the keys more efficiently.
posted by jadepearl at 2:57 PM on December 24, 2015

Have you tried vacuuming with it upside down?
posted by Helga-woo at 2:59 PM on December 24, 2015

Thinkpad keycaps come off just fine. Be gentle though. And yes, make sure you have a picture of the layout.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:22 PM on December 24, 2015

I put my keyboards in the dishwasher. Top shelf only. Works wonders.
posted by AugustWest at 6:52 PM on December 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can try shaping blu-tack into points and running it between the keys.If the hair is sticking out, it should stick to the blu-tack and come out.
posted by whitelotus at 1:24 AM on December 25, 2015

I've had pretty good luck using a narrow fan-type sable bristle paint brush.
posted by drlith at 8:06 AM on December 25, 2015

I just use a can of compressed air with the keyboard upside down.
posted by Talez at 4:28 PM on December 25, 2015

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