back to article A bitter spill to swallow, or 'how to smeg up your keyboard'

Trouble at mill. Someone’s password isn’t working. It’s day two for one of the casuals and he’s forgotten what the temporary password is. It’s been an entire 24 hours and his natural creativity doesn’t extend to remembering how to type ‘Passw0rd’. Brilliant. Confused computer keyboard I remind him of his password and he …


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  1. Irongut Silver badge

    Simple solution

    Don't buy crApple.

    1. Gerhard Mack

      Re: Simple solution

      Better than that, buy an actual keyboard designed for industrial use. You can get washable keyboards that actually feel like a proper keyboard. Mine for instance is an HP and I stick it under the tap once a month or so just to keep it clean. It costs a bit (but not much) more but the investment is worth it.

      If we all stopped tolerating crap keyboards the manufacturers would have to actually start producing quality again.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Simple solution

        Another simple solution: cheap Logitech keyboards.

        They're actually rather good. They'll put up with quite a bit of abuse. They're cheap enough so that when a luser tips a can of cola into his, you just put it in the nearest bin and give him another used one.

        (Not a new one. That would boost sales of cola! )

        But they aren't shiny and they don't have keys that well-known patented shape.

    2. Steve Evans

      Re: Simple solution

      I really dislike typing on Apple keyboards. They're too flat, the keys don't have much travel, and they always seem to have a bit of side wobble too. I don't think they feel much different to a Sinclair Spectrum with a hard plastic cap stuck on the top... Oh, hang on, that's a QL keyboard. Yes, that's what they feel like to me.

      I can understand the need for a flat, short travel keyboard on a laptop. It keeps the thickness down, and you want a laptop to be <25mm thick (<15mm in Apple-land). But a desktop? Come on! Let's have a nice solid keyboard with a positive Cherry click please!

      Plus my cat won't walk on my big clunky keyboard, but happily wanders all over the Mac one, and even sits on it. Makes a mighty fine mess of any document you might be writing if you happen to forget to lock the desktop before going to make a cuppa!

      "What on Earth are companies such as Apple thinking? Anyone would think they had deliberately designed their peripherals to be irreparable, forcing you to buy replacements more frequently than was previously necessary. Ho ho, as if."

      Yes, as if... Have you ever tried cleaning the bits of lunch and dead skin out of an Apple mighty mouse? The bloody thing is glued shut.

      I regularly clean my 5+ year old Logitech mice, and have no problem, the use two screws (shock horror, witchcraft!) but when the Apple rodent died on my other half's Mac I gave up, cursed and bought her a Logitech too. Luckily she hasn't completely succumbed to the church of Apple so I could get away with it. It also means she got a 27" 2560x1400 Dell monitor with a far more useful non-reflective panel for half the price of the Apple equivalent.

      1. Richard Altmann

        Re: Simple solution

        "Plus my cat won't walk on my big clunky keyboard, but happily wanders all over the Mac one, and even sits on it. Makes a mighty fine mess of any document you might be writing if you happen to forget to lock the desktop before going to make a cuppa!"

        Now some empiric study starts: Cats completly ignore pc keyboards but love to jump up and down apple boards and crap on it.

        I´m not in the fruit´s business but friends are and they all have problems with cats shitting on their board.

        I never go without at least two cats and PCs and the pussys never touch it.

        Really worth a study

        1. tony2heads

          Re: Simple solution

          Cats are stern hardware critics - the 'crap on it' behaviour shows their opinion of apple keyboards

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Simple solution

        I nearly bought the Dell monitor when I bought my Macbook but since it meant I would have to buy another power supply, it did not have a camera, audio, firewire, gigabit ethernet or Thunderbolt port - plus believe the Apple monitor inherits the warranty on the Macbook there was less reason.

        Also the Dell was not actually half the price at that time - was around £600 when I saw it (have since seen it a bit less) and the Apple monitor was discounted on Amazon at just over £800 (although normally just under £900).

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Simple solution

        My Mighty Mouse broke after two months. I discovered that it couldn't be opened and decided I didn't really want to anyway as it was (literally) painful to use.

        So I got a cheap and cheerful Logitech mouse instead that has served me well for five years. It recently started not registering left clicks so I opened it up, found a bit of worn plastic under the button and fixed it with a bit of sellotape.

        My keyboard hasn't broken yet, but wired keyboards seem to be as rare as hen's teeth and maybe Apple's fixed that in the latest models so they break after just two years.

        1. Mr. Nobby

          Re: Simple solution

          You should get one of those Microsoft Intellimouse mice, I've had mine for years, it's gone yellow now even though it was white, I've spilled beer in it, knocked it off the desk, slammed it in frustration, dropped it in a cup of tea, and I'm pretty sure that one of my rats tried to have sex with it once. Still works.

          The only downside is that the resolution is fairly low so it makes only a mediocre gaming mouse.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Simple solution

      How about be more careful. Guess what if you bash your car into a wall it is not immune to damage either.

  2. Select * From Handle

    Anyone else..?

    Now want to wash their keyboard in the dishwasher?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Anyone else..?

      What? You haven't done it? Flush 'em in the toilet first, gets most of the (ahem) crap out.

      (although... doing a cylinder head in a dishwasher is likely to cause spousal annoyance!)

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: Anyone else..?

        (although... doing a cylinder head in a dishwasher is likely to cause spousal annoyance!)

        You're using the wrong kind of spouse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anyone else..?

          Isn't that the /only/ kind?

      2. cortland

        Re: Anyone else..?

        An elder colleague at a computer-making electronics firm (think TRS) in Texas had a miniature railway in his yard, When his wife was out of the house he'd clean parts in the dishwasher. One day he unknowingly used some ex-US Navy waterproof grease. Did you know that solvent works in a dishwasher? Did you know that the fumes can explode if a solenoid sparks? JUST when the wife is walking back in the door?

        They haven't made computers since 1993, either.

    2. DJ Smiley
      Thumb Up

      Re: Anyone else..?

      I once spilt rather a lot of coke on my logitech keyboard - its a cheap one - randomly I have exactly the same model at work.

      Anyway I took it as it was, and placed it into the bath. I then filled the bath with warmish water. I shook it slightly and bits of dirt started to float out, and the coke appeared to dissolve (I think I actually split it while drinking late one night and left it to the next morning, at which time it'd solidified) freeing up some of the keys.

      I removed some of the large keys - spacebar, return key, enter on the numpad and shook it some more - more bits of dirt floated out.

      I repeated this on and off for about 3 hours. Then turned it over so the keys were facing down, changed the water and left it another hour or so...... some more rubbish floated out.

      Then I took it out, wrapped it in a towel and left it on a warmish radiator for 2 days - it was and still is perfect...... however its about time it was cleaned again. I just need a keyboard to use in the mean time.

      1. Psyx
        Thumb Up

        Re: Anyone else..?

        First thing to as lusers when they report spillage is to ask what it was. If it was water, it'll be fine. If it was Cola, it's probably best to bin it now because that stuff seems to love eating electronics.

        If they say tea/coffee, ask if they take sugar.

        Liquid doesn't bugger up keyboards, but sugar sure seems to do a great job.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Anyone else..?

          You can even kill a Thinkpad that way.

          Aquaintance manages to submerge X22 in an inch-deep puddle of Club-Mate. Fearing I might get angry at her she doesn't tell, but lets her new squeeze "clean it". What he did is unknown, but the only sensible action: take the batteries out and keep it submerged in tapwater until you can flush it with demineralised water and then alcohol, clearly it was not.

          Two months later, the brave X22 dies slowly and horribly. A post-mortem reveals caramel-like deposits around and possibly under a number of chips, most notably the hotter ones, and those near the power entrance.

        2. Nigel 11

          Getting sugar out

          Sugar isn't a problem if you're willing to take the slow route. Remove batteries (if any) and imerse in water. Leave several hours. Rinse. Repeat. Towel dry. Leave in airing cupboard for several days.

          Cola, though ... kiss of death. Doesn't that make you wonder what it does to *your* innards?

          1. Old Handle

            Re: Getting sugar out

            A little, but then again I also have hydrochloric acid in my innards, and I wouldn't want that on my keyboard either.

            1. Chemist

              Re: Getting sugar out

              "I also have hydrochloric acid in my innards"

              And it's quite strong too. It can even drop below pH 1

              ( Incidently one of the reasons that you don't suffer damage is that your stomach is coated with a layer of goo that has sodium bicarbonate secreted into it to provide a neutralizing barrier)

          2. Psyx

            Re: Getting sugar out

            "Doesn't that make you wonder what it does to *your* innards?"

            And that's why I don't drink it.

            Ok: That's a lie: That's why I only drink it with Jack.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anyone else..?

        "I once spilt rather a lot of coke on my logitech keyboard - its a cheap one - randomly I have exactly the same model at work."

        I once spilt some concentrated glucose solution on my calculator during a biology lesson at school. Took a long time before some of the keys would not stay down when pressed (though, back in those days geometry sets had compasses with properr spikes on which I seem to recall needed to be put into action to force the keys back up at times!)

      3. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Anyone else..?

        This is why I keep a spare for Apple. The flimsy excuse is cheap enough to buy a spare, and it prevents the massive loss of time trying to fight an almost impossible battle (that is, without wasting a LOT of time on it, which costs more than the keyboard). My internal debate is more about buying a *good* keyboard for Apple (i.e. Cherry or something), which will make a coffee incident costly but which is more pleasant to use, or stick with the cheapo stuff - and I just discovered I still have one of those Bluetooth things as well (too small, and they follow the same laws as torches when it comes to batteries).

        I don't need spares for PC because I have bought many a keyboard over the years :).

      4. Nev Silver badge

        Re: Anyone else..?

        "I once spilt rather a lot of coke on my logitech keyboard "

        You should have got this guy to sort you out:

      5. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Anyone else..?

        I came home from the pub one night many moons ago, considerably worse for wear and <ahem> spilled <ahem> approx 4 pints of stella and 3/4 of a semi digested kebab on my beloved logitech kbd.

        soaked it in the bath overnight, dried it with a hairdrier... lasted about another 6 months before one end of the spacebar took to sticking down sometimes. all in all lasted about 3 years as I recall, not bad for £15

      6. Mr. Nobby

        Re: Anyone else..?

        Take all the keys out, wash them in the kitchen sink, give the keyboard body a good scrub too (remove the electronics first) and you can dry it with a towel and a hair dryer, no need to let it sizzle for 2 days.

    3. Thomas 4

      Re: Anyone else..?

      Now want to stuff their users in a dishwasher?

      1. Darryl
        Thumb Up

        Re: Anyone else..?

        I remember back at school, they used to regularly round up all of the KBs in each lab and load them into the industrial dishwasher in the cafeteria. Since then, I've run probably dozens of different ones, expensive and cheap through a cycle and it's always worked. Don't bother taking them all apart first though - just a waste of time. To dry, stand them on end for a day or two or prop them face-down over a forced air heating vent.

    4. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Anyone else..?

      Washing an Apple keyboard can't be that difficult?

      Looks to me like it uses a similar system as HP laptops, and they can be dismantled, if you're patient enough...

      Now, if you want difficult, you should try rescuing the keyboard on a Psion netBook after a whole lot of very sugary tea ended up in it.

      THAT was a pain in the seating arraignment...

      I ended up having to separate the layers and wash them by themselves. And no, it's not built to be taken apart again...

    5. Steve Evans

      Re: Anyone else..?

      I remember accidentally spilling my cornflakes (with milk) over my BBC Micro when I was a wee nipper.

      Off came all the keycaps and into the sink they want. The keyboard PCB was then disconnected and cleaned with soapy water under the tap. Finally rinsed from the water butt in the garden (rainwater is soft to avoid lime-scale problems!).

      Keycaps got bagged up in a towel and then a "spin dry" over my head.

      Unfortunately after a few days there was a funny smell, so the entire motherboard came out. All socketed chips were removed, and then that got the soapy water toothbrush clean and the rinse in the garden.

      Result, it stopped smelling funny, and worked.

      In fact it still works.

      They don't make 'em like that any more.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simpler soloution

    Stop drinking tea at your computer, stick to ethanol and if you spill it it will clean the keys, rather than clogging them up.

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: Simpler soloution

      Ethanol isn't a solution, it's a single compound. Even combined with water it would just be a mixture.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Simpler soloution

        Just a mixture?

        Not exactly. You can't completely separate Ethanol from Water by distillation or other physical means. Distillation gets you to "cask strength" (from memory, about 58% Ethanol). To get beyond that to 100% Ethanol you have to resort to chemical means. Be warned, 100% Ethanol is very highly toxic. Very much more so than twice the amount of cask strength spirit. It also tends to contain benzene (carcinogen) as an impurity.

        1. FartingHippo

          Re: Simpler soloution

          100% Ethanol is very highly toxic. ... It also tends to contain benzene (carcinogen) as an impurity.

          You are hereby stripped of your 'boffin' icon.

        2. Old Handle

          Re: Just a mixture?

          Basically true, but your number is way off. With repeated distillation, or a fractionating column, you can get to 95% (or so*). Even two passes through a traditional pot still should be able to beat 58%. I'm sure there's a good reason for casking booze at that strength, but it's not because of physical limitations on distillation.

          *I've seen figured ranging from 95 to 96.5, but definitely not 58.

          1. Psyx

            Re: Just a mixture?

            "Basically true, but your number is way off. With repeated distillation, or a fractionating column, you can get to 95% (or so*). Even two passes through a traditional pot still should be able to beat 58%. I'm sure there's a good reason for casking booze at that strength, but it's not because of physical limitations on distillation."

            Yup: Six times through will get you over 90%.


      2. Juan Inamillion

        Re: Simpler soloution

        I think you'll find he meant 'a solution to the problem'...

        just sayin'

    2. Midnight

      Re: Simpler soloution

      Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol?

  4. nbc

    What are you supposed to do, use a ‘4’ instead? Gre4t ide4.

    Alt + 97 ?

    1. Old Handle

      Re: What are you supposed to do, use a ‘4’ instead? Gre4t ide4.

      But this was a Mac and that's a Windows-only trick. Linux seems to have a similar feature, but Mac OS apparently doesn't. I would suggest the best option is to keep a spare "a" in the clipboard and use Command+V. Although that doesn't allow for capitals.

      1. Marvin the Martian

        Re: What are you supposed to do, use a ‘4’ instead? Gre4t ide4.

        There's anyway the keycaps applet to let you find (and type) whatever you want with the mouse.

        This article isn't about solving a real problem, it's about complaining how modern cars aren't made from single blocks of pig iron anymore.

      2. verity33

        Re: What are you supposed to do, use a ‘4’ instead? Gre4t ide4.

        You could have a spare A (or all the characters, even) in a text file somewhere and cut and paste from that...

  5. Wize

    No need to strip the keyboard down that far

    On most keyboards, when you undo the screws, the mechanical part of the keys comes away from the electronics.

    Wash in the sink with washing up liquid, a good rinse under the tap to wash out the soap, crumbs and hair, leave to dry off (overnight) and its good to go.

    That is enough to recover any drenched keyboard. I've found fruit juice is more sticky than warm beverages.

  6. fridaynightsmoke

    Not just Apple

    I had one of the cheap (£10) Cherry keyboards here at work, which met a sticky end after I spilled about half a can of Coke on it...

    I tried disassembling and cleaning, which stopped the keys sticking down, but still I had several 'dead' keys. Closer inspection revealed the sticky acidic beverge had seeped underneath the rubber membrane and corroded the tracks on the flexible circuit board.

    That keyboard made its way to the Tyseley incinerator and has been replaced with another £10 keyboard, a MS model this time. If it lasts 6 years like the old one did, I'll be happy. Especially if it takes half a coke to finish it.

    1. Huw D

      Re: Not just Apple

      That's not how you make Cherry Coke...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: incinerator

      Do not put hardware into incinerators. In the UK that would be illegal.

      You are obliged by law to responsibly dispose of your WEEE - setting fire to it is not responsible.

      Gaia will be sending some boys round to knock on your door...

  7. Desk Jockey

    Apple juice

    Will kill a Saitek keyboard pretty effectively. Forunately I did not pay a lot for it.

    Apple really don't do this 'interoperability' thing do they? I guess it is not in their commercial interests to do so. I don't blame them, I blame the users!

    1. Pet Peeve

      Re: Apple juice

      Are you of the impression that you have to use an apple keyboard only on a mac? That is certainly not true. The only wrinkle you might have to deal with is the "windows key" stands in for the twiddle key.

  8. Stuart Archer

    Cous Cous

    My laptop keyboard is full of cous cous (long story), but still works well. You do have the odd bit of dessicated grain that pops out between the keys and flies towards you at some speed mind..

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Cous Cous

      Do tell..

      1. Fake Ninja

        Re: Cous Cous

        At least once a week I'll hear someone 'Preparing their lunch' in work i.e. removing the end column of keys from their keyboard and banging it on the desk to remove any solid debris.

        Reckon you could employ the same technique to your cous cous problem.

  9. TonyHoyle

    Sounds familiar

    Had this happen to SWMBO's Macbook Pro. Just a few drops of liquid FUBAR'd the keyboard completely - even unrelated keys.. it seems the way they're wired means one failure takes the others out too.

    Since it was out of guarantee the apple store didn't want to know - the old 'it would cost more than a new laptop to repair this' line. Her new one (an MSI) has nice chunky keys that look like they'll survive better. It also cost half as much, which is a bonus.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap keyboards at a car boot sale stall - 50p.

    Have had 2 password issues in the past, the first was keyboard related - for example something like (but not) 'P@ssw0rd'. The user's thinkpad had just arrived from the US, and we had docked it and plugged a UK keyboard in. I'll let you guess the issue on this one...

    Secondly, a 3rd party system generated passwords for new users. It generated something like ' ++eQi3142t'. We tried and tried it. Had no ideas. Anyone at home spot the clue? The space at the start of the password string - which was *part* of the password!

  11. J P

    What you need is an office full of these:

    Or maybe just the one, kept on show, as the spare for anyone damaging their own - in much the same way as my Dad's firm kept a clapped out 14 year old fiat which employees had to use if their company car went in for accident related repairs?

    1. verity33

      I love that! That video makes me want one! :oD

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Loaner

      My oul fellas firm kept a diesel Citroen BX as their loaner when one of the company Mondeos were in for (frequent) work.

      The former was such a comfortable reliable car, and the latter werent, that it seemed at times some of the faults may have been ''helped'....

  12. Nigel 11

    What they are thinking?

    What they are thinking, is how can we make sure that it craps out as soon as possible after the warranty expires? Or even better, during the warranty, but in such a way that it's obviously the luser's fault and so not covered by warranty. And of course, it helps enormously if it can't be replaced except by buying it from us, with a mark-up of 400% on monopoly spare parts.

    This is what you pay for "cool".

    Where I work, we refuse to buy any PC that isn't constructed entirely from components that we can go out and buy for ourselves in a competitive market. mATX or ATX motherboards and cases. Standard PSUs. Quite apart from meaning I can almost always fix a broken PC in-house in minutes and within hours, it's also a legal way to keep the door firmly closed on Dell crap and HP crap.

    Apple, though ... sigh. They've installed a virus in the lusers' brains. No other possible explanation. Shiny! Must be shiny! And rectangular with rounded corners!

  13. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    Silly question: why do you have to buy an Apple keyboard? Are they special in some way, perhaps with their own alphabet?

    On a related topic, I recently worked at a big investment bank, where they moved the team to a different building at approximately four-month intervals. One of the hazards of this was that although your computer was moved to the new location, keyboards stayed with desks. After my last move I was confronted with a thing that should have had Bio-Hazard stickers all over it. It looked like the previous incumbent had used it for years without ever washing his hands, and had also done a good deal of eating, sneezing, nose-picking etc. Fortunately it "broke" during the first hour of use and had to be replaced with a clean one. (The bank was one of the ones we all own, so thanks for the keyboard, guys.)

    Isn't it paradoxical that most modern offices have dispensers for antiseptic hand gel all over the place, but you're expected to use somebody's crusty old keyboard, which is about a hygienic as sharing a Kleenex?

    1. Nigel 11

      At least that's only one person's germs. The buttons in the lift, that's everyone's, refreshed daily.

      Train yourself to press lift buttons with your knuckle. Seriously!

      1. Anonymous Coward


        I'd rather keep excercising my immune system, thanks.

        Also, anyone that uses hand sanitizer: you'll be, in part, responsible for the end of the human race. And I will hold it against you from hell.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ theodore: Wrong

          No matter how many precautions one takes, there are plenty of bacteria making their way into one's stomach and bloodstream to sufficiently "exercise" one's immune system. Not that there is any scientifically-proven need to do so.

          This is a common and serious misconception which lots of people use as an excuse for not being clean.

          When a serious issue occurs, no amount of experience in dealing with everyday bacteria is going to help dealing with a mutated supervirus (for example). Not least because immune response to bacterial and viral infections in all animals have completely different mechanisms.

          So in fact it's more likely to be YOU who will be partly responsible for the problem due to your refusal to maintain basic hygiene. Add to that the fact that I really don't like the idea of your faeces being part of my lunch.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ theodore: Wrong

            Also, whilst bacteria are commonly treatable using general-purpose antibiotics, each one is in fact different and resistances can be built up.

            In the case of viruses, a unique chemical antibody is required for each individual virus. If your immune system has never seen this particular virus before, it cannot be prepared for it and must work out how to synthesize the correct antibodies upon demand. This process is quite plainly a race against death. And is why we have vaccines.

            So in conclusion, deliberately poisoning yourself (and everyone else) with other people's waste products will not make you magically stronger against or more resistant to an unknown future threat.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > There’s no shortage of web pages telling you how to lift the keycaps and put them in a dishwasher while you attack the body with alcohol and cotton buds.

    lolwut? That's a fucking stupid idea.

    You put the whole keyboard in the dishwasher. Set it to warm and don't put any soap in it. Running it under the bath taps also works very well too.

    Then leave in the airing cupboard for a week to thoroughly dry.

  15. Mage Silver badge


    Sherry seems bad for keyboards.

    Just sayin'

    1. Phil E Succour

      Re: Sherry

      Yep, I dated Sherry for while and you should have seen what happened to my laptop.

      What a bitch!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Way back in the day when keyboards were all circuit board and proper switches (a bit like my lenovo one) a local electronics genius used to use filtered piss. Apparently the ammonia in piss is just enough to act as a cleaning agent. Of course that particular electronics genius is now in prison (I don't know if that is for a piss offence)

  17. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    can't believe no one's said that yet.

    On topic, this issue is precisely why I bought keyboards by the case. My stockroom had a minimum of 20 desktop and 3 laptop keyboards in it at all times, to support ~250 users. "Keyboard not working? Toss it in the 'electronics recycling' bin over there and take this replacement on your way out." At month end, the local electronic recycler came by to pickup a load of 'retired' equipment. If they wanted to wash keyboards, more power to them. If not, they were disposed of responsibly.

    1. APA

      Re: NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      That' because we're all expecting it...

  18. Dexter

    Am I the only one who hasn't split something all over their keyboard?

    I did once manage to submerge a laptop in water due to stalling my car half way across a ford; it never recovered, but astonishingly HP replaced it under warranty.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Sometimes, it seems HP is willing to replace it if you have a good story to tell...

      Most likely, they just want it for dissection if it's a damage type they've never seen or anticipated.

      Also, if it's a company, not a private person, they're more willing to replace in order to keep the customer coming back for more.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Next time...

      Next time caulk it and float across, or don't cheap out, hire a raft.

      Good luck with the dysentery.

  19. Steve Evans


    The worst clean up I had to do was a Thinkpad with Orange juice.

    The "offender" had spilt it at home the night before, and left it. By the morning the Orange juice had dried out, and left all the pulp caked onto the keyboard and motherboard.

    Luckily Thinkpads are good for spares, so I skipped trying to clean the keyboard and just bought a new one for £30.

    The motherboard had to come out and went into a bowl of water and be left to soak to loosen up with bits of orange fibre and sticky goo.

    Soapy water and toothbrush followed. Then a rinse, dry and finally all the little contacts and switches were cleaned with contact cleaner.

    Amazingly it survived!

  20. Azzy

    The thing that goes is the membranes...

    The "switching" is done by a set of three plastic membranes that sit under the keys.

    The top and bottom one have contacts on them, the middle one just has holes where those contacts are.

    If even a tiny amount of liquid gets between these membranes (usually easy , since no effort is put into sealing them in consumer keyboards - though they're usually fused in enough places that it's difficult to separate and reassemble them), it will spread out over a surprisingly large area. If it's something acidic like soda, it will corrode the contacts. If it's something else, it'll still dry into a non-conductive layer blocking the contacts. If it's water, you might think you're fine - but if it sits there, it will eventually corrode the contacts - and how clean do you think that water really is after it filters through the crud under the keys?

    It would be fairly simple to make a keyboard that was immune to water damage - just seal the membrane and pot the electronics in something waterproof. But keyboard manufacturers have a vested interest in not doing that.

    If someone buys a keyboard and trashes it by spilling soda on it, they feel like it's their fault. They won't hold it against the manufacturer, and they may well buy another from the same supplier. Even if they do blame the manufacturer, worst case, no repeat business.

    If someone buys a keyboard that's immune to spill damage, they won't have to replace it for ages - because the vast majority of keyboard failures are from spills. They won't ever need to buy a new one. No repeat business.

    Making water resistant keyboards is a losing business proposition - unless the keyboard is so crap that the buyer can't stand typing on it and has to get a real keyboard again. And indeed, these sorts of water-proof keyboards work. Or if you made the keyboard wireless, and sealed it's non-rechargeable battery into it so it was a consumable. Which someone did, and the register had an article on recently.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Sealed membrane keyboards do exist

      We buy Kensington "keyboards for life" that claim to be thoroughly spill proof, and they'll replace the keyboard if it turns out it wasn't.

      They seem pretty much up to it, I don't know of any failures in the last five years. Pretty cheap as well!

      We buy a *lot* of those keyboards for most of our customers, and we'll keep doing so because they last.

      So far the worst I know of was red wine, spilt over keyboard and machine. They sent the machine in for repair (how we know about it) and simply rinsed the keyboard.

      Luckily the wine mostly splashed up the unvented side of the machine, and the tiny puddle inside missed all the expensive bits.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: The thing that goes is the membranes...

      Membranes? Membranes? What is this, some kind of new-fangled nonsense? Keyboards have keyswitches, although some commit the transgression of not having buckling springs.

      The others are just blister strips with QWERTY markings

  21. Conrad Longmore

    It reminds me..

    It reminds me of this fairly well-known story from the distant past..


    ... an anecdote from IBM's Yorktown Heights Research Center. When a programmer used his new computer terminal, all was fine when he was sitting down, but he couldn't log in to the system when he was standing up. That behavior was 100 percent repeatable: he could always log in when sitting and never when standing.

    Most of us just sit back and marvel at such a story; how could that terminal know whether the poor guy was sitting or standing? Good debuggers, though, know that there has to be a reason. Electrical theories are the easiest to hypothesize: was there a loose with under the carpet, or problems with static electricity? But electrical problems are rarely consistently reproducible. An alert IBMer finally noticed that the problem was in the terminal's keyboard: the tops of two keys were switched. When the programmer was seated he was a touch typist and the problem went unnoticed, but when he stood he was led astray by hunting and pecking.

    -- from the Programming Pearls column,

    by Jon Bentley in CACM February 1985

  22. David Given
    Thumb Up

    Microsoft Internet Keyboard

    I have one of these. It's great.

    The keycaps clip onto the top shell, which screws onto the base. You can undo a couple of screws underneath and the whole thing lifts off, leaving the rubber membrane and all the works behind --- you don't even need to unplug it. Unclip the keyscaps, run them and the top shell through the dishwasher, and it's as good as new.

    The top shell even has little cups underneath each key which will hold a small amount of beverage-of-your-choice, so lessening the risk of getting the liquid into the works. And the whole thing was cheap enough that, back when they were still made, I wouldn't mind binning it and getting a new one.

    Now of course you'd have to pay 50+ quid for one as they're collector's items. *sigh*

  23. Andus McCoatover

    Slightly different but...

    One customer of mine - 25 years ago was driving to Faslane, and somehow skidded off the road. In the back, he had a Nicolet 444 Spectrum analyser*

    Car went into the loch. Because he was a good customer (and a friend by that time), and needed his kit in a hurry if it failed (RN) he had my home phone number. I was good at fixing the things. 3 wire-wrapped boards, about 300 TTL chips. Car was dragged out of brakish - fortunately not saline - water. He called me at home. "Andus, can you help??" (Once I'd ascertained that he and his wife were OK - she'd come along for the ride) he told me loch water was pissing out of it. Brackish is ½ way between fresh and saline. Salt water kills electronics.

    I told him to stick it in the hotel bath ASAP, flood the bath with cold water, get someone to drive it to me in the morning. It arrived, still pissing water. Complete, total disassembly (keycaps included...), vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, new power switch and WD40 spray. All I could think of. Worked all evening, and into most of the night thinking this is a labour in vain. Fired it up in the morning, the damn thing sprang to life! Worked for a couple of years 'till the bits I'd missed failed. Still, a result!


    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Slightly different but...

      I reckon that analyser was worth more than the car he was driving,

  24. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    is far worse than Coke. So much sugar, and I really don't know what gives it the orange colour, but I would not be surprised if it glows in the dark!

    One of my kids ruined one of my beloved IBM model M keyboards with it. Despite soaking the keyboard, I did not get it working. Next step was stripping it down, which needed a log reach box spanner and side cutters as well as a screwdriver. I think that the reason why these keyboards last so long is that they are never meant to be dismantled.

    Inside the plastic case is a huge lump of metal to give the weight, and 100+ buckling springs with plastic rockers that provide the unique feel. Once these are stripped, you are left with a sealed plastic unit with a membrane inside just like everyone else's keyboard (bit disappointing, really). Cutting the plastic heat melted rivets on this unit, and opening it revealed the membrane, which was so thoroughly stuck with orange gunk that the conductive tracks were pulled from the membrane even though I was taking extreme care and using water to dissolve the gunk. Tried conductive paint to repair the tracks with no luck

    I wish I had tried the washing machine trick. I've now only got one model M left, and the kids are not getting anywhere close to that!

    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: Irn-Bru & Model M's

      Unicomp bought the rights to the IBM Model M and still make them:

  25. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    Back when I was an IT admin for a small private school...

    ... I kept a box of mice and keyboards. Two of the computers (hand-assembled Asus "Pundit" models) lasted well over 11 years, but none of the keyboards did. But then, that's why I specced cheap, £5 keyboards at the time, and bought a bunch more than we needed to ensure there were spares. The average lifespan was about 2-3 years, despite the "NO FOOD OR DRINK IN THE CLASSROOMS" notices. (The worst culprits were the teachers, oddly enough.)

    The mice were the basic Microsoft models, bought by the boxful for peanuts. I miss the Naksha mice I bought for my Atari STFM, but Microsoft's plastic rodents are very good too.

    I'm a Mac user myself, but even I draw the line at Apple's mice, which have been spectacularly shit since Mr. J. Ive's rise to power. He does a mean case, but he couldn't design an ergonomic mouse to save his life. I do like their trackpads though, and OS X (and Windows 8) really come into their own with one of those.

    Apple's keyboards are a bit 'meh' though. Mercifully, OS X doesn't care what kind of keyboard it's talking to, as long as it's USB or Bluetooth compatible; only the location of the "@" and quotation marks keys change in the UK layout, while the Windows key becomes the "CMD" key (so it's in the right location too). Microsoft used to make some lovely ones, but I haven't been impressed by their recent offerings. I keep meaning to check out Logitech's alternatives, but as I live in Italy, I'd need to order from the UK to get one with the right layout.

    But, for once, I agree with many Apple-haters here: Apple generally suck at designing input devices. (The rest of their hardware I quite like.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Back when I was an IT admin for a small private school...

      I've used plenty of keyboard in my time - the keyboard on my macbook is as good / better than any I have used before on a mobile device and I use the magic mouse and it's the most comfortable I have used (and again I've tried a lot) and the responsive surface makes your hand move around more so less 'death grip' and hand ache - YMMV.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Apple keyboards...

    ... are much like their ear bud headphones.


    For a company which prides itself in such beautifully crafted brushed aluminium and glass 'all-in-one' computers, it never ceases to amaze how absolutely shit their peripherals are.

    The missus, an ardent apple fangirl, has gone through 3 keyboards in 2 years.

    As for myself, I'm somewhat of a keyboard shopper - I have mini keyboards, fat keyboards, dell keyboards, logitech, wired, wireless - last count, probably 12 in total.

    All of them still work, most of them are in boxes under the bed.

    Say what you want about cheap keyboards produced for stock standard PC's - the most important thing is, they are fairly indestructible.

    My favourite keyboard is a logitech wireless mac keyboard connected to ... a hackintosh.

    Again, virtually indestructible. Three years and counting, several coffee spills - awesome action.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple keyboards...

      By gone through 3 keyboards in 2 years do you mean they broke or she broke them? If the latter well that's life - if the former I'm sure Apple would have replaced them.

  27. AlexS

    Keyboard replacement is more frequent during the summer under certain conditions...

    ... years ago we used to replace a keyboard or mouse every week at a PR company during the summer - why? They were all getting pissed at lunchtimes in the summer sun - accidents more frequent that way.

  28. James 100

    My brother gave his Lenovo laptop a generous portion of coffee a few years ago. Rinsing didn't help much; I think by the time he got it to me, I think the damage was done.

    The real struggle was trying to get a replacement. Lenovo said "talk to IBM" (who were as baffled as me by that suggestion: the model in question dated from long after IBM's sale of the whole product line). A few days of phone tag around different bits of Lenovo got me nowhere: apparently, "replacement parts" are concepts they don't quite grok outside warranty repairs.

    Eventually, through eBay I found a guy in China selling various bits of Lenovo kit, including keyboards. US rather than UK layout, but that didn't bother my brother, having lived in the US for a few years earlier. Not a bad price for it, either. (The vendor said he could probably have sourced a UK layout if I'd wanted, but it wasn't worth the wait.)

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge



      Lenovo/IBM has piles of docs, including service manuals and parts lists for nearly every model since the mid-pleistocene, on their site (that part still lives under, even for the Lenovo models). Enter model number (the nnnn-ccc number, not the R/T/X/A number), open service manual, locate FRU number for offending part, hit eBay.

      There's also at least one distributor here that has a fair selection of parts for the more recent models in its webshop. Keyboards are listed in every conceivable layout, although you may have to wait more than a few days for the more uncommon ones.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    blocked keys?

    turn the board over, whack it on the table a few times, scrap the refuse together, wrap it up and there you go with a non assorted mixture of what you consumed over the last 2 month.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    flush it!

    Getting some beer or worse sugary liquids in your board: disconnect it and flush it with water right away. Let it dry,there you are. DJ advice (always carry a spare board with you)

  31. Jan 0

    Final touch

    When you wash keyboards, phones or any other electronic gadgets, you should always give them a final soak and rinse in distilled or deionised water*. Otherwise you will leave traces of salts. In a normally humid atmosphere, those salts will become conductive paths generating spurious signals.

    * Disregard this if your tap water is filtered rain water.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To some people their time is clearly more valuable than others. I try and be careful with my keyboard - but if I did spill a lot of liquid on it / ruined it I would just accept it and replace it. Surprise, surprise we keep spares at work as it does happen. The idea of bathing my keyboard and waiting days for it to dry is a complete non-starter as would mean I can't use my PC.

    If you are in the habit of spilling drinks either don't drink at your desk, get a drink container with a lid or use cheaper keyboard you would not mind replacing from time to time. Sorted.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you are careless with fluids near a keyboard, just get one on these

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    GF cleaned Macbook pro keyboard with paper and too much water. We dried it but several keys refused working. She used an external keyboard for a while until I found that you can buy replacement keyboards for a Macbook on ebay. Previously I only found complete upper-shells with keyboard on ifixit for $300.

    The one on Ebay was around $30 or $40. You'll have to strip the macbook completely and remove an enormous amount of little screws to get the keyboard out. You can re-use the keyboard lightning foil thingy that's a separate item.

    The repair learned that fluid spilled on a Mac keyboard leaks directly on the keyboard electrics and if it is more the motherboard is not save.

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