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Clean a Model M: Effectively but Safely

lyonadmiral

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Jun 3, 2009
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Peru, New York
One of my gems is my Space-Saving Model M from 1987. However several of the keys stick despite the presence of dust, dirt, or other crud, and I'm looking to compile from the awesomeness of the community, your ideas about how I can effectively but safely clean this keyboard.
 

Great Hierophant

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Mar 22, 2006
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While the Model M uses a spring for each key, that spring is attached to a plate that pushed one membrane sheet onto a second sheet to make the keystroke. You should pull up the keycap and keystem from each stuck key, take a Q-tip and 91% rubbing alcohol, stick it in and swish it around until it does not come up so dirty. If the spring is bent, you may need to replace it.
 

kishy

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Aug 22, 2009
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Windsor, ON Canada
Is the actual key sticking physically, like encountering friction in the up-down action? Or are the keys 'virtually' sticking where the actuation itself is not reliable?

Sometimes reseating the keys (pop them out so you can see the spring, tilt the keyboard far back so it is upright facing away from you, then re-install the keys) will correct these things.

If there is a legitimate dirt problem inside causing erratic actuation and it is not possible to physically extract the offending dirt, the only option that would carry any longevity is referred to as a "bolt mod" (click for link). This becomes necessary at one point or another anyway on all Model M-type keyboards due to the cost-reduced plastic rivet design - contrary to popular belief the Model M design, which refers to the switching method not the keyboard, is actually quite fragile. The act of doing the bolt mod is not what fixes it; instead you use the opportunity while it is opened up to gently but thoroughly clean all surfaces you can't normally access.

Everyone I know of who has done this successfully is in agreement that it is an upgrade in feel at the same time.

I believe there are currently people performing this process for a fee for those who are uncomfortable doing it themselves...
 
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kishy

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Need to edit post but this forum does not allow that, so I'll double-post:

Disclaimer: I do not have any bolt-modded keyboards, and my suggestion should not be taken as an instruction...it is the most effective way, certainly, but you might be able to get by with less. Goes without saying but I'll say it anyway: a failed bolt mod is going to pretty much ruin the keyboard forever (potentially recoverable but unlikely), and anyone choosing to do one takes that risk upon themselves.
 
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