In a followup to my story on keyboard/hand hygiene, I’ve been noting with growing concern the state of my office keyboard, and idly musing to myself “Hmm, I must do something about that”.  As with many office drones in this day and age, my Lunch Hour typically consists of running downstairs to the nearest sandwich bar, grabbing a coffee & something, then bringing it back to my desk to devour at my keyboard whilst jamming as much websurfing into the remaining part of the half-hour I allow myself (on the basis that you can only invoice what you work for).  The fallout from this is that my keyboard has a high exposure surface to the non-hygiene vectors of crumb dropping, and having food-gunk on my fingers when I type.


I’m also predicting that nobody’s gonna be impressed that this keyboard’s gone without a clean for 3.5 years.  It’s not through lack of wanting to – about 2 years ago, when I was still part of an IT Department, I asked the helpdesk manager what procedures there were for workstation hygiene… and came back to find that they’d taken my keyboard away & replaced it with a new one.  The problem there being that Dirty Keyboard was a Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard (or, hippy wavey keyboard, as I call it), and the replacement was a bog standard rectangular awful one… so that got swapped back pretty damn sharpish.

Late last year, whilst appalled at the grime that had collected between the keys, and the occasional hint of the crumb collection nestling in the innards, I bought a tub of Cyber Clean – hoping that it was the wondrous revolution in keyboard cleaning technology that it was hyped to be, and whilst after applying it for around 45 minutes I managed to retrieve some of the crumbs and whatnot from the seedy nether-layers of the thing, I can’t say it was any more effective than the time-honoured technique employed on toasters and keyboards around the world of turning them upside down and giving them a robust shake.  I was optimistically hoping that the amorphous green blob would somehow coax the grime off the sides of the keys, however in that arena I was to go home empty handed.  And by “empty handed”, I mean “in one hand carrying a canister of flourescent plasticised snot with large amounts of hair, crumbs, and dead skin embedded in it”.

“You’re going to write 1000 words about cleaning a bloody keyboard, aren’t you Jason?”, I hear you crying at your screens.  You bet your collective arses I am.

Yesterday, in a bizarre fit of motivation, I brought in a pack of cleaning cloths and a bottle of Ecover environmentally sensible squirty cleaner stuff.  Turns out if you try to buy methylated spirits at Sainsbury’s, the staff look at you as if you’ve just suggested you’d like to interfere with their kids or something.  Granted, 11pm probably isn’t the most normal time of day to purchase meths, and when I expressed my confusion on this event to my co-workers today they said in that tone of voice that suggests the reasoning’s perfectly obvious, “Err, well down and outs drink it…”.  But in my defence, I also had a bottle of sparkling shiraz and a packet of sliced chorizo in my basket – I’d like to think it wasn’t apparent that I was seeking meths as an accompaniment to a late-night picnic.  And in any case, you can pick up a bottle of sherry for £3 or a bottle of tequila for £7…  drinking either of those is surely on par with meths?

Naturally I had to pry every single keycap off the keyboard in order to clean them all completely, as well as to gain access to the seeting pit of horror underneath.  It’s a very weird thing – with the keys in place you get a very narrow view of the situation in there, and you find yourself thinking “It’s probably not THAT bad…”.  Well, it is.  This certainly was.  As the removal of each key gave me wider insight into the horror underneath it I found myself thinking of the scene in the Ethan Hawke film Gattaca, where government snoop-types would take DNA samples off each person’s keyboard at the end of each day to test them and ensure genetic purity.  Were the same such government types to take a sample from THIS keyboard, their machines would probably spontaneously combust.  I wasn’t even really thinking of the sampling, more concerned about if they (they being these scientists I’d dreamt up) attempted to create a clone from the matter they retrieved.  It’d be some weird hybrid of 30% human, 20% chicken & spinach sandwich and 50% coir bathmat.

Once the cleaning process had finished (and in hindsight it probably would have been cheaper in terms of time to just buy a new bloody keyboard…), the fun job of replacing the keys remained.  It’s weird isn’t it – you’d think having spent about the last 9 or 10 years of my “professional” life staring at a keyboard, I’d have a better idea of where the bloody bits belong.  With supreme concentration and the odd hint from my long-suffering project manager all was more or less back where it needed to be.  Except for the divide and multiply keys on the number pad, which lead to some slightly bizarre numbers on my invoice for this week, and all I can say it’s it’s only a shame that payroll read those things as closely as they do.

That’s disappointing.  I’d promised 1000 words on keyboard cleaning.  I’m still about 50 shy of that, and the ones I’ve written aren’t particularly good anyway.

What can ya do, eh?

Well at least my immune system ought to be in decent shape…
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