My (Semi) Colon is Sticky

For the past three years, I’ve been happily using a Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard for my Windows desktop. It’s got an split, ergonomic keyboard and handy buttons for controlling volume and the like (though, the play button gets confused between iTunes and the evil Windows Media Player).

Last week, I spilt a third of a can of root beer on my keyboard (Barq’s does indeed have more bite). It handled it pretty well, except that my semi-colon key is very sticky. That is, it’s difficult to depress and doesn’t jump right back up after I remove my finger.

Any suggestions on how I can fix this? Can I pop the key off, clean underneath it and replace the key? It’s not going to break the bank to get a new keyboard, but there’s nothing else wrong with this one.

I was reminded to write about this because I read about Tod’s better experience (URL fixed) with Pepsi and a PowerBook. He’s since joined the cult of Apple permanently–would someone please send him a rainbow robe?

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for their excellent advice. Despite Travis’s admirable invention, I used my Swiss Army knife’s screwdriver to pop the keys off and some rubbing alcohol and q-tips for the cleaning. What I found under the keys was pretty repulsive–given all the organic material, I could have built a whole other human. Thank godness I pulled a gross amount of hair out from between the keys about six months ago.

My semi-colon is unstuck, though, and that was the whole point of the exercise. Look: ;;;;;;;.

As for my Coke addiction, I’ve managed to slow down somewhat on the Coke and diversify. Some days it’s fruit juice, some days it’s rootbeer, etc.

UPDATE #2: Here’s some further advice about putting your keyboard through the dishwasher.

Written by

Darren Barefoot is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He’s the co-founder of Capulet Communications, and co-author of “Friends With Benefits: A Social Media Marketing Handbook”.


  1. I too love using the Microsoft Natural keyboards. (caveat, I use the Elite edition, so YMMV.) I routinely clean my keys by popping them off, wiping them down with a damp tissue or cloth and then popping them back on. One thing, don’t try to pop off the space bar or shift keys; they have small wire bars that never go back the way they came off.

  2. I usually use my pocket knife (the little Swiss army knives they used to hand out at trade shows). Just use the / key as a fulcrum and lever up the ; key.

    Water works in a pinch, but if you have screen wipes or an alcohol-based liquid, I’d use that; water and keyboards don’t mix.

    Good luck

  3. hmmmnnn. I know nothing of Microsoft Natural keyboards but, anyone who leaves the darkside permanently in favour of a Mac has got my vote 🙂

  4. Darren, a popsicle stick works quite well as a lever to lift your keys.

    I thought you had given up soft drinks? 😉

  5. If none of the above works, perhaps try using conjunctions or complete thoughts. 🙂

  6. When I worked for a computer rental company I would run the keyboards through the dishwasher at work (think about it, an unplugged keyboard has no electricity). The only problem I ever had was a dangling cord that came into contact with the heating element.

    This was done upon a tip from a tech at the school I was going to (NAIT). This was in less humid Alberta (and I’m paranoid) but I’d let the keyboards sit for 7 days before sending them out again. I’m sure some less time would be OK too.

  7. darren, the link to tod — il ne march pas.

    i have frequently popped keys off my keyboard to clean underneath (ah, cats), and been able to stick them back on easily. i have noticed that some keyboards use a little lubricant which is pretty easy to clean off as well, and then the sometimes stick even without the help of root beer.

    you are drinkign the barq’s without caffeine in it, are you not?

  8. I clean my keyboard every so often…get out the bottle of isopropyl alcohol and give it a good q-tipping. I also take off the space and shift keys; it’s a bit finicky to get the wire back in the right spot, but it’s doable. You just have to fit the wire in first, then angle the key back on until it pops in.

    BTW, I think root beer never has caffeine in it (at least here in Canada).

  9. Had you acted as soon as it happend, you could have disconnected it, ran it under cold water then set it out (preferabally in front of a fan) and waited until it was completely dry then reconnected it.

    Also ‘an split’??? 🙂

  10. No harm in popping the keys off at all. In fact, if you eat over your keyboard, and aren’t bald, this is positively mandatory after 6 months.

    I just got the Multimedia Natural Keyboard, which has the added bonus of music-related buttons (view media player, play, pause, FF, RW) at the top.


  11. I can vouch for the dishwasher (with no soap! 🙂 too, but I don’t know about the newer keyboards that have knobs and dials – they might not dry easily if water gets in there. I’d try popping the key off and cleaning with alcohol, first. It’s also usable almost immediately. To get rid of hair/food, an aggressive application of compressed air works wonders.

  12. Whatcha need here, ya see, is a KeyPopper(tm) (patent pending).

    I thought I’d show you how to make one: Take a gander.

    It’s 100% guar-an-teed to fix your sticky keyboard problem.



    1. I came here to read sticky shift key help, but you guys are so funny I’ll be back, whether I need help or not! Have a good day!

  13. Dirty K/bs are unsightly and unhygenic, reading some of the Posts to clean them they are
    1 Time consuming
    2 Fiddley
    3 Prone to breakage

    My experience is if you live in the sunnier climes and have a swimming pool just dangle the keyboard in the pool water, depending on how dirty depends on the time, then just hang it in the sun for a couple of hoursand it will look like new
    This is good for laptop and desktop K/Bs

    Hot soapy water in the sink and leave, then scrub with a nylon pan brush, a good rinse in clean water then leave to dry.

    Do Not Take any keys off, that the quickest way to break your laptop K/B and taking your desktop K/B apart is too fiddly

    Oh and just for those who take thing literally disconnect the K/B from the Laptop.

    This is the easist way I’ve found, I hope this Post is of use

    Chris Moore/Kent Uk

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