I spent a couple hours yesterday hunched over my laptop, picking teeny-tiny little hairs out from behind the keys with a tweezers. Fun!

It all started when the kitten jumped into my lap to get my attention. When he decided he wasn’t getting enough, he climbed up onto my keyboard, so I picked him up in order to dump him on the floor. Big mistake.

The kitten has a tendency to reflexively sink his claws into whatever’s within arm’s reach when anyone picks him up. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s pulled a runner off the coffee table or yanked the tablecloth off the dining room table, upsetting plates and spilling glasses of water. He quickly taught us not to use that tactic to remove him from the table. We use the squirt gun now. A lot.

I thought I’d be relatively safe picking him up off my keyboard, thinking wrongly that there was nothing for him to grab hold of. Dumb. He hooked his claws around a couple of keycaps and managed to pop off the letter I. That scared the hell out of me for a moment, because I’d never considered removing the keycaps before. I was trying to figure out how to put it back when I got a close look at the crud that built up under the keycap over the years. Yuck.

I’ve been using this laptop for maybe five years and I had kidded myself into thinking I’d been pretty good about keeping it clean: I don’t eat over it, so I’m already treating it better than most of the other computers I use on a daily basis. I also brush off the keypad from time to time. Apparently neither of these precautions does much to keep junk from building up underneath the keycaps.
Each keycap sits on a tiny white nipple surrounded by a hinged plastic framework. The nipple pushed the keycap away from the keyboard; clips on the back of the keycap hold onto the framework. It’s a pushmi-pullyu solution that’s elegant in its simplicity. The downside is, each plastic frame is a perfect place for every stray hair and dust bunny to anchor itself.

I got a butter knife and pried the rest of the keycaps off, one by one, until I had laid the whole keyboard bare. It looked like the floor under our bed gets after a couple weeks. A few passes with the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner swept about half of it away, but most of the hair was tightly wound into the plastic frames. I had use a tweezer to pick a lot of them out, but not all. That would have taken another three-day weekend.

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