Typewriter tune-up: household cleaner edition

DISCLAIMER: I am not, by any means, a professional typewriter restorer or repair(wo)man. I am just an enthusiastic and practiced amateur. And I am honing some self-taught skills.

First, go to the office and fetch that most efficient electronics duster--the compressed air canister. If you don't actually have one of these lying around the house, well, you should. The detachable, narrow straw-nozzle blows powerful gusts of air into the tiny nooks where dust collects but fingers cannot reach. The compressed air canister is the perfect companion for basic typewriter maintenance because that collected dust can cause some rather frustrating sticking and jamming of keys and carriage and other things.

They are complicated beasts underneath.
Then, go to the bathroom for the nail polish remover. The acetone in nail polish remover, an organic alcohol compound, is a very effective solvent. 

 ***SECRET KNOWLEDGE OF A FORMER LIBRARY ASSISTANT: when the gross books landed on my desk, I would pull out the nail polish remover to attack the nastiness gumming up the mylar covers. After a little scrubbing, even the toughest grime came off with the acetone.***

I identified my problem area as the typebar: the metal arm between the key button you press on the keyboard and that actual piece of type that hits the ink ribbon, paper, and platen. I applied the acetone to the bases of the typebars with a narrow paintbrush in order to free up some sticking keys. You really can't be delicate about this business though because working away that grit requires some friction. So I tried as best I could to thread the brush bristles through the slots for the typebars. I would also recommend that you not use cotton swabs for this process because pieces of cotton will be left behind and just gum up the works even more.  NOTE: Be careful not to drip any acetone on the exterior body of the typewriter (top cover, etc.) as it will eat through the pretty paint job.

Under the hood

Lots of patience is required for this process, as it will probably take many repetitions before you finally see that nice smooth type action of a grit-free typewriter. But in the end, it is so worth it! All of my keys are typing nicely now and I can feel a sense of pride at having solved the problem myself, and with things I already had around the house!


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