By: Aaron Lai
October 19, 2018
One thing I have taken for granted when living with my parents is that keeping a house clean does not happen by itself. Whether the task is to wash things like dishes or clothing, vacuum the floor, or just pick up after yourself, I never realized how much I did not do at home until I have lived alone. Then there are the dirtier things like cleaning your toilet or taking out the trash. Furthermore, there are maintenance things like checking your furnace filter or fixing small things. All in all, owning a house has made me realize how many chores I need to do to keep the house from looking like a pigsty. Any laziness or carelessness will lead to a messier home. The worst part is that the consequence of not doing so is a slow accumulation, so I could forget about it for a little bit. However, when the mess rears its ugly head, it is a pain to manage. Since I moved out, I have had to balance between doing small amounts of cleaning daily or taking care of things only after it has accumulated for a long while. Similarly, while mechanical keyboards are awesome, many of them can become dirty over some time. With deeper crevices and hard to reach areas, a keyboard can quickly become a dirty peripheral. Today, with some help from Cooler Master's MasterAccessory Maintenance Kit, we are going to take a look at some cleaning tips and also some small modifications you can make. Let us open up the kit and see what we can do!
You probably already have seen from our recent Cooler Master reviews all the different peripherals we have received from them, but this was definitely one of the most intriguing ones. While it was one of the smallest products in that single parcel, there is quite a few different things in here. Held in a plastic shell, we have a small plastic keycap puller, a plastic brush, a microfiber cloth, and a bag of rubber rings. We will take a look at how we can use these to help us with our keyboard cleaning and modifications later on in our review. Otherwise, I sort of like the fact all of these products follow the same Cooler Master purple. This small difference makes the kit stand out a bit more from the standard black I would have expected.
I have always loved reviewing all types of keyboards, but one I have used a bit more extensively has been the Cooler Master Storm Novatouch TKL. Not only was it the first tenkeyless keyboard I tested, but it was also the only keyboard I received with no keycaps. Thus, I ended up buying a set off of Massdrop and I have been using them for about a year now. The keycaps, as you can tell by the photo, have no printing on the top, but rather has printing on the front of the keys, making for a subtler look. They are also made of a thicker material called PBT. As we have mentioned in our keyboard reviews, PBT, or polybutylene terephthalate, keycaps are made of a stiffer and harder plastic that keeps its color better. They also are better at resisting stains from fingers than the traditional ABS or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Best of all, harder keys mean they provide better of a feedback when using them. My words do not do it justice, but all I can say is that these thicker keycaps are miles ahead of the cheaper alternative and I would urge you to at least try them out if you can.
Since most of the dirt and debris gather underneath the keys, the first step in cleaning the keyboard is to remove the caps. With the purple plastic keycap puller, you can generally pull off most of the standard 1x1 keys. However, due to its rigid shape, you cannot target any key larger, such as Tab or Shift. In addition, with keyboards that have plastic borders like this, a plastic puller can get caught with keys on the side of the board. For this reason, I also used the wire key puller included with my keyboard. I personally think Cooler Master should have included one with this kit, as plastic pullers have too many limitations. After popping off these blue caps, you can get a better picture at the damage under the keyboard. If you gag at dirt, you may just want to scroll completely past the next photo.
This is definitely not the worst keyboard I have seen, but I still shudder at the amount of debris and crumbs under here. I do not generally eat around my keyboard, so it always surprises me how much gunk is here. The fastest way to clear this area is probably to use some sort of compressed air can or a vacuum cleaner. I generally do not love using a vacuum cleaner since I have to lug it around, so I grabbed a can of compressed air and sprayed my Novatouch down. I also used the included brush to help with the cleaning, though you can probably use an old toothbrush to the same effect. With this in mind, you can see how much better it looks in the next shot.
After cleaning the board, you should wipe down the keycaps themselves. If you have ABS keycaps that have heavy staining, it is too late to try to remove those marks. However, you can still wipe them down with a damp cloth and a very mild soap solution. For example, I washed the keycaps with a solution of mixing one drop of soap into a large bowl of water. The idea is not meant to create heavy suds, but just to clean it gently. Some people may want to use rubbing alcohol or some other chemical, but I would avoid it. With cheaper keycaps and printed font, rubbing alcohol can also increase the fading and staining with the potential of event removing the key markings. Overall, I think it is just better to avoid anything too harsh here to protect your keys from more wear than necessary.
Other than swapping out the keycaps on your board, the next easy modification you can make is to add O-rings to each key. Traditionally, O-rings are found in the industrial world for sealing purposes. However, the O-ring on a keyboard is meant to dampen switch actuations, making for a softer bottoming out. I know a lot of people do like the clicky or firm bottoming out from mechanical keyboards, but others want a combination of the tactile feedback with a quieter experience. With these purple rubber rings, you can soften the keys when you completely press down. Installation of these rings are pretty straightforward, as the rings are the typical size of the stem on the keycap. Thus, you can just slip these rings on the underside of the caps. Pushing the rings down will be done automatically when you install the whole thing on the keyboard. You can also use the back end of the included brush to help. I found these O-rings to not have a whole lot of give, which means you may not notice the dampening effect right away. However, I can assure you it definitely does cushion the press overall.
With everything cleaned up and the O-rings installed, I put everything together and connected the keyboard to my computer. If you are interested in customizing your keyboard more, you could probably look into additional products like swapping out the USB cable or adding a palm rest. As for our featured product today, I have to commend Cooler Master on their kit, as it seems to have included all the things I would have expected. This is not to say you could find alternative sources for everything, but I do like what is included in the MasterAccessory Maintenance Kit. With all these small tools and additions, this should be most of the things you would want in keeping your keyboard sparkling. If there is one suggestion I would say to make your maintenance job easier, it would be to find yourself a wire keycap puller to use instead of the plastic one. This would make your life a lot easier, and it would actually fit around the larger keys. While I have yet to see this product at our regular online retailers, Cooler Master has announced this kit should be available for around $10 US, which is competitive with other comparable products. To conclude, I personally would look at cleaning out your keyboard ever so often, even if you are not swapping out any parts, just to keep the entire board clean. Considering this is one of the most used peripherals, keeping it clean is not a difficult task and with a kit like this, there is no need to hold off on doing so.
Cooler Master provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
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