Author Topic: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!  (Read 3375 times)

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Offline XMIT

  • formerly jsoltren
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  • Location: Austin, TX area
Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« on: Mon, 05 September 2016, 09:15:55 »
tl;dr: Ultrasonic cleaning works wonders for Alps switches, making them feel new again. A tiny amount of Teflon oil makes them even better!

Alps key switches tend to suffer more than most when exposed to dirt, dust, and other contaminants. Dirt enters the switches easily through the tops. Due to close tolerances the dirt interferes with travel resulting in a scratchy, gritty, slow, mushy, or grinding feeling when keys are pressed. This is all too familiar to anyone with an old Alps board.

We had discussed ultrasonic cleaning in some other threads, most recently https://deskthority.net/photos-f62/ultrasound-keycap-cleaning-t14413.html. The ultrasonic cleaner should be perfect for Alps switches with all their small hard to access spaces. There was some concern that the cavitation could harm the click leaves and switch plate leaves. Some research suggested that a fairly neutral pH should not damage thin metal parts in the sonic cleaner.

I experimented today with cleaning some Alps switches. The configuration was as follows:
Alps SKCM White and Cream Damped switches
iSonic P4820 ultrasonic cleaner
Solution consisting of two Efferdent denture tabs, about 1.5 tsp 7th Generation dishwasher fluid, and reverse osmosis water at about 60 C
Disassemble switches
Clean for 480 seconds
Remove, rinse in distilled water, dry, and assemble

Here is a photo of the disassembled switches:

147430-0
Switches disassembled. Switch plates remain in lower housing. Upper housing, click leaf, slider, and spring are separate.

Here are detail photos of the click leaf and the switch plate post cleaning showing no visible damage.

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Switch plate detail post cleaning.

147434-2
Tactile leaf detail post cleaning.

Here is a photo of the switch about to go back together.

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Assembly post sonication.

The switch feels brand new. I cannot detect really any grittiness or hesitation. Some switches still hesitate a tiny bit in response to aggressive off center key presses. There is a small chance that enough abrasion over time roughens the plastics themselves.

I did experiment with lubrication using a tiny amount of Super Lube 51010 synthetic oil with Teflon. I applied a tiny amount, as thin as possible, with a toothpick all over the slider. This improved key feel even further.

I'm looking forward to applying this technique to all the switches on a very gritty Northgate Omnikey 101 to get it back into working condition.

Offline Trente

  • Posts: 160
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #1 on: Fri, 08 September 2017, 10:38:48 »
Nice! Got a question here, unfortunately I don't own a sonic cleaner, so I am wondering if you had experiment with cleaning the switch with just denture tabs aquatic solution with some stirring or shaking? Since that would be a easier way though I know it would definitely not making them as clean as with a ultrasonic cleaner.

Online JP

  • Posts: 74
  • Location: Michigan
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #2 on: Fri, 08 September 2017, 16:37:41 »
Thanks for posting this. Once I am done with my BS adventures I will works on my Alps boards which seen a thorough cleaning.
Model M Instigator

Offline OfTheWild

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Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 09 September 2017, 00:06:32 »
Big thing with cleaning any switch contacts (not just alps) is to dry the bases off quickly to prevent corrosion. I use compressed air but a blow-dryer would do the trick. Using some contact cleaner/protection is also helpful at removing any oxidation and preventing moisture damage in the future. I am partial to guitar pots cleaner/conditioner but any electronic switch cleaner will work i believe. Anyone else have a favorite?
-Dana

Doorbell

Online Rodde

  • Posts: 26
  • Location: US
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 18 September 2017, 22:57:22 »
Thanks for sharing! Wondering how ultrasonic would work on other types of switches too.

Online kawasaki161

  • Posts: 929
  • Location: Germany
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 20 September 2017, 18:48:15 »
Great to hear that at least someone had good results with this. I'm through two batches of oranges (around 210-220 total) and ended up with less than 15 switches that actually feel good enough to use them over MQCs.

On the other hand I've had great results even with REALLY dirty Cherry switches that felt brand new after ultrasonicing.

Offline directheatedtriode

  • Posts: 40
  • Location: Northeast, USA
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 25 September 2017, 11:54:49 »
Great to hear that at least someone had good results with this. I'm through two batches of oranges (around 210-220 total) and ended up with less than 15 switches that actually feel good enough to use them over MQCs.

On the other hand I've had great results even with REALLY dirty Cherry switches that felt brand new after ultrasonicing.

Where did you remove the oranges from? I had 3 M0116 of varying cosmetic condition and all of the switches (all 3 boards used orange) felt consistently excellent. IME it was blues where I found variation in condition.

How does the orange compare to MQC?

Offline clickstops

  • Posts: 38
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 10 October 2017, 09:55:37 »
Thanks for this post. I'm also ultrasonic cleaning my old alps, especially since a lot sell used in "questionable" condition and saving them would be a nice thing, if possible. Two questions on your process;

Do you think it's necessary to throw the bottom half of the housing in the cleaner? I had been keeping mine out.
How are you drying yours after rinsing with distilled water? Distilled is definitely the right idea... thanks!

Online kawasaki161

  • Posts: 929
  • Location: Germany
Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 10 October 2017, 16:06:33 »
Great to hear that at least someone had good results with this. I'm through two batches of oranges (around 210-220 total) and ended up with less than 15 switches that actually feel good enough to use them over MQCs.

On the other hand I've had great results even with REALLY dirty Cherry switches that felt brand new after ultrasonicing.

Where did you remove the oranges from? I had 3 M0116 of varying cosmetic condition and all of the switches (all 3 boards used orange) felt consistently excellent. IME it was blues where I found variation in condition.
M0115's or AEK I's , depending on how you want to call them.

Offline smithyithy

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Re: Alps key switches - ultrasonic cleaning adventures!
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 12 October 2017, 08:41:09 »
The '7th Generation' stuff you used - is that the stuff you put in an actual dishwasher, or stuff you use to wash dishes by hand in the sink / bowl?  :))

It looks like the latter but in the UK we call that washing up liquid.. I don't want to put something too strong in the mix as I think the actual dishwasher (machine) stuff we use might be too aggressive for the switch components..

KBD75; AEK Alps64; MiniVan; Majestouch 2; Gherkin; 2 x Alps64 in progress