Author Topic: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard  (Read 3928 times)

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Offline Special K

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vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 15:19:00 »
Is there a consensus regarding whether it is better to use a blower (datavac, canned air, etc.) or a vacuum for cleaning a keyboard after the caps have been removed?  Based on search results, blowers seem to be more popular, but this article from Das Keyboard (https://www.daskeyboard.com/blog/updated-guide-how-to-clean-a-mechanical-keyboard/) says it's better to use a vacuum because a blower can cause particles to get stuck inside the switches.  On the other hand, I've read that you shouldn't use most vacuums on electronics due to the risk of ESD.

Does this issue even really matter much?  Has anyone ever ruined a keyboard from ESD or gotten dirt stuck in their switches from using a blower?
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LOL - we're on post #163 of this mega-thread and you've gone from"keyboard n00b" to "keyboard sn0b".  We've done our job.

Offline klennkellon

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 16:17:58 »
I'd say a vaccum because blowing might force dust into the switches. not really a problem with Cherry boards but can be a nightmare on really "breezy" switch designs like Alps or Space Invaders.

Offline _rubik

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 17:35:42 »
The reason canned air is so popular is because it is tailor made for the application. It is VERY good at pushing stuff out of small spaces. As previously mentioned, you do run the risk of pushing the dust in farther. That being said, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a vacuum that is able to draw dust out such small spaces. Even some smaller shop vacs are too large to get in between switches etc.

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 19:13:32 »
Hold it upside-down and shake vigorously for the first step in any cleaning.

It is always best if you can get gravity to do as much of the work as possible.
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Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 19:26:39 »
with my work keyboard i just tip it vertical and tap it lightly against my wrist rest pad. If i need to actually clean it, i take the caps off and wipe it down - however i've desoldered and replaced the switches like once a year so i tend to clean everything when I do that.
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Offline rich1051414

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 21:29:09 »
The reason you don't use a vaccuum on COMPUTERS is because a vaccuum causes a build up of static on the plastic hoses, which can zap electronics. This is not as big of a problem on keyboards with fewer, less sensitive components, but this is the primary reason that compressed air is prefered.
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Offline _rubik

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 21:34:05 »
I know a guy who swears by foot bellows... https://www.amazon.com/INTEX-69611-Intex-Bellows-Foot/dp/B00QFZHSAO

Anyone else do this, or is he just really odd?

Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 21:42:13 »
Thats interesting. I've never had a vacuum cleaner cause static that I was aware of but I suppose that makes sense.

I also feel like there are a lot of old cautionary tales that people still hold to that are no longer accurate to modern things. Like magnets near electronics erases memory, leaving your computer running 24/7 makes your harddrives last longer, cellphones can cause your gas pump to blow up...  One that I get a lot being around cars is that placing a car battery on the garage floor will cause it to discharge... which hasn't been true for like 25 years.
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Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 21:46:14 »
I know a guy who swears by foot bellows... https://www.amazon.com/INTEX-69611-Intex-Bellows-Foot/dp/B00QFZHSAO

Anyone else do this, or is he just really odd?

I mean its actually pretty smart in my opinion. Its free air, adjustable pressure (by foot), it will last as long as you want and wont freeze up like canned "air", and its much quieter than running a can-less gun or vacuum. If you had a needle hose attachment I would think its pretty smart. The only major set back would be that its big and probably stored with your pool toys or airmattress or something.
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Offline rich1051414

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 21:54:27 »
Here is a source for the 'static buildup' bit.

https://superuser.com/questions/605559/pc-cleaning-why-is-vacuuming-a-static-electricity-risk-to-internal-components-b

I don't know if this applies to keyboards, but I suppose it is possible, but I assume it wouldn't be very likely.

I want to add to this that the logic is sound, however, poorly explained from any specific source. The issue is that a vaccuum pulls in dust, and this dust rubs on the plastic and produces static on the plastic. Since plastic is a poor electrical conductor, it will not want to discharge into the person holding it, but contacting the electronics directly could actually discharge it. This is a common thing with plastic foams as well. We all know how styrofoam likes to cling to everything, which is the static build up that causes it. When you have plastic charged with electricity, and a 'ground' that is a distance from the plastic, you have a capacitor, and if the voltage on any point reaches high enough to overcome the spark gap, it will spark, straight through anything in the way.

This does not happen with compressed air because the air leaving the can is clean, there is no dust to generate static.

It is known as a fact that vaccuum cleaners accumulate static build up on the plastic attachments, but I have a hard time finding proof of this static build up actually doing damage. So I think people do exaggerate the risks here.

Either way, if you own an antique vaccuum with metal attachments, then you would have absolutely nothing to worry about.
« Last Edit: Thu, 07 December 2017, 22:09:32 by rich1051414 »
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Offline Special K

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 22:25:08 »
The reason canned air is so popular is because it is tailor made for the application. It is VERY good at pushing stuff out of small spaces. As previously mentioned, you do run the risk of pushing the dust in farther. That being said, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a vacuum that is able to draw dust out such small spaces. Even some smaller shop vacs are too large to get in between switches etc.

There are micro attachment kits like this one:

https://www.amazon.com/Universal-Mini-Micro-Attachment-Revolution/dp/B00SAE80J6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1512707052&sr=8-3&keywords=vacuum+micro+attachment

Although they have mixed reviews.
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Quote from: ripster
LOL - we're on post #163 of this mega-thread and you've gone from"keyboard n00b" to "keyboard sn0b".  We've done our job.

Offline OmegaSupreme

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 22:48:45 »
with my work keyboard i just tip it vertical and tap it lightly against my wrist rest pad. If i need to actually clean it, i take the caps off and wipe it down - however i've desoldered and replaced the switches like once a year so i tend to clean everything when I do that.

Off topic, but since you desolder so often, do you use a speacialized desoldering gun or just a normal solder sucker?
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Offline Duckyreddy

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:07:36 »
Canned air is definitely more ideal in this case.
I have always been scared of using a vacuum or a blower but I have done so in the past week and it worked really well but just be careful by not putting the vacuum nozzle too close to the board or you might risk scratching something or even damage the internals.
What I do is that I remove the keycaps, turn the keyboard upside down and let it hang in mid-air while I use the fine tip brush to dust everything out.
Basically letting gravity do the work, no need for a vacuum or a blower and when there is residue or dust that doesn't brush off, I use cotton swabs and a dab of warm water and later dry it off.

I use a clear keyboard roof when I'm not at my desk so there really isn't much to be cleaned but I still like to routinely clean my boards.

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Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:33:04 »
Here is a source for the 'static buildup' bit.

https://superuser.com/questions/605559/pc-cleaning-why-is-vacuuming-a-static-electricity-risk-to-internal-components-b

Either way, if you own an antique vaccuum with metal attachments, then you would have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Cool thats a neat article. yeah probably not something we have to worry about for home use but i'm sure it has its merits in places like datacenters and stuff with critical equipment.

I am fairly certain my mom still has her old Rainbow... even had a water basin to collect dust and dirt:
https://i.pinimg.com/236x/c8/6b/b3/c86bb372f9915f446fe6475d1f7bf075.jpg

There are micro attachment kits like this one:

https://www.amazon.com/Universal-Mini-Micro-Attachment-Revolution/dp/B00SAE80J6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1512707052&sr=8-3&keywords=vacuum+micro+attachment

Although they have mixed reviews.

I just use the regular hose... I suppose a brush would help. Or a swiffer duster

Off topic, but since you desolder so often, do you use a speacialized desoldering gun or just a normal solder sucker?

I am fastest with a regular old $5 solder pump. I sand the lever so it doesn't get uncomfortable and I cut a bevel into the tip.
I do also have a $25 solder pump with the silicone tube tip, and then a $15 pump/iron... they all sort of have their unique purposes where they come in handy... but no, I'm a big naysayer against people spending hundreds on desoldering guns.
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Offline rich1051414

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:40:48 »

I am fairly certain my mom still has her old Rainbow... even had a water basin to collect dust and dirt:
https://i.pinimg.com/236x/c8/6b/b3/c86bb372f9915f446fe6475d1f7bf075.jpg

My grandmother owned that exact same vaccuum, and is EXACTLY the one I had in mind when I was referring to metal attachments.
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Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:44:28 »

I am fairly certain my mom still has her old Rainbow... even had a water basin to collect dust and dirt:
https://i.pinimg.com/236x/c8/6b/b3/c86bb372f9915f446fe6475d1f7bf075.jpg

My grandmother owned that exact same vaccuum, and is EXACTLY the one I had in mind when I was referring to metal attachments.

lol thats awesome. I used to love sliding around the kitchen floor on the dolly car thing that the basin snapped to. I'm pretty sure my brother and I broke it a few times trying to jump the step into our 'sunken' den. Good times.
-Dana

Offline Special K

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:45:34 »
Canned air is definitely more ideal in this case.
I have always been scared of using a vacuum or a blower but I have done so in the past week and it worked really well but just be careful by not putting the vacuum nozzle too close to the board or you might risk scratching something or even damage the internals.
What I do is that I remove the keycaps, turn the keyboard upside down and let it hang in mid-air while I use the fine tip brush to dust everything out.
Basically letting gravity do the work, no need for a vacuum or a blower and when there is residue or dust that doesn't brush off, I use cotton swabs and a dab of warm water and later dry it off.

I use a clear keyboard roof when I'm not at my desk so there really isn't much to be cleaned but I still like to routinely clean my boards.

You're right - it's probably best to use the vacuum/blower only if necessary.  I'm going to get one of these to start with:

https://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Electronics-Cleaning/dp/B0050B6CYW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512711822&sr=8-1&keywords=oxo+electronics+brush

If that doesn't work, then these might be required (I hate using q-tips because the cotton catches on the switches and tears off, which defeats the purpose of cleaning the board):

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DX7N2B0/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I3NVD7048BHXRL&colid=VX0K2EQ76RHO&psc=0

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Quote from: ripster
LOL - we're on post #163 of this mega-thread and you've gone from"keyboard n00b" to "keyboard sn0b".  We've done our job.

Offline Duckyreddy

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:48:11 »
Canned air is definitely more ideal in this case.
I have always been scared of using a vacuum or a blower but I have done so in the past week and it worked really well but just be careful by not putting the vacuum nozzle too close to the board or you might risk scratching something or even damage the internals.
What I do is that I remove the keycaps, turn the keyboard upside down and let it hang in mid-air while I use the fine tip brush to dust everything out.
Basically letting gravity do the work, no need for a vacuum or a blower and when there is residue or dust that doesn't brush off, I use cotton swabs and a dab of warm water and later dry it off.

I use a clear keyboard roof when I'm not at my desk so there really isn't much to be cleaned but I still like to routinely clean my boards.

You're right - it's probably best to use the vacuum/blower only if necessary.  I'm going to get one of these to start with:

https://www.amazon.com/OXO-Good-Grips-Electronics-Cleaning/dp/B0050B6CYW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512711822&sr=8-1&keywords=oxo+electronics+brush

If that doesn't work, then these might be required (I hate using q-tips because the cotton catches on the switches and tears off, which defeats the purpose of cleaning the board):

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DX7N2B0/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I3NVD7048BHXRL&colid=VX0K2EQ76RHO&psc=0

That OXO tool brush looks pretty cool, might be time to replace my trusty old paintbrush!

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Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 07 December 2017, 23:55:53 »
I feel like if you were to take that tooth brush and put a pencil eraser/gummy on the end... you'd have saved yourself $5.
-Dana

Offline ander

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #20 on: Sat, 09 December 2017, 03:05:06 »
The reason canned air is so popular is because it is tailor made for the application. It is VERY good at pushing stuff out of small spaces. As previously mentioned, you do run the risk of pushing the dust in farther. That being said, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a vacuum that is able to draw dust out such small spaces. Even some smaller shop vacs are too large to get in between switches etc.

I agree, blowing beats sucking (LOL).

But canned air—it's so wasteful. There's already enough so-called "disposable" crap in the landfills here in the 21st century, don't you think?

On some GH peeps's recommendations, I got one of these CompuCleaner Dust Blowers a while back:





They're around $70. I love mine. You have to take stuff outside, of course, as you don't want to blow crud all over your house. But it really works. It comes with several nozzles, including one that ends with a little brush. And it has two speeds, so if you don't feel like a fast blow, you can enjoy a slow one. (Okay, I had to say that.)

And you don't have to throw it away after you use it.
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Offline Special K

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #21 on: Sat, 09 December 2017, 10:42:59 »
The reason canned air is so popular is because it is tailor made for the application. It is VERY good at pushing stuff out of small spaces. As previously mentioned, you do run the risk of pushing the dust in farther. That being said, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a vacuum that is able to draw dust out such small spaces. Even some smaller shop vacs are too large to get in between switches etc.

I agree, blowing beats sucking (LOL).

But canned air—it's so wasteful. There's already enough so-called "disposable" crap in the landfills here in the 21st century, don't you think?

On some GH peeps's recommendations, I got one of these CompuCleaner Dust Blowers a while back:


(Attachment Link)


They're around $70. I love mine. You have to take stuff outside, of course, as you don't want to blow crud all over your house. But it really works. It comes with several nozzles, including one that ends with a little brush. And it has two speeds, so if you don't feel like a fast blow, you can enjoy a slow one. (Okay, I had to say that.)

And you don't have to throw it away after you use it.

I wonder how that compares to the Datavac:

https://www.amazon.com/Metro-ED500-DataVac-500-Watt-Electric/dp/B001J4ZOAW/ref=sr_1_5?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1512837662&sr=1-5&keywords=datavac
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Quote from: ripster
LOL - we're on post #163 of this mega-thread and you've gone from"keyboard n00b" to "keyboard sn0b".  We've done our job.

Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #22 on: Sat, 09 December 2017, 20:56:17 »
I will be honest, when i pull my huge tower out from under my desk for a cleaning... I take it out to the garage and hit it with the air compressor.
-Dana

Offline klennkellon

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #23 on: Sat, 09 December 2017, 23:43:51 »
I will be honest, when i pull my huge tower out from under my desk for a cleaning... I take it out to the garage and hit it with the air compressor.

Not a great idea. There could be a lot of moisture from an air compressor

Offline Sangdrax

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #24 on: Sun, 10 December 2017, 06:46:42 »
Moisture trap on the line cures that real quick. Besides, you can feel if it's a problem just by blowing the air on your hand. Somebody that opens the drip valve every time they're finished working to blow the moisture out of the tank probably never has a problem in the first place.

Offline OfTheWild

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #25 on: Sun, 10 December 2017, 22:05:34 »
yeah its never been an issue. I have a stand up tank and I empty it from the bottom valve each time I use it. I've never had any moisture come out of the hose.
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Offline sandy1995

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #26 on: Mon, 11 December 2017, 07:45:20 »
haha, I think I will just blow it. Vacuum seems like someone who is Virgo will do it, no offense! I think they are amazing~

Offline outhentusiast

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 15 January 2019, 21:14:13 »
I personally clean my KB in two ways:

1. Hardway - is when I disassemble it fully and go to wash it in the shower to remove all the garbage from inside
2. I just polish it with my handy vacuum cleaner which easily removes dust or food part from the KB. You don't need a special cleaner, to be honest, anything from this review could suit you well ;)

Keep your keyboard clean - you speak with the world with it!

Offline jamster

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #28 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 03:21:00 »
Hold it upside-down and shake vigorously for the first step in any cleaning.

It is always best if you can get gravity to do as much of the work as possible.

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Offline mattlach

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #29 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 06:54:49 »
In general the advice I have always seem is that when it comes to electronics, any electronics is to always blow, never suck.  At least that's the mantra in the audiophile community when it comes to amplifiers and other electronics.

Using a vacuum can damage electronics.

Everyone who has a computer/electronics/audio/video hobby should own one of these.
« Last Edit: Wed, 16 January 2019, 07:37:34 by mattlach »
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Offline Special K

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Quote from: ripster
LOL - we're on post #163 of this mega-thread and you've gone from"keyboard n00b" to "keyboard sn0b".  We've done our job.

Offline jcoffin1981

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #31 on: Wed, 23 January 2019, 06:08:15 »
The reason canned air is so popular is because it is tailor made for the application. It is VERY good at pushing stuff out of small spaces. As previously mentioned, you do run the risk of pushing the dust in farther. That being said, I think you'll be hard pressed to find a vacuum that is able to draw dust out such small spaces. Even some smaller shop vacs are too large to get in between switches etc.

I agree, blowing beats sucking (LOL).

But canned air—it's so wasteful. There's already enough so-called "disposable" crap in the landfills here in the 21st century, don't you think?

On some GH peeps's recommendations, I got one of these CompuCleaner Dust Blowers a while back:


(Attachment Link)


They're around $70. I love mine. You have to take stuff outside, of course, as you don't want to blow crud all over your house. But it really works. It comes with several nozzles, including one that ends with a little brush. And it has two speeds, so if you don't feel like a fast blow, you can enjoy a slow one. (Okay, I had to say that.)

And you don't have to throw it away after you use it.

They make canned air stations that recharge the can with compressed air.  There is no liquid crap inside, just air; so there is much less time before the can is exhausted.  However, this eliminates wasting your wallet or additional waste in the landfill.
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Offline nightowls

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 17 May 2019, 06:24:18 »
You can use vacuum cleaner, but make sure your laptop's keyboard doesn't have "pop off" keys that could possibly be sucked up by the vacuum. A can of compressed air will safely blow dust right out of the little crevices between your keys.

Offline diazsjonathan7

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Re: vacuum vs blower for cleaning keyboard
« Reply #33 on: Wed, 12 June 2019, 01:35:53 »
Dust and ash particles are relatively harmless for keyword when compared to their evil cousin ‘soot’. Dust particles are nearly twice the size of soot and are not created by a combustion process. Dust merely refers to any particles moved by the weather or human action around the area. it can be composed of sand, dirt, skin particles, pollen, and other loose materials.According to this source different kinds of soot you may encounter
1)Oily soot
2)wet soot
3)Dry soot

These three types of soot only cleaned by soot vacuum and these particles stuck between keyboard button. Using soot vacuum is best and easy way to clean keyboard without any effort.