Common Workplace Fixes: A Series on How to Correct Those Annoying Sticky Keys, Squeaks and More

Office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.


We come in, set our things down at our desk, head to the coffee pot, swirl around chunks of powdered creamer and then head back to start our day.

You sit down at your chair and it gives its customary ear-splitting creak. You start typing out your first email of the day and your shift key keeps sticking. A few minutes later, the fluorescent light above your desk begins its hourly flickering session.



You open your desk to find your stapler, only to be mired in a sea of staples, sticky notes and spare change.



Little Things Become Big Problems Under the Right Circumstances

Here’s the funny thing – you don’t really notice any of those quirks. Like we said, office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.

Over time though, it only takes a few bad days or a developing sense of frustration to turn those once unnoticed annoyances into full-blown  daily harassments.

We’re going to use the next couple of posts on our blog to talk about some of these workplace quirks, identify what could be wrong and then give you some simple ways to fix the problem.

Our First Tip: Unsticking the Sticky Keyboard

You’ve most likely suffered from this annoyance. One day you spill a few drops of Starbucks on your keyboard and, a week later, your “a” key seems to be quite precocious. Halfway through a memo you realize that valuable vowels seem to have disappeared.


In this scenario, a mix of espresso, milk and sugar have most likely built up under that key and cause it to stick when you press down on the key.

However, if you haven’t spilled any coffee on your keyboard in a while, there plenty of other explanations. In most cases, the culprit will be a mix of crumbs, hair and random fuzz that collects under your key and dulls the impact of your key pressing down on the sensor beneath.


Whatever the cause, you’re going to need the right tools and about 15 minutes. Here’s what recommends for your go-to keyboard tool kit:fix-it

  • A cup
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • A flathead screwdriver

Before you start pulling off colons and arrows, make sure you take a photo of your keyboard so you can remember the layout.

To remove your keys, lift one corner of the key slowly. As Instructables writes, “Your keys were basically snapped onto your keyboard at the factory … therefore they can be unsnapped.”

This is probably the most important part of the process because this is where you can break things if you rush it. Though your keys can be snapped off without breaking anything, they are made of plastic and breaking off the anchors on your keys is a real (and frustrating) possibility.

If a key is giving you trouble, slide a flathead screwdriver under it and gently wiggle it back and forth.

Once you have the key off, the real work begins. Take your Q-Tip and dip it in the rubbing alcohol. Then, wipe around the base of the key carrier until your Q-Tip comes out clean.

Meanwhile, fill your cup up with water and swirl around some of your dish soap. Drop the key into the solution and let it soak for a few seconds. Pull it out and give it a thorough wipe-down with your paper towels.

Once everything is cleaned and dried, snap your key back on and everything should work as well as it did the first day you used your keyboard.

Looking Ahead: The Squeaky Office Chair

We’d say that the sticky keyboard – or at least the dirty keyboard – is the most common office-equipment quirk we’ve seen.

A good way to avoid this is to buy a can of pressurized air and spray out your keys every Friday before you go home. Also, this Lifehacker thread suggests wiping down your keys every week with baby wipes.

But keyboards aren’t the only things that can break down over time. Office chairs can become agonizingly loud given enough hours of use. Most people ask for a new chair or just write off the squeak as impossible to fix – you don’t have to make excuses and we’ll show you why in our next post.

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