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Cleaning an Old Typewriter

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How do I clean a Smith-Corona Delta III electric typewriter? The keys stick. The typewriter has fresh ribbon. Just certain keys stick.



Recent Answers

Here are the recent answer to this question.

By David [11]07/26/2011

If the type bars get stuck, try to bend them slowly to the right or to the left until they un-stick. Be sure that you press the key which sticks before bending! That should free up your type bars.

By Maryeileen [76]04/13/2011

If you can't get them unstuck yourself, call a typewriter repair company, if you can find one (or one that services office equipment) to see if they can help.

By Mary Lou [14]04/12/2011

Be sure it is dirt that is making the keys stick, sometimes they become bent and stick because of that.

By Marjorie C. Woodworth [82]04/10/2011

Plastic Bowl
Old toothbrush
Rubbing Alcohol

First make sure that you unplug your typewriter. Pour some rubbing alcohol in a plastic bowl, and wet the bristles with rubbing alcohol. Gently scrub the keys to remove excess ink. Wipe off keys with the cloth. Keep on doing this to clean the keys. I believe that's what your problem is.


Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

How would you clean the keys, the actual letters that strike the ribbon, on an old typewriter? Carbon tetrachloride isn't around any more and it's nasty stuff anyway.

Eileen from Canton, OH

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

How about OOPS or GoO Gone, or maybe WD-40, on a cloth or sponge (throw cloth/sponge away afterward). I used to use something with a play-doh like/putty-like consistency that was pressed on each key, but I don't know what it was called. (10/27/2005)

By Linda

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

In typing class we used a typewrite bud. that is the name that comes to mind anyway. it felt like play dough, it is usually red in color and is on a handle. i would think staples or office depot would sell them. we also vacuumed it out and used a soft brush. (10/27/2005)

By Sandy

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

You might try rubbing alcohol on the keys, then a stiff brush. (10/27/2005)

By Robert

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

How about plain ol' rubbing alcohol on a gauze pad? (10/27/2005)

By sunhat

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

You could try using blue tack pressed into the keys and removed to lift off the ink - I don't know if it will work if it has been a long time since the keys were cleaned (10/27/2005)

By Sharyl

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

I remember using nail-polish remover and a stiff brush - back in the "olden days" (10/28/2005)

By Joankay

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

We used to use a sheet of pink slightly "fuzzy" material that was fed into the typewriter like a sheet of paper. You then hit each key so that it struck the cleaning paper several times. Not sure how it worked or what it was made of, but it sure cleaned the keys. Has anyone come across this lately? We have an old typewriter in a legal office that sure could use it! (05/01/2007)

By Linda S.

RE: Cleaning an Old Typewriter

I wrote my first magazine article on a typewriter. To clean the keys, use a soft toothbrush with rubbing alcohol when they are really dirty with ink and bits of paper stuck in the hollows of the letters. For "normal" cleaning, knead a lump of Silly Putty and stick it on the type keys to remove built up ink. They used to make a product like Silly Putty especially for typewriters, but Silly Putty always worked just as well. You can get several normal cleanings out of one Silly Putty egg. (10/05/2007)

By Robert M.

cleaning typewriters

Make sure, if you use WD40 or any solvent like sprays, to remove rubber belts, feet, and wheels. True rubber doesn't like certain complex cleaners. Best not to take chances with an old Underwood or anything Italian--especially prewar Italian. (01/16/2009)

By Conor

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