Jot + Tittle Typewriters

How To Loosen Sticky/Stiff Typewriter Keys

antique typewriter with paper: how to loosen stiff or sticky typewriter keys

One of the main problems with typewriters is sticky keys. Luckily, in most cases (not all), it’s an easy fix. In this short blog post, we’ll show you how to loosen up those keys and get them working again.

Before we show you what to do, let me tell you what NOT to do.

When I received my first typewriter it wasn’t working well. Since I’m a DIY kind of person, I figured with a little exploration, I’d be able to determine how to fix it. I started by pouring oil all over it – you know, the oil you’d use for bike chains.

Big mistake!

Turns out, oil attracts dust, dirt, and grime and makes the problem worse. Once I realized I was out of my league, I found a typewriter repair person about 2 hours away from where I lived and drove it out to him. The first thing he said when he looked at is was, “Looks like someone tried to oil this.”

Doh! I had to fess up. A few weeks later and a nice chunk of change, he had my typewriter working like a dream.

So Tip #1 is: DON’T USE OIL ON YOUR TYPEWRITER TO LOOSEN KEYS.

What we DO, however, recommend is using plain MINERAL SPIRITS.

a generic bottle of mineral spirits works great for loosening stuck keys

Apply the mineral spirits liberally using a Q-tip along the base of the escapement and sides of the key bars (see image below).

Keep applying mineral spirits and press the key often until you feel it loosen up.

As you use the typewriter, the buildup of dirt and grime will work its way out and can result in sticky keys again.

As a result you may need to apply the mineral spirits off-and-on over time until all the years of buildup are gone.

To see the process in action, check out our video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Dk1nfW3MpNE


To schedule a service appointment, contact us here. Also, be sure to visit our typewriter shop on Etsy!

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