Typewriters

Is it possible to have too many typewriters? Maybe someday I’ll find out!

My go-to is a 1928 Remington Portable No. 2. Other than the ribbon, it still has all the original parts and paint.

Typewriters were built to last — and be USED. Much like a car, one of the worst things you can do is let the keys sit idle and gather dust.

I’ve gathered some tips & resources here for typewriter hygiene — how to keep these beautiful machines clacking and shining.

HYGIENE

  • Ninety percent of typewriter problems can be fixed by a good cleaning
  • To remove dust & grime & gunk everywhere
    • Spray a can of condensed air all over, especially underneath.
    • Use dry Q-Tips or Swifters all over.
    • Use a dental pick (yup!) to scrape between typebars and get the ink gunk off the letters at the ends.
    • Use a big soft cosmetics blush brush for regular dusting.
  • To clean the exterior
    • For glossy paint, use the same products you would on a car. I use NuFinish Scratch Remover – it works wonders!  And it’s safe on all glossy paint, even decals. Use it with a soft cotton cloth, old shirt, or cotton makeup removal pads. Avoid microfiber – it tends to scratch paint.
    • For plastic or crackle paint, use a few drops of Dawn dish liquid & water, and a very soft cotton cloth or old cotton shirt (again not microfiber), clean as gently as possible.  (I almost never use Dawn & water on glossy paint machines; NuFinish Scratch Remover usually is enough to clean anything on those.)
  • To clean the keys
    • Use Windex (a lot of older keys are glass-topped) with Q-tips or Swifters (Swifters are stiffer, give an even better cleaning).
    • Use metal polish for the ones with metal rings.
  • For stuck keys
    • DO NOT USE WD-40. EVER.
    • Often, cleaning the gunk and grime out will do the trick.
    • If not, try rubbing alcohol.
    • If still not, try PB Blaster (it’s awesome, but hoowhee it stinks).
    • If still still not, try bending the key slightly (it’s metal, it can take it!); sometimes it’s just catching an edge.
  • To replace the ribbon
    • My go-to is calculator ribbon, which they still sell at Office Max & Office Depot; it’s the same width as all typewriter ribbon – just re-spool it on your machine’s original spools.
  • To clean the platen (the rubber roller thingy)
    • Use rubbing alcohol and cotton balls.

RESOURCES

  • Richard Polt’s page.  Best typewriter resource, period.
  • Sales & Repair, New England:  The awesome Tom Furrier at Cambridge Typewriter Shop.
  • Sales & Repair, Pacific Northwest:  The equally-awesome Paul Lundy at Bremerton Office Machines.
  • Sales & Repair, Midwest: I’ve heard great things about Bryan Sherwood (including his online advice during the pandemic) at Kentucky Typer.
  • Buying on eBay:  eBay is where I got most of mine. There are tons of sellers, but one of the best in terms of quality and selection and reasonable price is the AntiKey Chop.
  • Museum:  If you get a chance, it’s worth your while to check out Frank Romano’s amazing typewriter collection at the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, Massachusetts!