on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)

By G.D. Warner

Steno Stuff

Some Basic Tips for Cleaning your Steno Machine


Do you have one of these?


Does it sit on your steno machine? If so, your steno machine may look like this:

Yuck --!

First, I simply must point out that this is not my machine (it's one of the ones in the lab at my (now closed) school).

Secondly, I wanted to use my machine for all the pictures ... but I simply could not allow my machine to get this nasty. :o)

Thirdly, my cat and I reached an understanding a long time ago: She is not allowed on my equipment. This is reinforced with a mental image of me doing something horrible to her should she disobey that rule (a tip picked up from an animal communicator some years ago.)

No Practice for You!

No Practice For You! (and not my cat!)

Sounds farfetched I know ... but here's a story which (more or less) illustrates this point.

About a year A few years ago, one of my classmates brought her cat into our Legal Terminology class -- after the day-folks in the office left for the day, of course. The cat was being oohed and awed over by some of the women in the class at the front of the room, and I remembered what that animal communicator had said ... so I silently pictured myself cradling the cat in my arms like a baby, while I rubbed its forehead (I don't know why, but cats seem to like that).

At that moment, the cat, who was facing away from me at the time, turned her head quickly and stared at me, her eyes wide open ... then she jumped off the table she was on and on to another, jumped off of that one and on to my table, hopped up into my lap, crawled inside my jacket, and started purring ... loudly.

Naturally, my classmates were wondering what was going on; I played it off by saying, "Wow, I think she likes me!" I then rubbed her head as I had been doing in the image I had sent her, then I pictured the gal in front of me, and told the cat (verbally, but not loud enough for anyone else to hear) "Why don't you go say hi to Tamara over there?," picturing her in my mind ... and off the cat went -- directly to the student I pictured.

That little tip alone should keep your steno machine free of cat hair. You're welcome.

Yes, I do listen to Coast to Coast AM Art Bell's hand-picked successor, Heather Wade; why do you ask?

All that said, not all people have cats (so that first tip won't help them ... and if your neighbor's pit bull is sitting on your steno machine, that's a completely different problem -- with which I can't help you), but still their steno machines look like the above picture. They also need a way to clean their steno machine, and don't know how.

I have a way that seems to work, and this article will show you how I clean my steno machine.

You will need the following items:

Swiffer Cloths (About $5.00)

You can get the Swiffer cloths at any major grocery store.

You can get Q-Tips there also, but I strongly suggest you stop by your local RadioShack and get the ones they sell. Why? Because the regular Q-Tips, when used on equipment, leaves bits of cotton behind. The RadioShack ones do not.

While you're in your local RadioShack, pick up some of that technical-grade alcohol. It will be marked "Professional Tape Head Cleaner Fluid." Why? Because rubbing alcohol leaves a film when you're cleaning electronic components (which you will not be doing based on anything you read here), and also is sugar-based ... so that film it leaves is sticky.

Professional Tape Head Cleaner Fluid ($5.00)

The lint-free cloths can be purchased at your local WalMart, in the automotive department. They're called "Scott Shop Towels." If you have the little box with ink, grease, a toothpick, etc. that comes with the Stentura 200/400/500/6000/8000 or ProCAT Flash, you should have a small square of something similar to these shop towels (about $2.50, by the way) in that box.

(Nearly) Lint-free Cloths

These were recommended to me by one of my local Mac Geniuses as a great way to get the soot off of my (all white) G4 iBook (note: If you have styrofoam packing material, and you're thinking about burning it in your fireplace, and your younger brother says "I wouldn't do that if I were you ...", make sure you listen! Especially if your younger brother has his steno machine (or all white laptop) sitting in the same room as your fireplace ...)

Did you hear that, Big Sis?

That being said ....

"What do you do with all this stuff?", you ask?

Why, you clean the area under your keys, of course ...!

Depending on how dirty your steno machine is, you will either need just the Swiffer cloth and a "cotton-tipped applicator" (for the machines that are just a bit dusty), or all four items for those machines that are not only dusty, but have been a bit too up close and personal with a can of soda or something chocolate-based.

For the Dusty Machines

This one is easy.

Take your Swiffer cloth, and fold it over your "cotton-tipped applicator."

Stick it in the area under your keys and wiggle it around -- being careful not to bend the keys.

When you're satisfied that you got everything you can, your Swiffer sheet may look like this one:

After a bit o' dusting

What did the machine look like when I was done, you ask? Like so:

Much Better

While I did miss a few spots (hey, class was starting!), you must admit this machine looks a lot better than it did before.

If you are satisfied with how your machine looks, don't throw that Swiffer cloth away just yet ...! Turn it over and take care of your TV set, your desktop computer monitor, or anything else that needs some dusting. Note: This will not work on your kids or the family pet ... unless, of course, you have a turtle.

I keep one of these Swiffer cloths in my car to dust off the dashboard as necessary ... and I keep one at work and occassionally dust off the monitors and VCRs. My boss thinks it's our crack team of Custodial Engineers ... but after I found a feather from the pink feather duster our Custodial Engineers were using sticking out of my VCR a couple years ago, they were discouraged from dusting off the equipment.

For the Dusty and Sticky Machines

This one is a bit more involved.

Find a small dish or something (I use a Snapple lid, or a shot glass -- depending entirely on which one I find first) and pour a capfull of alchohol into your chosen receptacle. If you're using a shot glass, just fill the bottom of the glass.

As alcohol tends to evaporate (and this Professional Tape Head Cleaner stuff is not cheap), make sure you put the lid back on the alcohol before you start working on your steno machine.

Take one of those Shop Towels, and fold it in half. If you're a body builder, raise the folded towel over your head, and pull it apart ...!

Not so easy, huh?

If you're not of the body-building persuasion, feel free to use scissors, or place your hands in a more normal position and rip that cloth in two.

Do the steps outlined above for the dusty machines and get rid of as much of the dust that you can.

Now grab two "cotton-tipped applicators", wrap one of the two pieces of the shop towel (you did rip that sucker in two, right?), and dip the towel into the alcohol. Feel free to tilt the receptacle to get more alcohol on the shop towel.

Stick the "cotton-tipped applicators" and the towel into the area under your steno machine's keys, and rub the sticky spots; feel free to adjust your shop towel and re-dip the towel (and the "cotton-tipped applicators") into the alcohol, and repeat.

When you are satisfied that you have removed all the sticky stuff, let your machine sit for a bit, and grab another pair of "cotton-tipped applicators" and the other half of your shop towel. Wrap the shop towel over the "cotton-tipped applicators" and go over the area again.

When you are satisfied with your work, you're done! Treat yourself to some chocolatey treat.

"What about the Inside -- You Know, Where the Ribbon Cartridge is?"

Well, this borders on electronic maintenance (which is what I used to do back in my days in the Navy), so I will not advise you on cleaning this area too much (translation: I'm allergic to lawsuits).

However, if you look in there and you see a bunch of hairs and dust jackalopes, it probably can't hurt to stick a Swiffer cloth in there; it *should* pick up most of the hairs and etc....

If it does not, it's probably time to have your steno machine professionally cleaned ... and that won't be cheap ($260 or so).

This is when your good friend Uncle Sam will come in handy.

There you have it: A quickie on how to clean your steno machine. I hope the picture of the Unclean One didn't scare you ... and I hope your machine doesn't look like that ...!

But if it does, you know what to do now.


Update (11OCT06)

Picture this:

You're in school, and it's test time. You load another pad of paper in your machine ... and you notice that your classmates are moving away from you ...! You check the basics: Breath, check; deodorant, check ... but still, people are moving away.

After the test is over (and your classmates resume their normal positions near you), you ask one of the recently departed what was going on .... and s/he presses a key on her machine and says, "Listen. Hear anything?"

You shake your head, because you don't hear anything ... then she casually reaches over and presses the same key on *your* machine ... and you hear a weird creaking sound.

S/he presses it several more times, and the creaking becomes a bit on the loud side!

Has that ever happened to you?

If so, you might want to take a look at your steno machine. When's the last time it was lubed and oiled?

If you said "Huh?" because you didn't know your steno machine needs the occasional spot o' oil, then you should take a look at this one:

Stentura Lubrication Instructions

This page gives you step by step (did I mention illustrated?) instructions on how to oil your steno machine.

If you want to keep your classmates nearby, maybe (just ... maybe) you might want to grab your lubrication kit and take a look at that page.

Just a thought.