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Are Keyboards Dishwasher Safe? 534

Posted by Zonk
from the dishwasher-safe-like-a-fox dept.
i_like_spam writes "Computer keyboards are a breeding ground for bacteria. Studies have shown that keyboards often contain more bacteria than toilet seats. Common cleaning methods, such as pressurized-air canisters and damp rags, help remove some of the dirt, but they also leave behind plenty of grime. National Public Radio describes a recent experiment by a reporter who used a dishwasher to clean her keyboard. Following the advice on Plastic Bugs, she placed her keyboard in the top rack, didn't use the heated dry cycle, and air dried the keyboard for a week afterwards. Her keyboard is now squeaky clean and functions perfectly. Has anyone else tried this or any other alternate keyboards cleaning methods? For those not willing to air dry for a week, dishwasher-safe keyboards are now available. Would you ever do this to your peripheral? "
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Are Keyboards Dishwasher Safe?

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  • by jthill (303417) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:16PM (#19528391)
    Post it again in a week!
    • An emphatic yes, given what else I'd do to my peripheral!
      • by Xiph (723935) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:25AM (#19530943)
        i've done this plenty of times, to several different keyboards (ps2, usb, whatnot)

        my brother does it. as long as you rinse it properly to get rid of the soap,
        and then give it some time to dry, it'll be fine.

        some keyboards are based on several layers of transperent sheets for connecting the keys.
        if that's the case, it's an advantage to seperate the layers slightly, to get more air through.

        This doesn't only apply to keyboards, but to all electronics,
        you can wash them if you remember to rinse them, and give them time to dry.
        Also, never do it with a battery still attached, it's the electricity AND the stuff OTHER than water that kills the electronics.
        • by B'Trey (111263) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @08:29AM (#19531203)
          This doesn't only apply to keyboards, but to all electronics, you can wash them if you remember to rinse them, and give them time to dry.

          This is largely true. I'm a retired US Navy Electronic Technician and we used to have a dishwasher in the shop solely for washing electronic circuit boards taken from electronic test equipment. Most equipment is not harmed by exposure to water IF there's no electricity applied. That being said, take care and use common sense, especially if you're dealing with an entire piece of gear and not just a circuit board that's been removed from the equipment. In addition to batteries (and that includes small one's like computer CMOS batteries, which are sometimes soldered to the circuit board), be aware of speakers and other components which can be damaged by water. Some equipment may contain ferrous materials, which will rust or corrode. If you're comfortable with disassembling the equipment, it'll sometimes help both the cleaning and the drying. Even if you don't want to disassemble it completely, it might be advantageous to take the outer casing or shell off the gear after washing to aide in drying. (Be careful not to partially disassemble before washing if there are small or loosely installed parts that can be dislodged by the spraying water.) A heat lamp or bright sunshine will also speed drying, as will a fan. You can even place some boards in an oven at low temperatures. Again, use common sense! A strong heat lamp placed too close to the item or a hot oven can melt or deform some plastics. A couple of hours in the sun doesn't guarantee that all the water is evaporated from all the little nooks and crannies.
          • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:48AM (#19531615) Homepage Journal
            I don't think I'm the first knucklehead (I hope), who's dropped his cellphone in the toilet. You know, One minute it's in a shirt-pocket and the next...splash.

            My neighbor, who's a retired US Navy communications guy and possibly an ex-spook, convinced me not to either put it into an autoclave or throw the (rather nice) phone away.

            So, a couple days later, he gives the phone back to me and it's working perfectly. Same battery, everything. He told me later that he'd simply disassembled the phone, hit it with his wife's blowdryer and a sun lamp and voila! He started telling me stories of electronics that had been rescued from much worse than just a dunking in a loo.

            Even though there was nothing but water in the toilet when the phone fell in, I had a slight hesitation putting it to my ear for a week or so, but it worked just fine.
          • It is sensible to clean keyboards because the dirt sometimes interferes with proper action. Your instructions are excellent for people who haven't cleaned electronic circuit boards before.

            However, it is not sensible to worry about bacteria. There are bacteria everywhere, all the time. Whether there are 100,000 bacteria on every key or 1,000,000 makes little difference.

            Slashdot editors seem to easily believe science fraud articles. Maybe they played with their Nintendo Game Boys in biology class, physics class, and, judging by the number of spelling and grammar errors, English class.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by B'Trey (111263)
              However, it is not sensible to worry about bacteria. There are bacteria everywhere, all the time. Whether there are 100,000 bacteria on every key or 1,000,000 makes little difference.

              Fully agree. Additionally, the "more bacteria on your keyboard then on a toilet" is particularly inane. A toilet is a smooth surface that's regularly doused with bleach or other bacteria killing compounds. A keyboard is full of nooks and crannies that get packed with Doritos crumbs and little bits of Taco Bell meat and spray
            • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:10PM (#19534311) Homepage
              I love bacteria! Bacteria is what makes the difference between me and my spouse (well, that and the boobs). Being an utterly absent-minded ubergeek, I have a lax sense of how long food can survive in the fridge... if it doesn't have martian cheese, I declare it edible. The result of a decade of this dietary abuse is that I hardly ever get indigestion or cramps, while she will get nauseated just at the thought of day-old pizza.

              The human body is a complex, self-regulating organism. If you life your whole life in a super-sanitized bubble, soaked in distilled water and shielded from the sun's "harmful" rays, the very instant you step outside into the real world you'll drop dead. I'm not saying we should go about our daily chores covered in filth, but I certainly don't live my life in fear of microscopic critters. We humans have been around for thousands of years, well guess what: even the Neanderthal managed to survive, and while they didn't have the pollution problems of industrialization, they certainly didn't have hyper-filtered water and Purell lotion. We may be smarter and more productive than our far ancestors, but we've become big pussies.
    • by qbwiz (87077) * <john.baumanfamily@com> on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:43PM (#19528677) Homepage
      Ae keboas ishashe safe?

      o.
      • by Anpheus (908711) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:05AM (#19528837)
        Wow! How many times do you have to refresh the post reply page before you get a captcha you can type?
      • by dawhippersnapper (861941) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:58AM (#19529193) Homepage
        I was shaving one day and knocked my treo 700w into a toilet, I grabbed it out immediately and took the battery out, ran clean non chlorinated water through it, put it in the oven on 150F for about 5 hours, put the battery back in and it worked fine for months. I eventually moved to an xv6700. It still worked fine though.
      • Anecdotal evidence (Score:5, Informative)

        by jimbojw (1010949) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [r.mij.nosliw]> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @01:03AM (#19529225) Homepage

        I can personally attest to the validity of dishwashing keyboards - I have seen it done (successfully) first hand.

        About 10 years ago, my friend's mom complained that her computer was acting strangely. It would keep typing the same letters over and over again after a single initial keypress. My dad did some investigation and noticed that this happened on every program, not just the DOS prompt where she noticed it.

        He pressed her on the subject of her keyboard, asking if anyone had spilled anything on it - to which she fervently replied "No". Being the problem solver he is, my dad had brought along his own keyboard to use in testing and lo and behold, everything worked just fine.

        It was about that time (faced with evidence that it was a peripheral problem) that she admitted that there may have been some iced tea spilt on the keyboard a few days prior - but that she didn't think it was any big deal.

        Since my dad had a spare keyboard anyway, he gave it to them in exchange for the tacky one. Once home, he did the very experiment described in the article. He ran the keyboard through the dishwasher (bottom rack) on low heat so as not to melt the keys. Then he propped the keyboard up in front of a floor vent to let the dry, air-conditioned air work on it overnight.

        The next day, he plugged in the keyboard to discover that it was fixed! Back then keyboards had less gadgetry (no numeric side-pad or soft "media" buttons up top), but hey - a win's a win.

  • Keyboards are so cheap I wouldn't think twice sticking it in the dishwasher if I felt like it. Heck, mine is so nasty I probably should, but I don't really feel like air drying it for a week... might as well buy another 15 dollar Logitech keyboard at that point.
  • Bad Idea (Score:2, Funny)

    by maz2331 (1104901)
    My wife put a keyboard in the dishwasher and killed it dead. Never did work again.
  • The evils of soap (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:19PM (#19528411) Homepage
    Contrary to popular belief, water isn't the real danger to the keyboard here, it's soap. The soap is conductive, and if it isn't fully rinsed, could short out contacts and render the keyboard unusable.

    So the modified checklist is:
    1. Keyboard you can afford to lose.
    2. No soap
    3. Shake empty of water, then air dry.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by keithjr (1091829)
      The water isn't going to be distilled, so odds are it is still electrolytic and thus can just as easily bork a keyboard by itself.

      The key step (pun intended) is the air drying. As long as the water no longer bridges contacts, you're fine.
      • Re:The evils of soap (Score:5, Informative)

        by JesseL (107722) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:44PM (#19528683) Homepage Journal
        I work in electronics manufacturing.

        Every printed circuit board we make gets washed in a sink with tap water then dried with compressed air. In over 20 years, it's never been a problem.

        It could be more of an issue in places with harder water, but in that case ordinary distilled water would be a poor choice too. You really want deionized water as the ordinary distilled stuff is ridiculously reactive.
        • Re:The evils of soap (Score:5, Informative)

          by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:59PM (#19528785)
          That's because they boards aren't powered when they're washed.

          Keyboards are dishwasher safe in the same way that flash drives or these printed circuit board are dishwasher safe.

          If they can physically survive being immersed in water (I.E. they don't contain stuff that will dissolve) then the water won't destroy them.

          The problem occurs when the keyboard is powered. The water will short every connection in the board and that will cause a very large problem. Someone will probably mention that you could use distilled water to clean it because distilled water won't conduct electricity. However, one website tried running a computer while it was immersed in distilled water. It worked for about 5 minutes and then the water started to dissociate and it shorted the machine out.

          Bottom line, if you want to wash your keyboard then just make sure it's dry before you try to use it.
          • I once dropped a water balloon onto the keyboard of my Apple ][+. That keyboard isn't just powered, it's attached to the computer. Water was all over the motherboard and everything else. And, being a little kid, I was bright enough to switch it on "to see if it still worked." It didn't.

            But you know what? It lived. Dried it out as best as I could with a hair dryer and left it overnight, and it worked fine.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by aaarrrgggh (9205)
          Compressed air is the key though... not the lack of tap water or soap. Many places use nitrogen instead of compressed air, but either way you have a very clean, dry airstream to clean it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Doddman (953998)
      so what about something like rubbing alcohol? or hydrogen peroxide? that would kill bacteria AND evaporate pretty quickly
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by rbmorse (833877)
      I follow the dishwasher with an isopropanol rinse and then compressed air, and then give it 24 hours drying time. Never had a problem.
    • Re:The evils of soap (Score:4, Interesting)

      by yuda (704374) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:44PM (#19528689)
      I once accidentally put a USB pendrive through a washing machine cycle (cold with detergent) and dryer (hot spin). I assumed I would have killed it and lost some pretty important work related stuff. But no, after plugging it in a couple of times it mounted perfectly and is still working a year later.
      • Re:The evils of soap (Score:4, Interesting)

        by antic (29198) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:15AM (#19529915)

        Funny you should mention this - my girlfriend put her iPod Nano through a washing machine cycle just this morning, including the bud-style headphones.

        Still seems to work.

        I'm not sure if that says more about the strength of the Nano or the weakness of the washing machine. ;)

    • Indeed. Until a few years ago, my company (a producer of electronic test and measurement equipment) washed every circuit board we made, just after they were assembled. This was with de-ionized water, and was used to clean the flux off the boards.

      We only stopped because using no-clean flux and skipping the wash is cheaper.

      Using de-i water might be better, but I've gotten electronics completely drenched before without a problem (car stereo soaked in a rain, digital camera underwater for several hours). In
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mnmn (145599)
      I'd question this.

      I washed a few keyboards, most notably my IBM Model M.

      Some did not quite work well afterwards and the plastic layers with copper encrusted in it must be cleaned carefully and dried. Rust forms on that layer fast (and so water was the more dangerous element in my case). If it is dried quickly enough there's no reason why it should not work.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Take it in the shower with me, set on a box fan for several hours to dry. Has worked fine several times.
  • Yes. (Score:4, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:19PM (#19528415)

    I've done this before. You can air dry it for only 24 hours in most climates, and a lot less if you're willing to take it apart after. If you use it before it's fully dry the worst that seems to happen is keys behave weirdly -- if that happens, it's not done drying yet.

    At my current job I have access to an ultrasonic alcohol bath cleaner; that was quick and simple, and dried out even faster.

    Compressed air nozzles also work well, though that's more for dust and debris and doesn't do much about the grimy stuff.

  • by rescdsk (34079) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:19PM (#19528417) Homepage
    What about laptops?
  • Easier Solution... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mabba18 (897753)

    Wash you damn hands!


  • I know this is intended to be partly funny, but unless you have a > $30 keyboard, and very few people do, this is pointless. Keyboards are disposable nowadays. I go through two of the cheapo HP/Dell ones that overflow the bins at company's parts warehouse every year. As soon as they get a little grimy or the feedback response starts fading (I like mine springy, but quiet), to the trash it is.

    I can see something like this with a IBM Model M or a Unicomp customizer or a happy hacking keyboard, but most p

    • by evanbd (210358)
      Maybe you don't mind throwing out $20 worth of hardware every year or more, but as for me, if all I have to do is toss it in the dishwasher, I'll save the money and spend it on something else.
      • by dedazo (737510)
        Most keyboards that ship with PCs these days cost about $5, if that. The "higher end" ones must be no more than $10-15. Have you seen the ones that ship with the new HP boxes? They're basically a laptop keyboard with a numeric pad and the "special" keys on top. Tiny and fragile, and they can't be tilted. Talk about saving money. Those things can't be more than $5 in bulk.

        If you went out and bought a keyboard you like, then by all means wash it and stuff. In my experience most people use whatever came with

    • Way to think about the environment!
  • No, but.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by calebt3 (1098475) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:21PM (#19528437)
    seeing as my keyboard is a bit attached to my laptop, most people in my situation probably would not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kazade84 (1078337)
      A guy in a high street computer shop once told me about a phone call he had received from a customer. They said that they had spilled some sticky drink over their boss's keyboard while he/she was away and they asked if there was anything they could do about it. He suggested that they wash it under the tap and leave it to dry for a day or two then it will be fine....

      ... a week later the computer guy got another phone call, this time it was the boss asking why in the world he had suggested that his employee
  • A Week??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:23PM (#19528457) Homepage Journal
    and air dried the keyboard for a week afterwards

    A week? That's probably more fossil fuels consumed than a new keyboard would be.
         
  • Just discussing the same thing earlier with someone. Mechanical keyboards typically fair better than membrane keyboards for the dishwasher. The Keytronics I through in and let dry for a few days ending up half working. All the letters worked but special keys like Shift, Ctrl, Alt, Etc didn't. Would have been adequate for most Slashdot posters.
    If it's a cheap membrane keyboard just send to the recycling center.
  • by really? (199452)
    Not the dishwasher route though. I put them in the sink and wash them well; I usually use "Simple Green" as a detergent.

    Shake well, or run a shop-vac over them after cleaning, and put them in a warm place with decent air circulation for the weekend. On Monday plug in, turn computer on ... NEVER one problem.

  • I rinse my keyboard with 200 proof Ethanol and let it try for an hour or so. Propanol is easily accessible and would work too. Soap is conductive, as another poster pointed out. Besides, who has a week to let their 30 dollar keyboard dry?
  • by llZENll (545605) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:28PM (#19528513)
    "Studies have shown that keyboards often contain more bacteria than toilet seats."

    Don't you get tired of hearing how things are cleaner than a toilet seat? As proven on Mythbusters, almost everything is dirtier than a toilet seat, the floor, the counter, your mouth, your hands, all contain more bacteria than a toilet seat. So people, stop with the toilet seat analogies, they are meaningless!
  • I've had to look into finding a keyboard that could be repeatedly autoclaved (high pressure steam at 250-350 Fahrenheit) so that it could be used in an operating room during surgery. I had limited success with that - you can find different keyboards that are encased in silicone. They become unusable after a handful of cleaning cycles, however. The harder part was finding a pointing device - mouse, trackpad, etc.
  • the keyboard came out just fine... But the laptop display didn't come on and the laptop fan didn't show up..

    *Doh* I just read the article... _Regular_ keyboards... :-)
  • I've washed several keyboards over the last decade, and I've known about the dishwasher technique at least that long. I don't actually use my dishwasher, though, because I regard that as a waste of water and power. When I feel like washing a keyboard (which isn't very often), I take the whole thing apart and hose it down, first with water, then w/ some water-displacer, like circuit board cleaner.

    I once had to wash my computer's motherboard, too, after my male cat sprayed it (the case was off, so the motherb
  • I've always heard that automatic dishwasher detergent was extremely caustic. Combine that with the presumably delicate traces on the circuit board that underlies a keyboard, and what happens after a few weeks?

    No really, what happens? What happens if you do this two or three times? Inquiring minds want to know.
  • At my university (Score:5, Informative)

    by debile (812761) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:34PM (#19528569)
    At my university (Sherbrooke) we work late, drink coffee and eat things like chips or our diner in front of the computer. Keyboards get dirty quickly because the security guards cannot enforce the law.

    What IT does to clean the keyboard is much the same but probably less damaging. The have a big plastic box they fill full of water. They just immerse the keyboards for a few hours, lt them dry for 72 hres.

    Everything is clean and they don't brake often with this method.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by shellbeach (610559)

      Everything is clean and they don't brake often with this method.
      Yeah, there's nothing worse than the keyboard in front of you braking all the time ...

  • by Plug (14127) on Friday June 15, 2007 @11:34PM (#19528577) Homepage
    Good point about F6. It hasn't even been loved enough to be given a Function function on my Thinkpad T60.

    Turns out it moves between focusable frames in Windows, and in Firefox, can be used to focus on the task bar - and hit again to focus on the page! Useful, yet unloved.

    Someone needs to start a F6 fanclub. That key will get a complex.
  • by billh (85947)
    The Model M is dishwasher safe, at least so far. I have put two of mine in the dishwasher. No soap, top rack, air dry for a few days. Put the keycaps in the silverware holder.

    I thought it was a joke when I first heard it, but I had a keyboard that was in bad enough shape to risk. I now use that keyboard at work. The second one I use at home, and it is due for another dishwasher cycle soon.
    • by Oswald (235719)
      Well, I was about to say that I would never do such a thing to my precious Model M. Even after reading your post I'm still not anxious to try it.

      Does it really get clean without soap?

      • by HBI (604924)
        I had better luck with mine with the following methodology:

        1: disassemble using a 7/32 long stem nut driver. You'll pay a few bucks for this but it's worth it.
        2: put the upper and lower key caps, and shell in the dishwasher.
        3: clean the base that the mechanical key switches are mounted on using alcohol + q-tips
        4: Reassemble when the stuff is all dry.

        Quick, easy, works like a charm, no risk of damage to the keyboard itself.
  • "Would you ever do this to your peripheral?"

    Nope. But then I don't share the [seemingly] common pathological fear of bacteria that's been created in the last decade or so.
    • by Kohath (38547) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @01:23AM (#19529351)
      I agree. In fact, I am internally equipped with various defenses to fight and defeat those evil bacteria. The bacteria on my keyboard was probably originally attached to me anyway.

      After I use someone else's keyboard, I wash my hands. Maybe I should write an Ask Slashdot topic:

      "I recently discovered it was possible to wash my hands. After looking up various hygiene-related articles (link to Wikipedia) I found out that hand-washing has been associated with greatly-lessened likelihoods of getting sick. And disease outbreaks have been shown to be limited among populations of folks who wash their hands. Finally, after I heard that Al Gore washes his hands (link to Al Gore), I started doing it myself. Has anyone else tried this? Where do you wash them? Do you live near a fast-moving river where you can wash them? I wash mine in the toilet, but I'm starting to think that's not helping as much as the online articles suggest. There are other fixtures in my bathroom, but I don't know what they do. Has anyone ever tried using these other fixtures?"
  • " dishwasher-safe keyboards are now available."

    Thanks to slashdot, not anymore!
  • What's wrong with prying your keys off, tossing them in a net bag and throwing the whole bundle in the washer? That's what I did, when we had a dish washer.

    Bonus points for getting the keys back where they belong.
  • Last week I washed my cupholder to get rid of the coffee stains. It's been air drying for the last week, and I can't wait to use it again!
  • The resistances your immune system is building up from eating off the keyboard may save you some day.
  • The mythbusters showed that the toilet seat actually has very little bacteria compared to every other surface they tested (bathroom floor, kitchen floor, kitchen table, etc.) Thus, the problem that "keyboards contain more bacteria than most toilet seats doesn't really matter very much.

    Furthermore, the amount of bacteria doesn't really have anything to do with how healthy the surface is. Most dairy products have insane amounts of bacteria, but it's all bacteria that isn't harmful to humans. The bacteria y
  • wel i'mm givvig ttthis grettt idea aa ttry tooo se oww welll ittt wokss... sinc ii cantt ussse itt untttil aaftr it driess i hav t us aan oldd keyybarddd for nnow.

  • I once spilt a small amount of tea onto my keyboard and it never worked again.

    It was one of those cordless ones though. Still, I wouldn't trust a dishwasher with any keyboard unless it was marked dishwasher-safe.

  • Best. Apple. Keyboard. EVER! by the way.

    Every few years, I pull the keycaps, and the plastic top and bottom, and soak them for a few hours in hot water with a hefty dollop of Spic and Span. Brownian Motion is your friend.

    As for the keyboard pc, it's mainly a case of using the vacuum cleaner to suck all the loose crud from all the nooks and crannies. The keyswitches are pretty well sealed. They have yet to show any type of failure.

    After the plastic bits in the bucket have been rinsed off and dried, the key c
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:15AM (#19529655) Homepage

    Printed circuit boards are normally washed in something like a dishwasher after soldering. A few components can't tolerate that, mainly some speakers, and they have to go on after the washing step.

    But you have to use water with low dissolved solids, since, when the water evaporates, it's going to leave solids behind. Leaving streaks of iron behind is definitely a Bad Thing. So use distilled or de-ionized water.

  • by wehe (135130) <wehe AT tuxmobil DOT org> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @02:36AM (#19529735) Homepage Journal
    Not every keyboard is ready to get cleaned in a dishwasher. In some cases you have to disassemble them and clean all the parts separately. Here are guides to take apart a computer keyboard and clean it [repair4keyboard.org] for keyboards made by almost any manufacturer.
  • Think first! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mikkelm (1000451) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:14AM (#19530451)
    Most keyboards have their leads printed on flexible plastic sheets that are screwed together with a metal backpane. If water gets inbetween these, it *will* lead to shorts and burnt leads, and your keyboard *will not* function.

    Ideally, what you want to do is take the front part of the keyboard off, remove the keyboard controller PCB (Usually just three screws and you can pull it and the cord off,) remove the plastic sheet and the metal plate, and then just scrub the thing down with whatever you're comfortable with. Dry it off traditionally with a hairdryer or similar device (being plastic, it doesn't take more than fifteen minutes,) and screw the sheets and the controller back into the keyboard.

    Voilá. Clean keyboard in twenty minutes tops.

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