This is a story about the perils of homemade slime, over-intoxication, and one utterly defiled mechanical gaming keyboard. It is a story about what happens when these three things combine, and one that I am deeply conflicted about sharing.
Unless you live under a rock or you’re my boss Stephen Totilo, you’ve noticed that slime—yes, the oozy kids’ toy—is very much on trend. On YouTube, “slimefluencers” draw in million-person followings draping homemade slime over hot mics for the crinkliest, most ear-pleasing slime sounds. On Instagram, 14-year-olds with manicures delicately stretch and roll out artisanal slimes, which they sell in online stores for £15 a container. After reading an article about this in Wired last month, I decided that slime was my new thing and I would immediately get on making it.
I did not know the first thing about making slime, and especially the stunning specimens I’d seen on Instagram, but had decided to host a small slime-making party with some close girlfriends on Tuesday. In the days leading up to the event, I browsed a few YouTube tutorials, each offering a slightly differing recipe with slightly differing ingredient ratios and brands. On Amazon, I purchased glitter, beads, styrofoam, Borax powder and tiny storage containers; my two friends walked in the door with one gallon of clear glue. We compared notes and Googled slime-making tips.
Our slime menagerie. Photo: Bea Lund
Slime is science. It’s not just a science. It’s full-on high school chemistry levels of braining. This, combined with some questionable recipes and our becoming increasingly intoxicated—would you make slime sober?—resulted in a disappointing first slime. We poured a cup of clear glue into a bowl, mixed it with a cup of water and dripped in some hot water with dissolved Borax powder. All of us dug our hands in and massaged the clear, slippery mass. It fermented into a solid—more dried-on-the-beach jellyfish than Instagram slimefluencer wares. Nothing could soften it or make it pleasing to touch, so after some time, we abandoned the slime and started from scratch.
By the end of the night, we had dozens of little containers of beautiful, multi-coloured slime. Looking over at our failed first experiment, which we had left on a baking sheet to sag and proliferate, I wondered aloud what to do with it as we cleaned up our mess.
“Oh—just use it to clean your keyboard,” one friend suggested. “People do that.”
People do do that. For years now, YouTubers and bloggers have offered their own recipes for a puttyish slime that picks up keyboard detritus. It even gets in the cracks between keys. It was a great idea, especially because I am not particularly vigilant about cleaning my keyboards. I have also been known to snack near or over them, which my keyboard-obsessed colleague Mike Fahey finds unforgivable. About a year ago, I purchased a gorgeous, pink Filco mechanical keyboard with cherry red switches, and by Tuesday, it was looking a little gritty. It definitely could have used a cleaning.
Instead of strategically dabbing a small chunk of slime into the keys and gaps, as my friend suggested, I had a better idea: I would drape the entire slime over the entire keyboard and wait. Surely, then, the slime would really get in there, and peeling it all off at once would feel exquisite. So, I laid it on, not at all thinking three steps ahead of what I had just done.
The first thing the bad slime tried to do was download Firefox. I thought that was deeply uncool and immediately unplugged the keyboard from my computer. My friends then left, so I went into the bathroom to wash off my makeup and brush my teeth. When I returned, I realised, I had made a huge mistake.
The slime had seeped into the keyboard, filling the spaces between the keys with ooze. It had looked so solid and congealed just minutes ago, and now, it was practically dribbling deep into my pink Filco mechanical keyboard. I freaked out. So of course, I made another bad decision: going into the kitchen and getting a knife. It took ten minutes of meticulously removing the slime with a small blade before it dawned on me that, really, the best thing to have done was just turn the keyboard upside down and let the slime seep out on its own. Oops.
I am hesitant to talk about what happened next. I decided at the time of critical oozing that I would only tell Mike Fahey about this, because he is the person who would understand it the most, and also, the person it would most hurt. He and my editors believed that, maybe, this story would be instructive or, at the very least, entertaining. And so here we are.
In the morning, the slime had not evacuated my keyboard. Little pearls of it still hung between the keys. I left for work, and when I returned, the slime had completely dried into the kind of Elmer’s Glue texture you’d peel off your fingers in elementary school. The only option was to remove the keys. The keyboard was now naked, a pile of icky keys lying next to it. This is when I witnessed what was inside.
Kotaku reader, I will not describe what I saw at that moment. It was too terrible. But I will encourage you to be utterly vigilant about cleaning out your mechanical keyboard, or you will be forced to do what I did, which is spending an hour picking out keyboard detritus with a pair of tweezers. After that, I sterilized the base with some kitchen cleaner and polished it with a cotton Q-tip. I reassembled the thing. It worked fine.
Yet I am not the same person as I was yesterday. Today, the space bar hisses as I write this Kotaku Game Diary, reminding me of what I did.
The slime is in the kitchen. It’s sea blue, nuclear waste green, fairy pink, psychedelic purple and California poppy orange. This rainbow ooze menagerie no longer brings me joy. The keyboard, now, is as clean as it was the day it arrived. Even though it’s weathered and clearly upset at me, I’ve learned the valuable lesson, which is to never, ever fuck with your gaming peripherals when you’re messed up and making slime.