All computers get dirty over time. However, laptops tend to need cleaning more often because of how they are handled. Particularly if you frequently travel with your laptop, you probably want to clean it at least once a month. A buildup of dirt and grime, particularly on the screen and the keys, can impair your laptop’s functioning. Always make sure you shut down your laptop and disconnect it from any power source before you start cleaning it. If possible, you should also remove the battery.
EditWiping the Screen
- Clear surface dust with a microfiber cloth. Fold the cloth and rub it gently across the full width of your screen, back and forth. You may want to brace the screen with your other hand so it doesn’t move while you’re cleaning it.
- Don’t press hard into the screen or try to scratch off stubborn spots – you could damage your screen. Use only the lightest pressure to wipe off surface dust.
- Use a damp sponge for dirt and grime. Wet a clean sponge, then squeeze it out until it is almost dry. Use purified or distilled water rather than tap water, which can leave mineral streaks on your screen. Wipe your screen gently, using light pressure – do not scrub.
- You can also use a pre-moistened cleaning wipe. Just make sure it doesn’t contain harsh cleansing agents such as ammonia or bleach, which may damage your screen.
- Water can drip into your laptop and damage internal components, so make extra sure you’ve squeezed all excess liquid out.
- For particularly stubborn spots, add just a drop of gentle dish soap to the water. If you have a touchscreen, consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website to determine what cleaning agents are safe for the finish.
- Invest in a screen-cleaning kit for dirtier screens. You can buy screen-cleaning kits online or at any store that sells electronics. These kits include a cleaner specially designed for laptop screens and usually come with their own microfiber cloth. If you have a touchscreen, check to make sure the kit is listed as safe for touchscreens.
- Do not use regular glass cleaners, particularly those that contain ammonia, on any laptop screen. They can damage the screen.
- Polish in a circular motion to remove streaks. After you’re done cleaning, take your microfiber cloth and gently rub your screen in a circular motion. This will eliminate any streaks or particles the sponge left behind.
- Start at a top corner and proceed in tight circles across the top of your screen, then back and forth until you get to the bottom.
EditCleaning the Keyboard
- Shake the loose dust out of your keyboard. Get a good grip on the sides of your laptop and turn it upside down with the screen open. Shake the machine gently to dislodge crumbs and larger particles. You may also want to tilt it to one side, then another, to free debris stuck under keys.
- If you haven’t cleaned your laptop in a while, or if you regularly eat while using your laptop, shake it over a trashcan to avoid making more of a mess.
- If you’ve already cleaned your screen, you may want to give it another wipe-down with your microfiber cloth after you do this. Dust from the keyboard may end up on the screen.
- Vacuum loose dust and hair from the keyboard. If you have a small handheld vacuum, use the smallest attachment to vacuum the debris from your keyboard without harming your laptop. Move the attachment slowly across the keyboard, going over each row from the top of the keyboard to the bottom.
- You can also use a can of compressed air. However, if you do, tilt your keyboard at an angle so that you’re forcing the dust out of your keyboard. If you blow the compressed air directly into the keyboard, you’ll just blow the dust and debris further inside. This is especially true for MacBook keyboards, which are open to the inside of the machine.
- Use a pencil eraser to remove grime from the keycaps. If you look at the keys from an angle, you will be able to see where grime has built up on the keycaps from your fingers. Take your pencil eraser and gently rub to get rid of this build-up.
- After you use the pencil eraser, you may want to run the vacuum over the keys again, just to get rid of the stubble the eraser left behind.
- Get between keys with a cotton swab. You may find that grime has built up between the keys as well. A cotton swab is small enough to clean these areas. If your keyboard is particularly grimy, dip the cotton swab in rubbing alcohol.
- Take care not to get the cotton swab too wet. Don’t press down too hard when you clean – you don’t want the alcohol dripping underneath the keys into your machine.
- A cotton swab dipped in alcohol also works for cleaning the tops of the keys, particularly if you have sticky grime that the eraser couldn’t get.
- Wipe down the keys with a slightly damp cloth. Use a microfiber cloth dampened with distilled water, or with a disinfecting mixture of equal parts water and rubbing alcohol. Thoroughly squeeze out all excess liquid before using the cloth on your keyboard. Rub lightly over the tops of the keys – do not press them in.
- After you’ve used a slightly damp cloth, wipe the keys again with a completely dry cloth to remove all moisture.
- Remove keys only if you know how to put them back on. Taking off the keycaps may be the only way to remove all grime captured beneath the keys. This is likely true if you’ve never cleaned your laptop, or if you frequently eat while using your laptop. However, keycaps can be tricky to remove and replace, depending on the design of your machine.
- You may want to take a picture of your keyboard before you take the keys off, just so you have a reference for where to put them back on. Once all the keys are off, you may forget the order, especially for function keys.
EditShining the Case
- Mix a gentle cleansing solution. Use purified or distilled water and a few drops of gentle dish soap. You can also use a mix of equal parts rubbing alcohol and purified or distilled water. Do not use regular household cleaners for your case, or any harsh chemicals such as bleach or ammonia.
- If you use rubbing alcohol, take care not to get any on your laptop’s screen. It can damage the anti-glare and scratch-resistant coatings on the screen.
- Dip a sponge into your cleansing solution. Take a clean sponge and soak it in the cleansing solution, then wring it out until it is nearly completely dry. Make sure it no longer drips, even when you squeeze it. Rub the sponge gently over the outside surface of your laptop.
- You can use the same sponge and cleansing solution to clean your laptop’s touchpad.
- Don’t clean inside ports or vents with the sponge – you risk getting moisture inside your laptop and damaging its components.
- Use cotton swabs to clean the gunk out of crevices. If your laptop case has seams and crevices, they may collect dirt and grime. A cotton swab dipped in your cleansing solution can get into these small areas.
- As with the sponge, make sure the cotton swab is not too wet. Use light pressure to avoid squeezing moisture into the machine.
- Dig out grime with a toothpick if necessary. If narrow crevices, ports, or vents are clogged up with dirt, use a toothpick to gently scrape the case and pull the grime out. Move the toothpick in an outward sweeping motion to avoid shoving grime further up into your machine.
- Be gentle with the toothpick to avoid scratching the surface of your case. Hold it at an angle, like you would hold a pencil, rather than bearing down with the point.
- Blow debris from ports with compressed air. Angle a can of compressed air so that it is blowing into and out of the port or vent you want to clear. Turn your laptop and blow from multiple angles to make sure you’ve cleaned thoroughly.
- Never blow the compressed air directly into the port or vent. This will loosen the debris and send it deep inside your machine, where it could damage components.
- Use rubbing alcohol for sticky residue. If you have particularly sticky or grimy spots on your case that can’t be removed with gentle cleaning, use a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol directly on the spot. Make sure the cotton ball isn’t too wet – you don’t want rubbing alcohol running into your machine.
- Use moderate pressure, rubbing repeatedly until the spot is gone.
- If you previously had stickers on your laptop case, you may have more luck with an oil-based cleansing product, such as Goo Gone.
- Polish the surface with a microfiber cloth. Once your case is clean, take your microfiber cloth and wipe the entire case, using a circular motion. This will remove any moisture as well as any streaks your cleaning may have left on the finish of your case.
- Once your laptop case is clean, you may notice spots of grime that you didn’t see before. Use a cotton swab or cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to finish these last spots.
- Use a hand sanitizer before touching your laptop to decrease the dirt and grime on the keyboard.
- Never spray cleaners directly onto any part of your computer. Spray a cloth or sponge first, then use that to gently clean your computer.
- Moisture and electronics do not mix. After cleaning your laptop, make sure every part of it is completely dry before plugging it into a power source or turning it on.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Handheld vacuum
- Compressed air (optional)
- Microfiber cloth
- Clean sponge
- Cotton swabs/cotton balls
- Pencil eraser
- Dish soap
- Rubbing alcohol
- Purified water
- Clean a Mouse Ball
- Maintain Your Computer
- Save a Laptop from Liquid Damage
- Easily Fix a Keyboard on Windows Vista
EditSources and Citations
Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: