As computers began to populate office spaces in 1968, designer Jack Kelley created a detachable molded tray to hold the keyset (a xylophone-like board), keyboard, and mouse that could be placed on a desk or attached to a chair. He noticed that the mouse did not track well on the hard plastic surface of the tray. So, he lined the right side with Naugahyde (faux leather) to create the first mousepad. A textured surface provided better traction and more precise cursor movement than a slick, hard desktop.
As different types of mouse technologies were introduced, the surfaces of mousepads were adapted. When the steel mouse ball was covered with silicone rubber, a fabric surface gave better tracking and accuracy. For an optical mouse, the mousepad featured special printed patterns to enhance computer movement. Some of today's mousepads incorporate a wireless charging system for a wireless mouse, eliminating the need to charge or replace batteries.
From that first swatch of Naugahyde, millions of mousepads have been created. Most are now around 12 square inches and manufactured from non-skid thin rubber or flexible vinyl with a fabric or plastic surface. Industrial designers, always looking to create a better mousepad, have created pads with a cushion to support the user's hand or wrist. Companies quickly saw marketing opportunities and offer promotional mousepads with their logos in every shape, size, and color combination.
Whatever type of mousepad you have, just like your other computer peripherals, it should be cleaned regularly. Dust, food crumbs, and body oils on the mousepad can cause the mouse to track improperly, among other issues.
How Often to Clean a Mousepad
Spills and visible debris should be cleaned away immediately with paper towels or by shaking the mousepad over a trash can. If you use the mousepad for hours each day, it should be wiped down at least weekly to remove dust and dirt. A more thorough cleaning should be done monthly to remove bacteria and body soil.
If you share a mousepad with others, it should be cleaned between users to remove bacteria transferred from hands.
Before cleaning any gaming or optical mousepad or a mousepad that contains a charging system, read the manufacturer's care recommendations.
Equipment / Tools
- Sink or plastic container
- Microfiber towel
- Dishwashing liquid
- All-purpose surface cleaner
- Disinfecting wipe
How to Clean a Fabric Mousepad
Prepare a Cleaning Station
Gather dishwashing liquid, a sponge, warm water, and a microfiber towel next to a sink or plastic container.
Clean With Dishwashing Liquid
Shake the mousepad over a trash can to remove any loose debris. Place the mousepad in the bottom of the sink or plastic container. Dampen a sponge and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Slowly move the sponge across the surface of the mousepad, gently scrubbing the surface with the soapy sponge. Don't scrub too harshly or printed designs could be damaged.
Turn Over the Pad and Repeat
Turn over the pad and repeat step 2 on the other side.
Fill the sink or container with warm water and rinse the soapy pad by swishing it through the water. Change the water at least twice to make sure all of the soap is removed. Do not wring or twist the mousepad.
Do not attempt to wash your mousepad in a washing machine. The agitation is too severe and can cause breaks in the surfaces. Also, do not try to clean a mousepad in the dishwasher, because the detergent ingredients are too harsh and can damage the pad's materials.
Remove Excess Moisture
Place a microfiber towel on a hard surface and lay the rinsed mousepad on the towel. Sandwich the mousepad between layers of the towel or another microfiber towel and press to squeeze out excess moisture. Repeat the process with another dry towel if the mousepad still feels drippy.
Place the mousepad flat in a breezy spot away from direct sunlight to air dry. Use a drying rack to elevate the mousepad to improve air circulation and speed drying.
How to Clean a Plastic Mousepad
Spritz and Wipe
Shake the mousepad over a trash can to remove any loose debris. Away from the computer keyboard, spritz the surface with an all-purpose surface cleaner. Wipe away grime with a sponge or microfiber towel. Some areas may need a second spritz if heavily soiled.
Clean the Reverse Side
Lightly spritz the backside of the mousepad and wipe with a microfiber cloth.
Dry the Mousepad Surfaces
Dry the surfaces of the pad with a clean microfiber cloth or allow them to air-dry thoroughly before using.