One of the best things about laptops is that they can be used anywhere. One of the worst things about laptops is that they end up on sticky restaurant tables, germ-laden kitchen counters, and infrequently washed bed linens. And those questionable surfaces are only touching the outer case. Think about where your hands have been!
Needless to say, laptops should be cleaned regularly to keep them germ-free and working at their best (more about those muffin crumbs in the keyboard later).
First Things First
Before you do any cleaning, turn off your laptop and, if needed, unplug it. Electrical current and liquids don't mix well.
Only a few supplies are needed for a good cleaning:
If you are really meticulous, you can add a small vacuum, compressed air, tiny brush, a melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Magic Eraser), and LCD monitor-cleaning towelettes to your cleaning supplies.
How to Clean the Outer Case of a Laptop
Now that your laptop is turned off and unplugged, mix a solution of one part dishwashing liquid to five parts lukewarm water. Dip one of the microfiber cloths in the solution and wring well until it is just damp, not dripping!
With the laptop closed, wipe down the outside with the damp cloth. If the bottom of the case has heavy grime, you may need to use the melamine sponge to gently scour away the dirt. Finish by rinsing the cloth in plain water, again wringing until just damp, and wiping the entire case one last time. Allow to air dry completely before using.
Don't Forget the Ports and Cooling Vents
Take a look at the ports and vents to make sure they are free of dust and debris. You can clear them by using compressed air. Just be sure to spray from an angle so that the dust is blown away from the opening, not deeper into it.
The fan behind the cooling vents is essential to keep the laptop from overheating. But spraying an excessive amount of compressed air into the blades can cause them to over-spin and damage the fan. Use a toothpick or cotton swab to hold the blades in place as you give the fan a quick blast of air to remove dust.
Clean the Screen
Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to wipe away dust on the LCD monitor. If there are smudges or other matter on the screen, dip a clean microfiber cloth in plain water and wring until it is only slightly damp. Wipe the screen carefully from top to bottom to remove grime.
Here are two important "don'ts" when cleaning a monitor screen:
- Don't use a paper towel or any abrasive cloth to wipe the screen. They can cause scratches and leave lint.
- Don't spray any type of window cleaner, ammonia, vinegar, or rubbing alcohol on the screen. Damage will be done.
Tackle the Keyboard and Touchpad Grime
The keyboard is usually the most germy, crumby, and dirty part of the laptop. Skipping regular cleaning can lead to frequent illness from bacteria and even diminish laptop performance.
Start the cleaning process by using a small brush, a dry toothbrush works great, to loosen any debris between the keys. You can then wipe the debris away with a barely dampened microfiber cloth. You can blow away debris with compressed air. But unless you are very careful and blast at a 75-degree angle, you may just blow the debris deeper into the keys.
Finally, grab some cotton swabs and isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. Dip the swab in the alcohol and give each key and the touchpad a good cleaning. The alcohol will cut through the oils left by your fingers and also disinfect the area by killing any bacteria. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly and will not harm the electronics.
Most laptops will allow you to remove individual keys that may need some extra cleaning. Use the cotton swab and alcohol to wipe the entire key and even the area beneath it. Allow the key and area to air dry for a minute and then replace.
Here's a tip if you spill liquids on your laptop, shut it down immediately and use a dry microfiber cloth to absorb the moisture. Set the laptop so that the keyboard is facing downward to drain any remaining liquid. Allow the laptop to dry completely before completing any additional clean-up that is needed and before restarting.
Don't Forget the Peripherals
If you use an external mouse, keyboard, trackpad or earbuds, they need to be cleaned too. Use the lint-free microfiber cloth and a bit of rubbing alcohol to give everything a good cleaning.
And what about the bag or backpack you use to carry that laptop around? When was the last time you cleaned it? Getting rid of dirt, dust, and debris in your bag will help keep your newly-cleaned laptop working its best.