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Weekend Project: Clean Every Inch of Your Workstation

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Inspired by Simon Mackie spring-cleaning his laptop, I’ve decided to devote this weekend to cleaning both my desktop and my laptop. I’m not talking about wiping my desk and calling it a day — I’m referring to serious dust-busting and de-cluttering. In this post, I’m going to discuss the essential parts of your workstation and how to clean them.

Despite anything you read below, remember that the manual is your best friend. Refer to each item’s manual before you start cleaning.

The Monitor

Our friends over at The Apple Blog mentioned that the best way to clean your monitor is with an ultra-suede microfiber lens cloth. These are available at most office supply stores at an affordable price. Don’t use cleaning cloths with sewn edges, as these could scratch your monitor – the last thing you would want to do when you’re spring cleaning.

You should also be aware of how to clean different types of screens. For cleaning a CRT monitor, anti-static cloth with some cleaning fluid will do the trick. LCD monitors have almost the same process, except you should use an alcohol solution instead of cleaning fluid to wipe down the screen.


When I moved my workstation from my bedroom to a home office, I saw how dirty cables can be if you never clean them. What used to be a beige cable became dark brown.

To get rid of the stickiness and discoloration, I just dampened a cloth with isopropyl alcohol and rubbed the cables with it (after unplugging everything, of course). Just make sure that the cloth is just moist and not soaking, as you don’t want alcohol accidentally dripping all over your computer.

Apart from the cleanliness of the cables themselves, you also have to organize them so they won’t get in the way of anything. Some time ago, Lifehacker posted a practical tutorial on how to tuck away computer cables behind your work desk. It’s worth a look if you want to avoid the “cord confusion” look.

The Keyboard and Mouse

Apart from the people living in my house, there are also three cats that roam freely in my office. During hot summer days when my cats are shedding, my keyboard looks like a cat hair magnet. I find that those USB vacuum cleaners work with cat hair, but they don’t seem to work well, if at all, with smaller debris.

Once you’re rid of all the visible dirt, it’s time to deal with the invisible filth from your keyboard. Did you know that it could be as dirty as a toilet seat? Here’s a scary excerpt from a news item in The Guardian last year:

“The research showed that the chief culprit for contamination was people eating at their desks and dropping crumbs which lodge between keys and encourage the growth of millions of bacteria. […] Other causes included poor personal hygiene, particularly people failing to wash their hands after using the toilet.”

I’m assuming that the mouse is also prone to such contaminants. To remedy this, unplug your computer, then spray a disinfectant such as isopropyl alcohol or chlorine-based cleaners onto a cloth. Then, wipe the keys and your mouse. Mike Gunderloy also recommended a few keyboard-cleaning products in a previous post.

The CPU Tower

If you’re working on a desktop computer, you probably know how easily dust accumulates both on the outside and the inside. When I tried to add more RAM a few months ago, I saw that the motherboard and the other things inside my CPU tower were covered with a layer of grey dust.

So what, right? No one’s going to see it. But cleaning inside the tower isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. Having so much dust inside can make your computer prone to overheating and other glitches.

Cleaning inside your CPU tower requires some extra care, since there’s a danger of being electrocuted or accidentally discharging static energy onto your unit. Here are some handy tutorials you can refer to:

The Desk

While your computer desk isn’t technically a part of your computer, it’s a part of your workstation that can make or break your productivity. Make sure that the clutter doesn’t block your workflow, which easily happens when you have too many gadgets. Note that your desk doesn’t have to appear neat – it just has to be organized enough that you know where to find anything in two seconds.

It might only take an hour or two of intensive cleaning to transform your workstation from dull and dirty to completely inspirational. And, once you’re done with this, you might want to do some virtual cleaning as well.

How clean and organized is your workstation? Do you have any computer cleaning tips to share?

Image by Bassi Baba from Flickr

6 Responses to “Weekend Project: Clean Every Inch of Your Workstation”

  1. Andy Harris

    Take a sticky note and run it, sticky-side down, between your keys, being sure to lower the paper as much as you can between the keys, while sliding the paper around between the keys. I ran a can of air all over my keyboard and did this after wards, surprised with what I found… Be afraid.

  2. I’m pretty mobile with my workstation. It only consists of my laptop and my phone – as long as I can access my webtop I can get everything done! Even at home I don’t have a designated place to work (I’m working on my couch as I write this). But we do have a desktop that I’m sure could use a very good cleaning. Thanks for the tips and the incentive to get it done!

  3. Conrad Buck

    One of the main reasons I was so glad to switch my black HP laptop for a silver macbook pro (previous model). Any black laptop is a nightmare to keep clean from dust etc. Not being overly obsessive but I did find myself with one of the canned air blowers every 10 minutes when working on the HP. Having an all silver macbook has made my life so much easier.