Get Your Laptop Really Clean In 6 Simple Steps

There are times I worry about taking my laptop out in public: it’s just not as clean as the day I got it. It’s gotten a little beat up over the years and could probably do with a little careful cleaning before it’s next trip to the coffee shop. Cleaning a laptop does take a little extra care — no one wants to get delicate electronics wet — but if you’ve got a little time to devote to the project, you can have a clean machine.

  1. Check your user manual. Some laptop models have special considerations to pay heed to when cleaning the computer. The user manual will typically provide suggestions for cleaning and it’s generally best to stick with the instructions written with your laptop in mind.
  2. Shine screens. To get your screen clean without endangering your computer, the best option is to start with a microfiber towel. Soft and lint-free towels will work, but microfiber offers the best results. Dampen it and wring out any excess water. Gently wipe the cloth across the screen. You’ll want to follow the damp cloth with a dry cloth, to remove any moisture as well as any leftover dirt. You can also purchase pre-moistened wipes meant specifically for cleaning off computer screens.
  3. Wipe down keyboards. Keyboards are notorious havens for germs, so it’s important to bring in something capable of dealing with the nasties. If you mix one part isopropyl alcohol with one part water, you’ll get an ideal disinfectant. Dampen a cloth and wring out as much water as possible before you run it over the keys — it’s best to have your laptop off for this particular procedure. Avoid the screen, but be sure to wipe down the trackpad while you’re at it. If you use an external mouse, wipe that down as well.
  4. Get rid of dust. For most keyboards, a damp cloth won’t get all the dust. A can of compressed air will help. You’ll want to tilt your laptop sideways — blowing dust downwards won’t get it out — and then blow air into the cracks. In most cases, you’ll have a clean keyboard at this point. If not, you can disassemble the keyboard, but keep in mind that many keyboards aren’t meant to be taken apart. You’ll want specific instructions for your model of keyboard in the event you need to give it a try.
  5. Clean out vents. The fans and vents on each laptop can be problem areas, especially if anything is in them. Just blowing compressed air through the vents often isn’t enough to get them clean. Instead, disassembly is in order. The exact procedure differs from laptop to laptop, but you’ll probably have to remove the keyboard. Then clean out the accumulated dust and reassemble.
  6. Deal with discolorations. Certain laptops, such as the white MacBooks, can get a nasty residue on places where your hands normally rest. Depending on the laptop, a little acetone (nail polish remover) can wipe away the mess. Start with just a dab to be on the safe side.

Once the outside of your laptop is clean, you may want the contents of your harddrive to match. Here are a few tips to straighten up your files and software.

Share your laptop cleaning tips below.

Image by Flickr user radialmonster