How To Clean A Computer

Woman cleaning computer screen with cloth.

We do everything at our computers. We eat, we drink, we file our fingernails. 

Occasionally, we will dust the monitor.

And sometimes, if we're very, very good, we will wipe off the keyboard keys.

If you're thinking, "What's the big deal about computer cleaning?

Just spray it with a window product, right?" Wrong, laptop killer. Never spray anything directly onto a computer screen.

Some spray will get through vents onto the circuit boards. And circuit boards are very fussy about being dropped in on by any liquid, especially strong solutions. 

Here's how to clean a computer safely.

How to Clean Computer Screens

To clean your computer screen, always start by powering off your device. Not only is it easier to see dirt and smudges when the screen is off, but it is safer, too.

Scratches, finger grease, dust, chemicals, and ultraviolet (UV) light can affect your screen's performance and clarity. The surface is coated to make it easier to clean, so you won't need to rub hard to remove fingerprints or oily spots.

To clean LCD screens, use a product tailor-made for the job, sprayed lightly onto a microfiber cloth. For touchscreens, use water or an eyeglass cleaner also applied to a cloth. Wipe the screen with the dampened cloth from top to bottom to remove dirt, dust, and grime.

When cleaning any electronic screen:

  • Don't use a paper towel to wipe the screen. These and other abrasive materials can cause scratches and leave lint on the screen's surface.
  • Never spray anything directly on the screen itself. Liquid can get inside the display and cause damage. 
  • Don't use any type of window cleaner, ammonia, or isopropyl alcohol on the screen. It could cause irreversible damage.

Keyboard Cleaning 

The keyboard is the germiest and dirtiest part of your computer. Chance are, if you regularly eat over your keyboard, it has picked up some crumbs along the way. Laptop snackers should make cleaning a priority.

Skipping cleaning can lead to frequent illnesses from thriving surface bacteria and diminish your computer's performance. To clean things up, disconnect your keyboard and give it a few good shakes over a trash can to get rid of loose crumbs (and any kitty litter).

Grab a can of compressed air and blow away dust hiding in crevices and between the keys. For or grime on the keys or board frame, wipe with a cloth lightly moistened with a 50/50 solution of isopropyl alcohol and water.

Dip a cotton swab in the alcohol solution and clean between each key. (Spot test the solution first to ensure the alcohol doesn't remove any of the keyboard letterings.) Wipe clean with a dry cloth.

A Clean Computer Mouse

Closeup of computer mouse and computer.

As you roll a mouse along your desktop, you're also rolling grease, dirt, and gunk into its innards. If not every week, about once a month, you need to clean it to keep it rolling along.

Most of us use our computers every day, so we're constantly handling that mouse, which means that its surface is a breeding ground for all sorts of germs.

To clean, first power off the mouse, and remove any batteries. If it is wired, unplug it from your computer. For an optical mouse, gently wipe the lens with a cotton swab dampened with the alcohol solution used earlier. Clean the rubber feet on the bottom to keep your mouse gliding along the same way. 

For a mouse with a rolling ball, open the back and remove the ball. Clean the ball with a microfiber cloth dampened in the isopropyl alcohol solution.

Gently clean the interior with a cotton swab lightly moistened with the same solution. Allow all the components to air-dry, then reassemble. If necessary, use a few shots of compressed air to remove stubborn lint from inside the mouse. 

Mouse pad: Don't forget to clean the mouse pad, too. What's the point of cleaning the mouse if it's still picking up debris from a dirty pad? Gently clean the pad, using a cloth dampened with an antibacterial spray cleaner. Let it dry thoroughly before setting the mouse back down on the pad. 

Cleaning the Computer Exterior

Before cleaning, always turn off the computer and unplug it to ensure it is fully powered off. Electrical currents and liquids don't play well together.

For an exterior cleaning solution, mix a couple of drops of liquid dish soap into 2 cups of warm water. Dip a microfiber cloth or other soft lint-free cloth in the soapy mix, then wring until it is just damp, not dripping. 

Wipe down the exterior with the cloth. If the case's bottom is grimy, you might need to use a melamine sponge (such as Mr. Clean Magic Eraser) to scour away surface dirt.

Rinse the cloth and wring until just damp, then wipe the case again. Allow to air-dry completely before you turn it on and get back to business.

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