laptop cleaning:
4 steps to notebooks like new

Woman cleaning laptop computer exterior.

Ideally, laptop cleaning to remove bacteria and dust that can cause it to malfunction should be done weekly.

Laptops are a modern-day godsend. You can use them anywhere.

That is also the germy downside to notebooks - they have plenty of opportunities to pick up unsavory characters at every stop: sticky restaurant tables, icky kitchen counters, and unwashed bed linens.

And those questionable surfaces are usually only touching the laptop's outer case. But think about where your hands have been before touching the keyboard! 

Here are four steps to follow in cleaning things up.

1.  Power Off, Wipe Off

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

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

With the laptop closed, wipe down the exterior (not the screen yet - that's Step 3) 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 laptop case again. Allow to air dry completely before you turn it on and get back to business. Avoid getting any moisture in any openings while laptop cleaning. Do not spray liquid directly on your laptop.

Don't use aerosol sprays, solvents, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide that might damage the finish.

2.  Hit the Keyboard

Stop That Spill

If you spill liquid on your laptop, power down and unplug. Use a dry microfiber cloth to absorb and blot up the moisture. Then turn your keyboard facing down to drain the remaining liquid. Allow your laptop to dry completely before plugging it back in and restarting.

The keyboard is the germiest and dirtiest part of your computer. Chances 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 tackle keyboard cleaning, dust first by wiping it with a microfiber cloth. 

Then hold the keyboard upside down over a trash can and gently shake loose any crumbs. Using compressed air, spray the keyboard to remove any leftover crumbs or dust lurking under the keys.

Finally, go over the keys with a cotton swab to get inside the crevices and remove any dirt or gunk hiding there.

If your keyboard is particularly dirty, mix a 50-50 laptop cleaning solution of half isopropyl alcohol and half water. Swab each key using a light circular motion. (Spot test the solution first to ensure the alcohol doesn't remove any of the keyboard letterings.)

The alcohol should help cut through the oils left by your fingers will killing any bacteria. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly, so no drying is needed.

3. Clean and Polish the Computer Screen

Woman cleaning laptop screen.

It's time to give some of our laptop cleaning attention to the screen. 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 dust, dirt, and grime.

Important reminders 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 drips can get inside the display and cause damage.
  • Don't use any type of window cleaner, ammonia, vinegar, or isopropyl alcohol on the screen. It could cause irreversible damage.

4.  Checks Ports and vents 

Side view of laptop ports and vents.

Take a look at the ports and cooling vents on the machine to ensure each is free of dust and debris. If not, you can clear them with compressed air.

Spray compressed air from an angle, so any dust is blown away from an opening, not deeper into it.

The fan behind the cooling vents helps keep the laptop from overheating.

Spraying an excessive amount of compressed air into the blades can cause them to overspin and damage the fan.

Use a light touch here: give the fan a quick blast of air to remove dust and done. Check cleaning recommendations for Apple products for more information.

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