Your laptop picks up dust, dirt and fingerprints with everyday use – and this not only makes it less attractive to look at and work with, but also encourages bacteria to colonize your portable computer which can shorten its lifespan.
As with your bathroom or your car, it’s a good idea to clean your laptop regularly and it’s not difficult. You may already have everything you need for the job, and if not, you can get the necessary materials inexpensively.
As well as following this guide, we also recommend looking online for your laptop manufacturer’s instructions – there may be specific do’s and don’ts for the particular laptop you are using.
Before you begin, make sure you have everything saved and backed up. Then turn off your laptop and unplug it. This means you won’t accidentally erase the last three hours worked or cause complications with the PSU.
Cleaning the keyboard and case
It’s a good idea to put some paper towels on the table to begin with. Then slowly turn your laptop over and shake it slightly. Depending on your desk eating habits, you’ll probably find that you can remove quite a lot of dirt without much effort.
On some laptops, you can remove the keys to quickly clean the bottom. Before you do that though, make sure this is something you can safely do with your specific laptop (the documentation should tell you), and if so, test it with a single key first to make sure They know how to take off the keys and put them back in.
A microfiber cloth is the cleaning tool of choice, recommended in most manufacturer’s manuals — Apple even sells its own — so use one of these to wipe down your keyboard and surrounding case, as well as the back of your laptop lid.
Adding a little water or a safe cleaning product to the cloth (I’ll define safe in a moment) can help with stubborn dirt, but don’t spray directly onto the laptop, apply to the cloth. Pay attention to ventilation slots and openings. You don’t want moisture to get inside the laptop.
As Apple notes, avoid aerosol sprays, solvents, abrasives, and products that contain hydrogen peroxide. A 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution can be used sparingly, but in general stick with plain water or a detergent specifically designed for laptops. (The instructions should say a thing or two, but be safe.)
Cotton swabs and a can of compressed air can help remove debris, HP says, but don’t overdo it – remember that you’re dealing with fairly delicate electronics here, so be slow and careful when wiping and blowing.
If you have fans and larger vents on your laptop, you can use the same cotton swabs, cans of compressed air, and microfiber cloth as cleaning supplies—whichever is easiest given the size and shape of your fans and vents, and how accessible they are. When using compressed air, be sure to tilt the can so that dust is blown out of the laptop and not further into it.
If you suspect your laptop has a lot of dirt built up — from dust, pets, or other sources — depending on your laptop model and your confidence in disassembling the tech, you might even be able to open the back to clean the fan and your laptop vents carefully. This could give you better access to fans and vents and allow you to clean them more thoroughly. Be careful not to touch any other electronics or wiring inside the case.
You should only do this after consulting the documentation that came with the computer: many laptops are not designed to be opened in the same way as desktop PC cases. And as Sony explains, opening up your laptop can void any warranty you have on it.
Cleaning the laptop screen
Many of the same rules apply to cleaning your laptop screen. As recommended by Dell and others, you will again need a clean and soft microfiber cloth, perhaps with a little water to dampen the cloth if necessary.
Using the wrong product on it can cause noticeable damage to your screen: clearly avoid window cleaners and commercial household cleaners here, if you need a little more oomph with dirt removal you can also use the aforementioned 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
If you find that a cleaning solution is needed to get rid of the dirt on your laptop’s screen, buy a solution that’s specifically designed (and if possible, well-tested) for the purpose. It should be free of ammonia, acetone, phosphates and high alcohol content.
As before, water or cleaning products should be applied to the cloth itself and not directly to the screen. As Apple mentions, spraying directly onto the screen can cause drips and damage the display.
Apply water or detergent to the cloth itself, not directly to the screen
From a technical point of view, slow and circular movements are best to avoid streaking the screen. With the laptop powered off, you should be able to see where the worst spots are in terms of dirt and dust. It is worth not rushing the work and work methodically on the screen.
If you use water or safe detergent, you may need another cloth to dry. It is sufficient to gently dab the screen to dry it. This is to help you gauge your progress along the way.
If you follow these steps, you should have a clean laptop again. As a cleaning routine, cleaning every few months should be sufficient. However, if dirt accumulates on your laptop particularly quickly, you should also clean it more regularly.
Photos by David Nield for The Verge.