How to Clean a Laptop

A person typing on a laptop.

Just like everything else you’ve ever laid your corrupt little fingers on, your once innocent and pristine little laptop has become soiled, dirty, and tainted simply by being a part of your life. Don’t try to deny the relationship. We’ve seen the two of you together. That’s right, we’ve seen you all over town. We’ve seen you run your sand-ridden fingers over your laptop at the beach. We’ve seen you splattering it with your latte after setting your cup down too hard at the coffee shop. We’ve even seen you “inadvertently” dripping taco sauce onto it at Taco Mountain. You, my friend, should be ashamed.

On the other hand, it is kinda nice to be able to treat something so valuable with such utter disrespect and have it continue to work. It’s actually kind of amazing the amount of abuse a laptop can withstand. What’s even more amazing is how much built-up crud and nastiness we’re willing to put up with before we break down and take on the chore of cleaning a laptop computer. Laptops are playgrounds for things like food crumbs, pet hair, dander, dust, cigarette ashes, and anything else you can drop, spill, or crumble. And this, of course, is why you’re here. You want to learn how to clean your laptop. So lets do it. Power off and unplug the grimy little thing, and lets begin cleaning a laptop.

Steps to Clean a Laptop

  1. canned air spraying laptopClean a laptop keyboard. Since the keyboard is usually the nastiest part of your laptop, I suggest starting there. The first thing you should do is hit it with a can of compressed air. Hold it several inches away from the keyboard and shoot it at about a 45-degree angle to the keyboard. Next, look very carefully at the spaces between the keys and use a fine tweezer to grab out any stray pet hairs and fuzzies. Another good idea for dislodging dust is to tip the laptop on its side and brush between the keys with a tiny little paintbrush. Finally, put some rubbing alcohol in a little spray bottle, squirt some on an old cotton t-shirt, and wipe down the surface of the keys and the surrounding frame.
  2. tweezers cleaning laptop ventClean laptop ports and vents. Cleaning laptop ports and vents is perhaps the most important thing you can do when cleaning laptop computers. The first thing you should do is spray a little more alcohol on your old t-shirt and gently wipe down the outsides of the vents and ports. After that, inspect the ports and vents carefully and use a tweezer to remove any large leftovers that you see. Once you’re done tweezing, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol (squeeze it out so it’s not sopping wet) and roll it around the edges of the ports and vents to remove the more stubborn grime. Finally, for good measure, shoot them from several inches back with the compressed air.
  3. wiping down laptop screenClean a laptop screen. For the computer monitor, make a homemade laptop screen cleaner of 50/50 white vinegar and distilled water and fill another little spray bottle with it. If you don’t have another little spray bottle, go the beauty section of any big box store (Target, Walgreen’s, K-Mart, etc.) and get a couple to keep around for this purpose. I promise you’ll use them again. Next, hit the screen with your compressed air, grab your old cotton T, spray it with your cleaner, and wipe down the laptop screen. Use a cotton swab dipped in the laptop monitor cleaner to get around the edges.
  4. wiping down touchpadClean a laptop touchpad. Surpassed only by the laptop keyboard, the touch pad is usually the second most disgusting part of a laptop. In fact, I strongly urge you not to look too closely at it. That is, unless, you want to do that science experiment where you wipe something with a cotton swab, wipe the cotton swab on a petri dish, and see what grows. If you don’t care much for science, just spray your old cotton t-shirt with some more of your alcohol and wipe it down really well. Get the edges and corners with a cotton swab dampened with the same.
  5. cleaning outside surfaceClean a laptop computer case. I know it’s trite, but one of the things we like about laptop computers is that they look cool. They’re kinda like cars that way. It doesn’t matter nearly as much what’s under the hood if the body looks like shite. Much like all of the computer cleaning you’ve done prior to this step, this is pretty easy. Take your old t-shirt for one final spin with either your rubbing alcohol or your vinegar solution, it doesn’t really matter which. Just spray the shirt a little and rub the case down. That’s it. You are now the proud owner of a clean laptop computer.
  6. a clean laptopDry your clean laptop. You’ll be as happy to hear as I am to report that this is a pretty passive endeavor. All you have to do is find a safe place somewhere in your home, open the laptop computer up, and let it sit open like that for at least twenty four hours. If you were careful when cleaning and didn’t overdo the laptop cleaning solution this should be more than enough time. If you think you may have used a little too much, let it sit longer without turning it on. Use your judgment.

Computer Cleaning Services

There are several scenarios where do-it-yourself laptop cleaning simply is not advisable. The first of which is if you, for whatever reason, don’t feel up to the task. Maybe you don’t have the time, maybe you don’t think you could do a good enough job, or maybe you are just intimidated by the prospect of cleaning your laptop and don’t want to risk hurting it. It’s understandable. Those things are expensive. Another scenario might be that you spilled an entire slushy on your laptop and cleaning the thing is gonna require more experience than what you have. Another, very likely, scenario is that the computer is continuously overheating and rebooting itself. In cases like this, laptop computer cleaning is often accomplished by taking the whole thing apart. Not only is this dangerous (for your computer) if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will most likely void any warranty the machine might have. Whatever your reasoning, it’s never a bad idea to find a professional to clean your laptop for you. Don’t worry, they’re easy to find. Just look in your phone book under “computer services” or do a Google search for the same. If doing the Google search, be sure to include your city and state in the search.

Laptop Cleaning Solutions

blue microfiber clothMicrofiber cleaning cloths.One of the best ways to get a clean laptop is through the use of a microfiber cleaning cloth. Not only are they extremely absorbent, but due to the ridiculous number of fibers that make up the cloth, they are extremely good at removing dirt and grime. Microfiber cloths are cheap and readily available from online vendors, electronics stores, and even optometrists. You can get a 12 pack of Zwipes Microfiber Cloths for about $10 at Amazon.

USB Vacuum CleanerUSB vacuum cleaners. I know it sounds ludicrous, but these little things are essential for a clean laptop. Simply plug one into an open USB port, keep it plugged in, and use it whenever you need. Not only can you clean the keyboard with it, you can also suck up all those cookie crumbs and grains of salt that have been building up on your desk instead of brushing them onto the floor.

Keyboard ProtectorSilicon keyboard protector. No explanation required here. It’s like a little condom for your laptop. If you can’t find one made specifically for your laptop, there are numerous brands of universal laptop keyboard protectors available. Most of them are pretty cheap too: fifteen bucks or less. They’re nice little tools for helping you lessen the frequency of laptop cleaning sessions.