Spring Cleaning: How to clean your laptop
April 30, 2019
Phil Johnson
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Close up picture of a hand holding a Q-tip and wiping in-between the keys of a laptop keyboard.
Image: Phil Johnson

Unless your laptop is brand new, odds are it could use a good cleaning. Over time, the screen, keyboard, and case typically get covered in fingerprints, food, and funk. If it’s been a while since you’ve spruced up your laptop, there’s no better time than the present!

Your laptop manufacturer may provide instructions for how to properly clean your computer. For example, here are instructions for cleaning Apple devices and here is how Dell recommends cleaning its computers.

Here are general suggestions for how to clean your laptop.

What you will need

To clean your laptop, you’ll need a few basic items:

  • A lint-free or 100% soft cotton cloth
  • Water
  • A can of compressed air
  • Cotton swabs (optional)

Prepare your laptop

Before cleaning your laptop, shut it down and unplug it. Then lightly dampen your cloth with water. Never, ever spray or pour liquid directly onto your machine or let it get into any openings.

Clean your laptop exterior

Use the damp cloth to clean both the exterior of your laptop when it is closed and the area around your keyboard and screen when it is open.

Wiping the laptop case with a cloth

Clean your laptop screen

Clean your laptop screen by using the same dampened cloth (or a fresh one if the first is too dirty) to rub gently in circular motions from left to right, top to bottom of your screen.

Wiping a laptop screen with a cloth

Clean the ports and cooling vents

Spray the can of compressed air at an angle (keep the can upright!) into the ports and cooling vents of your laptop. Be careful not to spray too hard, since this could shoot liquid into your device.

Using a can of compressed air to clean out a USB port on a laptop

Clean the keyboard and touchpad

The can of compressed air can also be used to clean your keyboard. The compressed air will loosen and remove any debris that is stuck in between and underneath your keys.

Using a can of compressed air to clean a laptop keyboard

Use your damp cloth to wipe the keys and the touchpad. You can also use a cotton swab lightly dampened with water to clean your keys. Be sure not to let any liquid seep into your keyboard.

Using a Q-tip to clean between the keys of a laptop keyboard

Dry time

Make sure your computer is completely dry before turning it back on. Voila! Enjoy your squeaky clean laptop!

If you have questions about cleaning your laptop or need help, contact the IS&T Service Desk.