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Spring Cleaning: How to clean your laptop
April 17, 2018
Phil Johnson
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Using a can of compressed air to clean a laptop keyboard
Image: Phil Johnson

Be sure to sure read our earlier Spring Cleaning article: Make your computer safer in two easy steps.

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!

Follow these simple steps and your laptop will look (just about) as good as new.

What you will need

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

  • A solution of equal parts isopropyl alcohol, and distilled, purified, or bottled water
  • A soft, lint-free cloth
  • A can of compressed air
  • Cotton swabs

Prepare your laptop

Before cleaning your laptop, turn it off and unplug it. Then mix the solution of isopropyl alcohol and water and dampen your cloth with it. Never, ever spray or pour the solution directly into your machine.

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

For very dirty keyboards – if it is safe to do so for your model of computer (check your manual!) – you can remove the keys, dip a cotton swab into your cleaning solution, and wipe underneath the keys.

Using a plastic tool to pry a key off of a laptop keyboard

Use your damp cloth to wipe the keys and the touchpad. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in cleaning solution to clean your keys.

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!

For future reference, here’s a handout you can print and keep handy.

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