Like any computer, laptops are dust and dirt magnets. But a dirty laptop isn̵
Cleaning a laptop is arguably more annoying than cleaning a desktop. You have to clean the keyboard, the interior, the screen and the case yourself. Still, you can easily give your laptop a makeover in less than an hour, provided you have canned air, about 90% -100% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs, and a microfiber cloth.
Start on the inside
Most of the dirt and grime you see on your laptop is purely cosmetic. While everyone wants their laptop to be beautiful on the outside, it really is the inside that counts. But the dust, crust, and crumbs that build up in your laptop can clog fans, vents, and heat sinks, resulting in overheating and poor performance.
We’ll start with cleaning the inside of your laptop. This will be easier on some laptops than others, but it’s usually the same process across the board. Take your laptop somewhere dust-friendly (a garage or outside), prepare your compressed air or eco-friendly canless air (don’t use a vacuum cleaner) and get to work!
- When your laptop opens: Turn it off, remove the battery (if possible), then unscrew the back panel. This may void your warranty, but that’s the price you pay for beauty. Use short bursts of compressed air to push dust from the center of your laptop to the vents. Then push all that dust out of the vents with tenderly eruptions (if the fans spin too fast, they can break). That is it! You’re done. Screw your laptop back together.
- If your laptop won’t open: Most modern laptops cannot be opened, making cleaning less of a science and more of a guessing game. Shut down your laptop and push some quick bursts of compressed air into the vents. Be patient and do not push the compressed air stick into the air vents. You could hit a wire or push canned air condensation right against the board.
It’s rare to find anything but dust, hair, and crumbs in your laptop. If you do see some stains on or around the board, clean them with 90% -100% isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab. Make sure to apply the alcohol on the cotton swabnot the board, and never use household cleaners on your laptop (or other electronics).
RELATED: How to Remove the Dust from Your Laptop
Hit that annoying keyboard
Once your laptop is beautiful inside, it’s time for a Princess Diaries makeover. We’ll start with the keyboard, as it’s likely covered in years of tiny smudges and finger grease.
Cleaning a laptop keyboard is a strange process. Unlike a desktop keyboard, which can usually be taken apart, laptop keyboards are a fairly superficial operation. You will need a microfiber cloth, cotton buds, 90% -100% isopropyl alcohol and compressed air. Never use household cleaners to clean electronics and do not use vinegar instead of alcohol – this can seep into the keyboard and corrode components.
- Start with a dry microfiber cloth: Use this to wipe your keyboard before getting into the more detailed work. It will pick up the most dust so you can focus on the dirt.
- Hit it with compressed air: Like the microfiber cloth, compressed air can remove some dust from your keyboard before you get to work. Remember to use short bursts or condensation may form under the keys.
- Beat out the alcohol: Apply about 90% -100% isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab (don’t pour it on your laptop) and rub your keyboard. Stand between those keys and don’t be afraid to use a dry (preferably unused) toothbrush to treat tight spots.
- If there are crumbs under your keys: Laptop keyboards are difficult to take apart. Do a Google search on yours to see if the keys are removable. If so, remove them with a small flat tool (a guitar pick works well) and hit the troubled area with a cotton swab with alcohol or a short burst of compressed air. If the keys can’t come out, direct a quick jet of canned air under your troubled keys and pray for the best. Don’t go overboard, otherwise you will get condensation under the keys.
If you are having trouble getting the crud out from under your keyboard, consider sending it to the manufacturer or a local service technician for repair. There’s no point in taking your laptop apart if someone else can do it for you.
Make that screen beautiful again
Improper cleaning is a quick way to get a broken laptop screen. Your laptop’s LCD screen is incredibly delicate. It should be cleaned properly and semi-regularly.
We are going to keep this simple. Do not use paper towels or rags to clean your laptop screen. They leave dust and can scratch your screen. Do not use alcohol, vinegar, glass (or glass) cleaner, Windex, or other cleaning chemicals. And if you see a product being marketed as a screen cleaner, don’t use it on your laptop screen. That stuff is snake oil!
The only thing that can touch your laptop screen is a microfiber cloth. They are cheap so don’t replace them. You may also want to use some canned air, but you don’t have to unless the screen is particularly dusty.
- Prepare the screen: Turn off your laptop and wait for the screen to reach room temperature. If it’s very dusty, give it a few short, side bursts of compressed air. If it’s not noticeably dusty (most laptop screens are just spotty), skip the canned air.
- Wipe the screen lightly: do you take clean microfiber cloth and let it glide across the screen in a gentle horizontal or vertical motion. Do not push or make circular movements. Otherwise, you risk leaving circular marks or scratches. Light pressure and wide movements are ideal.
- For tough, greasy screens: If your screen is particularly dirty, slightly dampen your microfiber cloth with water using the same swipes and light pressure we just discussed. If your screen gets too damp, dry it gently with a clean microfiber cloth.
- For Impossible Stains: We said before that you shouldn’t use vinegar to clean your laptop screen. You should nothing but use vinegar as an absolute last resort. If you have some nasty, sticky mess on your screen, make a solution of 50% water and 50% white vinegar, dampen your microfiber cloth, and gently wipe the screen with wide sweeping motions.
Now that the screen, keyboard, and interior of your laptop are all clean, it’s time to take care of the case. This is by far the easiest part of cleaning a laptop, provided there is no sticker residue on it.
Cleaning a laptop bag
Unlike your laptop’s delicate keyboard and screen, the cover can handle some tough love. Make sure not to use harsh chemicals and never apply liquids directly to your laptop. All cleaning products go on your microfiber cloth, not the laptop itself.
- For quick cleaning: You can clean the cover of a laptop with a variety of solutions, but we recommend using a microfiber cloth (paper towels leave dust) with white vinegar, or isopropyl alcohol, or water (do not mix). Lightly apply the cleaning fluid to the cloth and wipe the laptop case. Don’t be afraid to use some elbow grease on problem areas and make sure to dry your laptop with a clean cloth when you’re done.
- Remove sticker residue: If your laptop is covered in nasty sticker residue, now is the time to clean it. Simply apply 90% -100% isopropyl alcohol to a microfiber cloth and start scrubbing. If it doesn’t come off, try using a little bit of Goo Gone. Do not use a hairdryer to heat the glue, as the heat can damage your laptop.
And that’s that! Now your laptop is clean from head to toe. If done correctly, the fans should be a bit quieter and you might even notice a slight increase in performance. Make sure to thoroughly clean your laptop every few months to maintain its performance and appearance.