How to Clean Your Laptop Screen and Keyboard, According to the Pros

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You and your laptop have been through a parcel together. Besides the usual typing and clicking, your computer has stayed by your side for countless cups of coffee, lunches and snacks. Then there are those near spills and incidents of pet hair, or maybe even a few close calls with little ones running around (hey, it happens).

And, if you work in an office, there are colleagues touching your screen to point out things, coughs and sneezes nearby, handshakes before typing emails… you get the picture . Basically, your computer is surrounded by dirt and germs – yours and those of others – all day long.

Laptops “get thrown in bags, they travel, they end up under your couch,” says Gary Power, co-founder and director of customer services at Energy Consulting Group, a New York-based IT consulting firm. It all adds up to dirty screens, dirt-filled keyboards, and ports clogged with dust. It is therefore important to have a quick and easy cleaning routine at your fingertips.

Still wondering if your computer is *really* gross enough to need a deep clean? Even if it looks new, your technology can harbor viruses, bacteria, molds and even fungi, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Sciences and Clinical Research found. But researchers have confirmed that a single cleaning can remove more than 95% of germs and bacteria from laptop surfaces, so there’s never been a better time to set aside a few minutes for a springtime spice.

And, if you’re using extra accessories (like a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse), it’s a good idea to give them a quick scrub, says Power. He adds that cleaning isn’t just great for your peace of mind, it can also extend the life of your technology.

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So what’s the best way to make sure your laptop is germ-free? Ahead, learn how to clean your laptop screen and keyboard, according to the pros:

1. Shut down your computer.

Before taking any supplies, make sure all of your tech is completely off (not just in sleep mode). “Also remove the charger so there’s no chance of a power surge,” says Joe Silverman, founder of New York Computer Help.

After turning it off, your laptop is still hot. So wait three to five minutes before you start cleaning, advises Silverman: “You don’t want that heat to cause problems when you use water on it.” Once your computer has had a short rest, you are good to go.

2. Wipe the screen.

First up: the screen. A microfiber cloth with water will do, or get some electronic wipes. Power recommends the brand Phew! because “it’s one of the best screen cleaners and laptop cleaners”. Gently run over the screen once or twice with your wipe or cloth and be sure not to press too hard, Silverman adds.

3. Avoid too much humidity.

Do not apply water or cleaning solution directly to your computer. As for your microfiber towel, just use a tiny amount of liquid. “Worst-case scenario, you’re using too much liquid, and it could get inside the laptop and cause motherboard and power supply issues,” Silverman says. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the cloth is damp, but not soaking wet or dripping.

4. The same goes for harsh chemicals.

Bleach and ammonia should be nowhere near your tech, says Power. Most common household cleaners are too strong for thin metal, according to Silverman.

They can cause your laptop to shut down completely or, in some cases, oxidize the exterior coating and strip the color. “The same goes for the screen, especially Macbook screens,” Silverman adds. “It could really remove the oxidation from the screen,” or remove the shine and make it look dull. Windex works for a standalone monitor, but stick with water or a tech wipe for your actual laptop, Power says.

5. Remove dirt and debris from your keyboard.

Falcon Dust, excluding compressed gas

The next step is your keyboard. The first step is to use a box of pressurized air “Because all those crumbs and meals and snacks usually fall between the keys,” Silverman says. Food particles under your keys can actually cause mold to grow, he adds, and canned air is one of the best ways to clean those hard-to-reach places. After that, use your microfiber cloth or tech wipe to go over your keys and pick up any dust that may remain.

Note: Do not remove the keys from your keyboard to clean underneath. Both Silverman and Power note that newer laptops have much harder keys to reattach, so it’s a bad idea to mess with them.

6. Clean all ports on each side.

This airbox will also do wonders cleaning up those ports on either side of your laptop, Power says. “Most laptops these days come with a USB-C port, which is extremely secure,” he says. But if you have an older laptop with a traditional USB-A port, “you have to be careful because it’s alive”, meaning the tech inside is more sensitive.

So what’s the difference? A USB-A port is larger and fits most traditional thumb drives and USB cords (it’s probably the one you’re already thinking of). USB-C ports are shorter and thinner. They are also symmetrical. So if your USB cable or drive works, no matter how you plug it in, it’s USB-C. Otherwise, it’s a USB-A.

7. Avoid trackpads and speakers.

Don’t clean your trackpad (that’s the mouse attached to your laptop) or the speakers. “I’ve seen customers clean their trackpads and then their trackpads stop working,” Silverman says. Also stay away from air vents or fans. If you think they need a reset, it’s best to take your computer to a professional.

In addition to your computer, here are four other household items you should clean regularly:

8. Repeat monthly.

“Once a month, go through [this] checklist,” recommends Power. Monthly cleaning will prevent buildup from forming and can help prolong the life of your computer. Power’s suggestion?

9. FYI: touch screens may need to be cleaned more often.

If you’re using a laptop or tablet with a touchscreen, you might want to wipe it down even more often, says Power. “Humans generally tend to touch the same areas,” he explains, and the resulting buildup can lead to static electricity that can damage your screen. So consider giving these screens an extra scrub between computer cleanings for best results.

10. Know when to call in the professionals.

Sometimes your computer might be too dirty to clean yourself, or it might be unsafe for you to clean the places that really need cleaning. If you spill a drink like water or coffee on your laptop, Power says it’s best to take it to a professional.

Going forward, Silverman suggests keeping all food and drink at least an arm’s length away from your tech to avoid accidents. That way you have enough time to snatch your laptop (or maybe grab a paper towel). And who knows? Power says you could even save hundreds of dollars in tech-saving services.

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