Welcome to our guide on how to clean your laptop. Given how our hands are the easiest means of bringing germs and viruses into our homes, and how our tech is touched by us every day, it’s vital that we go about cleaning it properly.
So we’re going to show you how to clean your laptop - getting rid of debris that’s been residing between your keys since ancient times, as well as sanitizing it so you don’t need to worry about spreading bacteria between your hands, your tech, and around your home.
Before starting, remember to wash your hands (and dry them, of course!), turn off your laptop and unplug it from the mains.
- Still searching for a laptop? Find out where to buy a laptop now
1. Vacuum-clean your laptop
To get rid of dust you should vacuum-clean every part of your laptop apart from the screen using the brush end of the vacuum cleaner. LCD screens are fragile and would be scratched by the brush bristles. They need to be cleaned more gently than the rest of your laptop (we’ll get round to cleaning the screen later).
Make sure you use the vacuum cleaner on a low setting. You’re just picking up dust and small bits of debris here, and setting it too powerful may damage your keyboard keys.
As well as the keyboard, make sure to vacuum any speaker holes and vents on your laptop. These can build up a lot of dust that’s been pushed out from inside your laptop over the years, and keeping them clear is vital to your laptop running nice and cool.
2. Clean your laptop keyboard
The next step to a clean laptop is a clean keyboard. Now that you’ve vacuumed your keyboard, it should be dust-free and ready for more thorough cleaning.
You could start by using some cleaning putty - a sticky, rubberised substance that you roll over your keyboard to pick up stubborn particles and debris stuck between your keys. You should also roll this putty over the speaker holes on your laptop.
Once the putty has worked its magic, lightly dampen (not drench) a microfibre cloth and wipe your laptop keyboard down with it. Apply more pressure to any stains or crusty bits that may be stuck to your keys.
3. Clean your laptop ports
Cleaning putty is also great at cleaning your laptop’s ports, which are another hotbed of debris and easily overlooked dirt. Squish the cleaning putty into your laptop’s various ports to pick out the debris from them.
Whether or not you used the cleaning putty, you should also get a Q-tip or cotton bud stick, moisten it in isopropyl alcohol, then stick it into your ports and swab around inside them.
The alcohol-moistened stick will serve the dual role of pulling debris out of the ports, and sanitizing them while it’s at it. Don’t worry about moisture in the ports, as isopropyl evaporates almost instantly.
Isopropyl - which we've been singing the praises of in recent weeks - is one of the most widely used solvents for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces. You don’t necessarily need to use the 99% strength stuff either.
75% isopropyl can be just as effective at killing bacteria, because the purified water it’s diluted with acts as a catalyst in breaking down microorganism cell wells. It also takes longer to evaporate, increasing the exposure time between it and the microorganism.
4. Clean your laptop screen
The screen is one of the more sensitive parts of your laptop, so slightly different rules apply when it comes to cleaning it. Moisten a microfibre cloth with some isopropyl alcohol and gently wipe the screen in circular or straight-line motions.
Note that if you have a screen with an oleophobic layer (generally touchscreens), then you shouldn’t use isopropyl as this may deteriorate that layer over time. For these kinds of screens, use a mild non-alcoholic screen cleaner instead.
Once the isopropyl has evaporated, give your screen an extra wipe with a screen cleaner like Ecomoist or WHOOSH! Both of these are alcohol-free screen cleaners designed to get rid of smudges. They also have anti-static qualities that will help the screen repel dust for longer.
We have a separate in-depth guide on how to clean your laptop screen as well, for more information.
5. Sanitize your laptop
That isopropyl isn’t just for your screen. It’s an all-round surface cleaner that you should now use to wipe down the rest of your laptop. Moisten a microfibre cloth in isopropyl, and wipe down your laptop all over - keyboard, speaker holes, vents, ports, you-name-it.
The high alcohol content in the isopropyl will help remove stubborn stains and smears on your laptop’s surface. Rub a little harder on tougher stains, and the alcohol should help them come away.
The isopropyl will evaporate soon after wiping, and once it does you can rest assured that your laptop is clean and germ-free.
It’s a good idea to clean your laptop regularly, particularly in these uncertain times. As an extra precaution during the covid-19 outbreak, you should always wash your hands before sitting down at your laptop (especially after coming in from the outside world), and wipe it down with isopropyl alcohol at least once a week.
- These are the best laptops of 2020
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Robert Zak is a freelance writer for Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer, TechRadar and more. He writes in print and digital publishing, specialising in video games. He has previous experience as editor and writer for tech sites/publications including AndroidPIT and ComputerActive! Magazine.