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How to safely clean your laptop screen and keyboard



If you're like me, you're sitting in front of a laptop that has become cleaner. Regardless of the make or model, it does not take long for a laptop to look tired from a smudged screen and dirty keyboard to dirty, dusty openings and ports. Some laptops especially the latest MacBooks have particularly dust and dirt sensitive keyboards. Keeping your keyboard clean reduces the likelihood that you have a problem.

To clean your laptop, you will need:

  • Soft, lint-free wipes (Microfiber wipes work well)
  • Mild dishwashing detergent like Dawn
  • One can of compressed air
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  Laptop cleaning utensils

Collect Your cleaning utensils.


Matt Elliott / CNET

Before you start, shut down your laptop and unplug the power cord from the wall. The times for replaceable batteries are long gone. Remember, you still have a huge fight. Remove the battery if your model allows such a maneuver.

First area hit: lid and bottom plate. Mix a few drops of Dawn (or other low-quality dish soap) and a few cups of warm water, dip your lint-free cloth into the soap mixture, wring the surface, and wipe it off. Rinse the cloth with clean water and wipe again. To avoid water streaks, wipe with a dry cloth a third time.

I've found that using this mixture of dawn and water is also effective when cleaning the display. For more information, see my article on cleaning your monitor or TV screen.


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Next: the keyboard. The key here is that no liquid drips under your keyboard. Use your compressed air can to remove crumbs that are in the gaps between the buttons. Then dab a lint-free cloth with isopropyl alcohol and gently rub the buttons.

You can remove some stains with soap and water. However, isopropyl alcohol is better for two reasons. First, it evaporates almost immediately, significantly reducing the risk of liquid entering the laptop. Second, it is effective to remove the oily residue that remains with the fingertips.

If you borrowed a laptop from a friend who gave it back while sneezing and coughing, you can disinfect the keyboard by using a disinfectant wipe that contains up to 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide.

If your laptop has large side openings, you'll probably find it a dust rabbit magnet. (The same applies to expansion openings.) Use a pressure cell to blow out the dust rabbits. Not only does this make your laptop look better, it can also improve performance by better controlling the temperature of your laptop with a clean fan.

If there is a dust bunny behind the vent that you can not blow off with compressed air, refer to the instruction manual for how to open the case. Do not forget which screws have led where to re-assemble. Take one or two photos from your laptop before opening the case for a handy reference.

When it's time to say goodbye to your old laptop, check out our list of the best laptops you can buy now.

Originally published on April 11, 2014 and updated regularly.


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