No matter how clean a house you keep, your computers and gadgets are bound to get a little dirty here and there. Here’s what you need to clean them, and how to do it without hurting them.
Your gadgets aren’t as resilient as they might seem, and just spraying Windex on everything and rubbing it down with a paper towel can cause all sorts of damage to a device. However, they are remarkably easy to clean as long as you do it right—and you can do most of it with just a few simple household items (or at the very least, a trip to CVS). Here’s how to do it.
Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, Linus Tech Tips made this great video using some of our past posts as inspiration, so we’re featuring it alongside many of our original cleaning tips for your gadgets.
Clean Your Monitor With Water (or Diluted White Vinegar)
LCD screens are pretty delicate, and you don’t want to press hard on them, because that can burn out the pixels. Instead, turn your monitor off (so you can better see the dirty spots), and grab a dry microfiber cloth. Many monitors and other gadgets come with one. From there, just gently wipe the screen. If you need to, add a little bit of water. In most cases, that should be all you need.
If you have a more hearty build-up of spots or gunk, resist the urge to press hard and wet the cloth with a 50-50 mix of water and white vinegar. You can use a special monitor cleaner if you desire, but the vinegar/water mix should work just fine. If you can, use distilled water instead of tap water, since tap water is likely to leave white spots on your screen from salt or other deposits.
Remember, as you’re doing this, that you want to use a soft cloth, preferably microfiber. Do not use anything paper-based, like paper towel, Kleenex, or toilet paper, since it can scratch up your monitor. If you don’t have a microfiber cloth, coffee filters will do in a pinch. Also remember never to spray any liquid on the monitor itself—always spray it on your cloth first.
Clean Your Touch Screen Gadgets with Water, Diluted Vinegar, or Rubbing Alcohol
Like your monitor, the best cleaner for a touch screen device is either plain old water or a 50/50 mix of distilled water and vinegar. That said, touch screens are a bit more resilient than LCD monitors, due to the fact that they’re meant to be touched, so you can press a bit harder if you have a particularly stubborn spot (don’t go overboard, though).
Just like everything else, use a microfiber cloth and spray the cloth, not the screen, with a small amount of liquid before wiping it down. The last thing you need is to get your phone wet, void your warranty, and break something important (like the charging socket).
If you want to not only clean but disinfect your touch screen, you can use a bit of isopropyl alcohol on some devices (Apple, for example, does not recommend it). Check your manufacturer’s warnings to see what they allow.
Lastly, if your smartphone is filled with dust, dirt, and other disgusting sediment, you may have to open it up and give it a deeper clean, a process that our friends at the How-To Geek have gone through in detail.
Clean Your Keyboard with Compressed Air and Rubbing Alcohol
We’ve mentioned this before, but our friends over at the How-To Geek have a great rundown on how to deep clean your keyboard. If your keyboard is only mildly dirty, you should be able to get by with two things: blowing some compressed air in between the keys (to blow out dust) and cleaning dirty keys with a swab of rubbing alcohol to remove oil, grime, and germs. Alternatively, we’ve become very big fans of the Mr. Clean Magic eraser, and it’ll do wonders for a grimy keyboard, especially if it’s noticeably oily. If your keyboard’s rather disgusting, though, you might have to pop out the keys and really dig in with a toothbrush. Check out their full guide for more info on how to do that.
Also, don’t forget to turn your keyboard off (if it’s wireless) or unplug it (if it’s wired) before you start cleaning. If you’re just giving it a quick wipe-down, though, and don’t want to get behind your tower, you can use an app like previously mentioned ToddlerTrap (Windows) previously mentioned Keyboard Cleaner (Mac) to turn it off while you touch it up.
Clean Your Mouse with a Bit of Water or Alcohol
With the exception of old-school mice or the Apple Mighty Mouse, most mice shouldn’t need to be opened up to be cleaned. Generally, you can just turn it over and take a cotton swab to the rubber pads, wetting it with water or alcohol if necessary. For the mouse buttons, you should be able to clean it in much the same way you did the keyboard—use some alcohol on a cotton swab to rub away dirt and grime. If you absolutely have to, you can look up a guide to taking apart your mouse, but know that this probably voids your warranty and shouldn’t be necessary in most cases. Also, remember to turn off or unplug your mouse before cleaning.
Clean Your Laptop Body with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
If you have some non-acetone nail polish remover around, it’s been known to clean up laptops (especially lightly-colored ones, like the old white MacBooks) quite well, but nothing works quite as well as the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Get it wet, wring out as much water as you can, and lightly rub it over your trackpad, keyboard, and laptop body. It should clean them up, remove any grease from your fingers, and give it that new, fresh-from-the-store look. Don’t press down too hard, since the Magic Eraser has a tendency to “shed” when rubbed hard, which will just dirty your computer up more. It’s also an abrasive, which means it can rub off whatever coating is on your device if you press hard. If your computer’s grimier than that, clean your keyboard with an alcohol-soaked swap as described above in the keyboard section.
These are the most recommended products and methods on the net for cleaning your gadgets, but it’s likely that your manufacturer has its own recommendations (Apple certainly does), so check their web site or instruction manuals for more detailed information. And, of course, share your own tried and true tips in the comments below.