Over time, the dirt of everyday life takes its toll on the laptop. It goes from this shiny new gizmo to a gadget with weird smudges and dust buildup. Let’s look beautiful again, okay?
This guide will be especially helpful if you are looking to buy a used laptop or want to sell one. You’ll be able to up the price if the laptop looks like it’s been well taken care of, so clean the outside well when you format the hard drive as well.
What will you need
The items you need to clean your laptop are easy to find and very inexpensive. Most likely you already have them.
- Microfiber cloths I have used 3M’s Scotch Brite mirror cleaning cloth, but others on the internet have had success with microfiber eyeglass cleaning cloths as well as soft microfiber cloths. Get as big a pack as you can, we’ll cover at least 10 of them in this guide. Yes, it’s a little overkill, but these microfiber cloths are cheap.
- Distilled / filtered water No, you don’t need any fancy cleaning solutions. Filtered water usually does its job. Even Apple recommends using clean, dirt-free water.
- Spray — that water should get into the sprayer. Any standard spray bottle will do. You could even recycle an old cleaning bottle.
- Disinfection wipes Any standard set of disinfecting wipes will work, as long as they don’t contain bleach, say Orange County Public Schools. Get fragrant if you want your Macbook to smell fresh.
- Cotton buds — you can use the standard Q-tip packaging, even the ones you already have.
- Compression blower — these compressible hand blowers are mainly used for chambers. Again, pick whatever brand you like. Just don’t use a hair dryer, electric fan, or anything that blows hot air or air at high speed.
- Cylinder with compressed air. You will need a can of compressed air to blow off all the dirt. Remember, only compressed air!
- (Not necessary) alcohol for rubbing — get a standard bottle isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. You might not need it, but in case you have a serious gank on your screen, this will help you clean it up.
What you don’t need
On the Internet you will find many guides about disinfectant sprays, aerosol cans and special cleaning solutions. Pay no attention to everything.
Cleaning guides from HP and Apple recommend using only compressed air and not using aerosols. In fact, Apple explicitly states, «Do not use aerosols, solvents, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide, which may damage the finish.»
More importantly, as this guide will show, it is simply a waste of your money. You don’t need any of these elements.
Turn it off!
Before you start cleaning, the first thing you need to do is remove everything that is connected to the laptop and turn it off completely. No, not sleep mode. You must close it.
Step 1: Cleaning the Shell
In this guide, we’ll look at laptops with plastic chassis (like most HP and Dell laptops) as well as aluminum chassis (like the MacBook). The material matters little.
Start by closing the lid of your laptop. Then use a clean, damp microfiber cloth to wipe the outside. What is «raw» you ask? Take a spray bottle and pour some water into it. Lightly spray water (a couple of sprays, no more) on one side of a microfiber cloth. Make sure there is no excess water (i.e. it is not wet or dripping).
Don’t walk up and down or side to side. The correct way to clean a laptop is in a circular motion. This avoids streaks and does not put undue pressure on the edges.
Pro tip: do not use your hand to apply pressure. It can damage the body if you inadvertently apply too much pressure. Instead, use your fingers for pressure and only move in a circular pattern.
Do the same on the bottom of the laptop and on the sides. Avoid open ports and charging port! Don’t bring a damp cloth with you. We will talk about ports in detail.
Finally, use a cotton swab to clean any nooks and crannies that are missing from the microfiber cloth. You’ll need it for any grooves or corners, as you didn’t put pressure on the fabric.
Step 2: Cleaning the Keyboard and Trackpad
Take a fresh microfiber cloth and clean the trackpad again in circular patterns. Next comes the hard part, the keyboard.
In case you didn’t know, your keyboard is the dirtiest part of your laptop. That’s why you need disinfectant wipes.
First, use the extruder on the keyboard. If you have a chiclet keyboard (as you have with a MacBook), this won’t do much. If you have an open keyboard (dust is visible under the keys), this will lead to a lot of dust. Make sure you turn the blower in one direction and only use it in that direction.