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 cloth

    • 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!

laptop power button

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).

Dirty laptop shell

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.

MacBook Pro cover

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.

Dirty laptop keyboard

Then take a new microfiber cloth and rub it over all the keys to wipe off any loose dust on them. We’ll call it «dust microfiber» — keep it handy, you’ll need it later.

Then wipe each key with disinfectant wipes, changing them as they get dirty. Be gentle! Your keyboard doesn’t require too much effort.

Once you’re done disinfecting, grab a new microfiber cloth. As with a sink, make it damp with a little water spray and clean all the keys. Again, be gentle, but get all sides.

Step 3: Clear Ports

For open ports on a laptop, first use a compressed air blower to blow out any dust in them. Be careful, you don’t have to go crazy here.

Dirty Laptop Ports

Then use a cotton swab and gently clean the insides as much as possible. Don’t apply any pressure! These parts of the laptop are quite fragile and the slightest amount of pressure can affect the tiny pins here.

After the blower and cotton swab have removed most of the dust, and only if you notice more dust in the ports, use compressed air to clean. Remember, compressed air cylinders should be used at an angle.

Step 4: Screen cleaning

This is part of your harvesting expedition where you have to be as careful as possible. Before you start, know one thing. If you press too hard on the panel, you can get a dead pixel on the screen, so be careful at this stage.

Depending on the laptop, it will have a TN or IPS LCD panel. Without going into jargon, TN panels are a bit more fragile, while IPS panels usually have a glass protective panel.

Advice for professionals: to clean the laptop screen, turn it over from the back. Find a stable, flat surface and place your laptop screen on it so that the keyboard is in the air. As Tom Strong Reviews points out, this allows you to gently press the screen without forcing the screen to come back with force.

Once it’s in place, start with a reliable «dust microfiber» to wipe any excess dust off the screen. Lightly circle it around the four edges, folding it up and placing the corner against the screen. Keep your finger out of the microfiber and run around the edges. To get the edges, use the cotton swab again.

microfiber cloth

Then, as in the previous steps, moisten a new microfiber cloth with a few sprays of distilled water and wipe the screen again in concentric circles. As with dust microfiber, fold it up and use the corner to lightly run around the edges.

This will clear your screen 90 percent of the time. Otherwise you will need this rubbing alcohol/isopropyl alcohol as it is effective at cleaning LCD monitors effectively clean LCD screens effectively clean Mix equal parts by rubbing alcohol and water into a spray bottle, dampen a new microfiber cloth (yes, you’ll need a new one) and clean the screen as before. This mixture is more effective than regular water in removing dirt.

Step 5: Cleaning the fans and innards

This will take care of the outside, but you may need to clean the inside as well. It doesn’t matter if you need to clean dust from fans or heat channels. This is a good way to fix an overheating laptop. fix overheating laptop fix overheating laptop and to silence noisy fans to silence a noisy fan to silence a noisy fan

For laptops that open

Some laptops have a bottom panel that opens up. Disassemble a few screws and you will see the insides of your machine. If your laptop allows it, use the manufacturer’s manual to open it. This is the same procedure as when upgrading your laptop’s RAM.

Warning: this will most likely void your warranty.

Laptop internals

With the laptop open, use a can of compressed air to blow off any dust. Do not stick the tip of the straw inside, as this may damage some of the components. And don’t touch the fans at all. Blow as much as you can and try to blow towards the outlets.

For laptops that won’t open

Air vents for laptops

If your laptop won’t open like most MacBooks, then your cleaning job will be easier. Point a can of compressed air at the laptop’s vents and let it burst. Remember, there is no direct contact, but supply as much air as you can.

Enjoy your clean laptop!

This is it! By the end of this exercise, your laptop should look like new. It is recommended that you regularly use these microfiber cloths to clean your laptop, rather than waiting for it to pick up so much dirt again. The screen, in particular, should be cleaned regularly.

Read on to find out how to safely clean the touch screen of your tablet or mobile phone. touch screen tablet or mobile phone.

Image Credits: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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