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The right way to physically clean your laptop, phone, tablet

The right way to physically clean your laptop, phone, tablet
© Andrey Popov | Dreamstime.com

It happens to the best of us. Sometimes, our favorite electronic devices get downright nasty. Our screens get smudged, our keyboards somehow become filled with crud, and we have essentially no idea how to fix it all other than grabbing a dry cloth and dabbing away at the problem areas.

There's actually more to cleaning your electronics and hardware than rubbing a soft cloth on each item and hoping for the best. The good news is cleaning items like your laptop, for example, can be very easy, but it's a multi-step process that you'll have to follow if you want the best results.

We've got simple tips on how you can clean your keyboard, mouse, screen and ports, and even your tablet/smartphone. Then, once you've got the exterior cleaned up, you can start working on your computer's performance.

Get the right materials

Whether you're cleaning your laptop, iPad, smartphone, or favorite mouse, here are a few good cleaning items to have on hand. They're flexible for tidying up just about anything.

  • Compressed air - This is especially useful when spraying into extremely tight quarters and crevices that you won't normally be able to reach.
  • Isopropyl alcohol - Do not use household cleaning products like Windex, glass cleaner, or countertop cleanser on your electronic devices. A good rule of thumb is if you would use it to clean your kitchen, it's not really appropriate for your computer or electronics.
  • Distilled or purified bottled water - Don't rely on tap water, which could potentially leave mineral spots and stain your items.
  • Soft cloths - Try to aim for lint-free if you can, and don't simply opt for paper towels. If you have a 100% cotton cloth, this is also appropriate, but things like tissues and other items of that ilk are not recommended.
  • Toothbrush (optional) - A soft toothbrush can be used on some items that have harder-to-reach areas to clean and are especially dirty, with spots that need scrubbing. This is optional, of course, but it's a solution you can opt for based on how soiled your items are.

Before you clean

Take time to make sure all of your devices are powered down and unplugged. If your device has a battery, go ahead and remove that too to be safe. You can do preliminary cleaning now that everything's off.

Take the bottled water and alcohol and mix it together with half alcohol and half water. You can use a spray bottle to mix it and spray it upon a cloth but never spray it directly on your items. You don't want to inadvertently ruin them, after all. Once you've got all your materials at the ready, you can start cleaning up the items in question.

Wipe down the outside casing

Take your damp cloth and wipe it around the outside of your laptop, phone, or whatever it is you've chosen to clean. Don't wipe the screen just yet.

After you've done the exterior, open your laptop and clean all the areas around the keyboard and the screen. Be sure to let it dry before you move onto the next phase so you're less likely to drop your computer or device.

Cleaning your screens

You can do this same procedure for monitors, displays, or screens on most electronic devices. Using a clean cloth, moisten it and not the screen before cleaning away.

Wipe down the screen from left to right and then top to bottom or opt for gentle, circular motions. Don't get crazy with applying pressure, either. This is a delicate area you need to take care to clean. Repeat this process until you're satisfied with the way the screen looks. It shouldn't take very long.

Cleaning the keyboard, touchpad and mouse

Now's the time for your compressed air to come in. Using a fresh can, spray it in short bursts on your keyboard, touchpad and bottom of your mouse to loosen dirt and debris. You may want to do this outside because it can get messy.

You can turn over the laptop or keyboard and shake gently to help move this process along. It's usually not necessary to pop off individual keys to clean beneath them, but that's an option if blowing out dirt isn't working for you. Otherwise, you can use a damp cloth with the solution on it to clean off touchpads, keys, and physical mice that aren't connected to anything.

Clean out ports, vents and anywhere you missed

After cleaning the main expanse of your laptop, phone, or other devices, you can use your compressed air to clean out USB ports, charging ports, cooling vents and any other open areas on your device.

Don't spray too hard, and use the same force you did while cleaning out the keyboard and mouse. Don't spray any liquid in your ports or vents, and be careful that you don't get them wet.

Finishing Up

Now that you've gone through all the different phases of cleaning your hardware, you need to let it all set out and dry. Wait at least an hour or so for everything to dry before powering it all back on.

Then, just remember these methods for the next time you need to do a massive wipedown. Cleanliness is important when it comes to hardware, of course, and you should set aside time as part of your regular schedule to take care of this. You'll see better performance from your items in the long run!

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