University of Wisconsin–Madison
Cleaning computer keyboard

How to clean your computer & tech gear

COVID-19 has given us all lots of time for house cleaning, but should you be using the same stuff to clean your computer and your windows?  (Pun intended.)  Here’s how to keep your tech gear looking like new.

Unplug and power down

Liquids + electricity = bad.  Also, check the owner’s manual to see if they have cleaning recommendations.

Screens

Use a dry lint-free cloth to remove surface dust. Soak a sponge in plain water and wring it out until it’s just damp. Wash the screen by moving the sponge in small circles, applying just a bit of pressure. Dry, with the same cloth.

Don’t use ammonia, bleach or other harsh chemicals; they may damage the display’s coating or make touchscreens less responsive. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations. For example, see Apple’s and Google’s recommendations.

Keyboards

A small vacuum, small brush, the sticky end of a Post-it, or simply turning the keyboard upside down and giving it a shake will remove some debris.

Finish the job by wiping the keys with a cloth lightly moistened with plain water, a 50-50 water/white vinegar solution, or rubbing alcohol. Don’t apply the liquid directly onto the keys; apply it to the cloth instead.

Exterior

Add a small amount of warm water to a sponge, then wring it out.  Add a tiny drop of dishwashing detergent. Gently wipe the exterior. Wipe down after with a dry, lint-free cloth.

Ports and vents

Use a compressed air can to dislodge debris. Hold the can at an angle so that you’re not blowing the debris deeper into the machine. A soft paint brush or an old toothbrush can also help remove dust and pet hair that remains trapped there.

The insides

Dust can accumulate inside tower model desktops. Compressed air cans can help dislodge it. Vacuums are not recommended here, because they can cause static discharge, which could compromise the circuitry.

Unless you have the expertise, it’s not recommended to open laptops, desktops or mobile devices for cleaning. Instead, take them to an expert like the DoIT Help Desk.

Viruses

Unfortunately, no amount of household cleaner will rid your computer of malware, viruses, spam, or other software problems. For that, just contact the DoIT Help Desk. Consultations are free, and they’ll let you know if there will be any cost to repair ahead of time.

Source: Consumer Reports