How To Clean Your Laptop


This short guide provides a three-step process for cleaning your laptop. Special care is needed for cleaning the various surfaces of your laptop safely to minimize the chance of accidentally damaging your computer. In this article, you will learn tips for cleaning the screen, keyboard, and exterior of your laptop.



How long has it been since you cleaned your laptop? 


If your main computer is a laptop, it can get surprisingly grimey surprisingly fast. Think about it. You’re moving that thing everywhere you work. One day, your workspace could be your home office. The next day, a local cafe. And the day after that, the great outdoors. Or maybe even all of those in a single day. 


The point is, when we move our laptop from place to place, it picks up dirt, grit, dust, smudges, germs, and more. But it can happen so gradually, you may not even realize that your laptop is due for a cosmetic clean. 


The good news is there are simple tips you can use to bring the lustre back to your laptop. A quality laptop case, or a durable laptop bag, is a fantastic way to protect your laptop from superficial scratches, spills, and wear and tear from daily use. 


But when it comes to cleaning, whether you own a supercharged MacBook Pro with the fancy new M1 Max chip, a 12-inch rose gold MacBook from half a decade ago, or just your basic laptop/Chromebook, these simple tips, done regularly, can go a long way to keeping your laptop looking its best.


Here are three steps for cleaning your laptop. 


Three steps for cleaning your laptop


Regularly cleaning your laptop (every 3-6 weeks) can help keep your laptop looking (and working) its best. Regular cleaning can keep the keyboard free of debris, protect the exterior finish of your laptop, and keep that screen smudge-free.

Particularly with the screen, you don’t want to over-clean, but by following these three steps, you will be able to safely keep your laptop looking its best. 




Step one: Cleaning the outside 

Let’s start with the exterior. It’s important to make sure your laptop is fully powered down and that your power cord is not plugged into the laptop. 


Once you’ve done that, it’s now safe to begin cleaning. Use a lint-free cloth that is slightly damp with water. Start with just water and see how that turns out, because some cleaning solutions can cause the finish of your laptop to deteriorate. 


Take extra caution when cleaning around the various ports and avoid getting any liquid in them. This can lead to corrosion, connection issues, or even shorting out. And as tempting as it might be to blow into a USB port if you see lint or dust like it’s a Nintendo Cartridge from 1989, don’t do it. The moisture in your breath can also cause issues on the metal connection points. 



Step two: Cleaning the inside and keyboard 

Use the same tips as above for the interior of your laptop on the surface where you rest your hands and the chassis around the keyboard. 


To clean the keyboard, you’ll need a can of compressed air. Hold your laptop with the keyboard parallel to the ground at about a 75 degree angle (almost vertical, but not quite). Using a zigzag motion, spray the compressed air over the keyboard (or the problematic keys) in a left-to-right motion. Rotate the laptop to the right, and repeat this zigzag air clean. Then rotate the laptop to the left and repeat one last time. That should dislodge any debris and hopefully fix any tactile problems you notice when typing. 


If you happen to have a MacBook Pro model with Touch Bar or Touch ID your keyboard area will require an extra step. Using a soft, lint-free cloth that is damp with water, carefully wipe clean the Touch Bar or Touch ID area to clean it.


Step three: Cleaning the screen


Smudges on a laptop screen are easy enough to remove. Start with a dry, lint-free cloth and gently wipe the screen without applying too much pressure. If this didn’t quite remove the smudges to your satisfaction, then you can use a lint-free cloth for a second pass, but this time, slightly dampen it. 


If at all possible, stick with water to address the stains. Never use an acetone-based cleaner or generic window/glass cleaner, as that can compromise the anti-smudge/reflective coating on your screen.


If there is a particularly stubborn cosmetic mark on your MacBook, then it’s possibly safe to try and remove it using isopropyl alcohol. Here’s what Apple says on the product care section of the site:


“Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don't use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don't submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don't use on fabric or leather surfaces.”


Apple does have its own special cleaning cloth for cleaning screens. It’s available through its online store and is safe for any Apple display, even those with nanotextured glass (which you find as an option on the Pro XDR display they announced in 2019). This is a premium cloth for a premium screen. But for most laptop screens, a lint-free cloth should do the trick.  


Keep your laptop looking its best

For the longevity of your laptop, and to add personal style, consider a Macbook case, or a leather laptop bag. 


If you’ve just treated yourself to a new MacBook or MacBook Pro, consider a quality, leather laptop bag that has a dedicated spot for storing your laptop, and separate spaces for your power cord and accessories. Though, if you have one of the 2021 MacBook Pros, you’ll need less bag space for dongles (thanks for all the ports, Apple)! A quality, leather laptop bag will last for ages (especially when they come with a 25-year warranty).


If you already have a bag that you love, a MacBook case is a great option for protecting your computer when it’s not in use. A thin, lightweight, protective cover will defend your laptop against the normal wear-and-tear of daily life without obstructing any ports or vents. 


Between the three-step laptop cleaning tips and a quality laptop bag or MacBook case, your laptop should stay looking and working its very best.