Since laptops are made to be used outside of the usual office environments, they tend to get dirty much more quickly than their desktop counterparts. The keyboards, in particular, are delicate and should be kept clean to ensure proper operation.
Cleaning a Laptop Keyboard
Before you start cleaning your laptop’s keyboard, make sure it is unplugged and powered off. (It is always better to have a dirty laptop than to shock yourself or ruin your machine during the cleaning process.) Also, remove the mouse, any discs or CDs, USB drives and anything else that is protruding from your machine.
The process you will use to clean your laptop has to do with how ambitious you are feeling at the time and how hardy your machine happens to be. For example, on some machines it is easy to pop the keys off and put them back on. But on others, it is about as simple as performing brain surgery. In other words, if you’re not confident that you can get the keys back on your laptop’s keyboard, do not take them off. You will still be able to clean your laptop pretty well. Not sure? Check the owner’s manual.
Cleaning your laptop with the keys intact
If you’ve elected to take the easy road and leave the keys attached to your laptop, you can clean in between them by using a can of compressed air. Be aware that a can of compressed air does not simply contain air but contains a toxic chemical. So be careful when handling it and never hold the bottle upside down. Just tilt it at an angle two or three inches away from your keyboard as you direct the air between the keys. The good thing about having a laptop is that if it is too difficult to tilt the can of air, you can always tilt your computer. Just be careful not to drop it.
If you feel comfortable doing it, you can also hold your laptop upside down over a trash can and tap on it lightly to dislodge any remaining debris that might be hiding in there once you’re done the spraying.
Cleaning your laptop with the keys removed
If you’ve decided that you would like to take off the keys, use a knife or similar object to pop them off gently. Then store them in a safe place so that they don’t get lost. Even if you’re one of the confident ones, it’s still recommended that you leave the space bar and other larger keys in place. They are a real doozy to get back on due to their design.
Once you’ve pried all of the keys off of your laptop that you will be prying, place them in a small bowl, such as a cereal bowl, and add a couple of drops of dish soap for hand washing to clean them with some light scrubbing. (Be sure to plug the drain if the bowl is in the sink.) Then follow the rest of the steps below while they soak.
Cleaning the rest of the laptop
Unlike a traditional desktop keyboard, your laptop has many more nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned, such as drives, ports and the touchpad. For any nook and cranny type areas, the best thing to do is just spray inside them with the compressed air. Remember that the air is pressurized so you don’t want to get too close to the surface or this pressure could damage your computer.
For the rest of the keyboard, such as the touchpad, you can use a cloth that will not leave fuzz, such as an old t-shirt or handkerchief, a microfiber cloth, or one made specifically for electronics.
Dampen the cloth by dipping it in a solution of half lukewarm water and half isopropyl alcohol, a bowl of lukewarm water with a drop of dish detergent for hand washing, or just lukewarm water if your laptop is not that dirty. Wring out the cloth (water dripping into your machine, bad thing) and then wipe the keyboard top, sides and bottom. If you’re having trouble cleaning a tight area, such as where the monitor meets the keyboard, you can use a cotton swab. Just be careful that the swab doesn’t shed.
*You can also use electronics cleaner of course. Always spray it on the cloth, not the machine.
If you have the little rubber nub in the middle of your keyboard, known as the pointer, you can remove it from the keyboard and drop it in the cleaning solution or give it a quick once over with an old toothbrush to remove any gunk from the grooves.
Letting your keyboard dry
Leave your laptop out so that it can dry. Do not shut the lid. Hopefully, since you used the water or cleaning solution sparingly, it should not take very long. If you removed the keys from your keyboard, you can set them out on the counter or table or wipe them dry with your cloth (if it’s not dry, use a new one of course). Then pop them back on when you’re sure that your machine and the keys are both fully dry.
Never plug in and/or turn on your machine until you are positive that it has dried completely.