Most of us clean our computers about as often as we spill something on the keyboard. But to keep your computer in good working order, you should scrub it down about twice a year–more often if you like to eat chips at your keyboard.
Before you start, you’ll need some supplies: a large microfiber cloth, a can of compressed air, and a solution of 50 percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol and 50 percent mineral water, and a pair of tweezers. Once you have everything together, shut your computer down (if you’re cleaning a laptop, remove the battery as well).
Now that you’re ready to go, review these five simple steps for getting your hardware shiny again:
1. Dump your keyboard.
Flip your keyboard upside down and tap the bottom to shake free the debris of a thousand lunches, and then use your compressed air to blow out the remaining dust. Next, wet your microfiber cloth with the alcohol-water solution and wipe down the keys.
2. Scrub your mouse.
If you have an optical mouse, disconnect it from your computer and then clean the exterior with a microfiber cloth that has a bit of the alcohol-water solution on it. Don’t try to clean the optical sensor on the bottom of your mouse, and don’t use paper towels, tissues, or any other lint-generating materials. If you have a roller-ball mouse, turn it over, twist off the circle of plastic surrounding the ball, and shake loose any debris. Use your tweezers to scrape away and remove dirt and hair caked on to the rollers. (Tweezers work better than your fingernails, because they decrease the risk of gunk falling deeper inside the mouse.) When you’re done, dust your mouse pad with a damp cloth.
3. Wipe down the case.
The plastic exterior of computers is pretty tough, so you can use most kinds of all-purpose cleaners. To be on the safe side, test a small, hidden patch before you get started, then wipe down the exterior with a cloth dampened with the cleanser.