How to Clean Computers, Keyboards, and Monitors

When you buy that shiny new laptop, television, smartphone or other gadget, you never imagine that it will end up covered in dust and dirt, perhaps not even working correctly anymore. A little cleaning can keep your electronics looking and working like new, and cleaning rarely requires anything beyond regular household products — which are a lot cheaper than buying a new laptop.

Laptops and Desktops:
Laptop and desktop cases can be cleaned by using a cloth soaked in a solution of water and dishwashing soap, then wrung out thoroughly to prevent water from dipping into the interior. Alternatively, a paper towel and some household surface cleaner works too, and companies like Windex make dedicated electronics cleaners as well.

Keyboards can be flipped upside down and shaken to get the crumbs out of them, then blasted with a bit of canned air to clear out the dust. A used toothbrush lightly sprayed with some household cleaner or isopropyl alcohol will get the crud out of the nooks and crannies of the keys. Canned air can also be used to clean computer fans, motherboards and other internal components. Isopropyl alcohol can be used on circuit boards to remove nicotine stains or anything that may have spilled inside.

Monitors, Laptop Screens and TVs:
If you have a good old-fashioned CRT monitor or TV with a glass screen, a paper towel and glass cleaner works great for cleaning up dust and fingerprints. Turn the TV off, let it cool down, and then spray the cleaner on to the towel first and then gently wipe the screen. For cleaning laptop screens and flat-panel monitors, put the glass cleaner away — ammonia-based cleaners can damage these screens. Instead, just use a soft cloth dampened with a little water. If that doesn’t get the more stubborn gunk off, try a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar on your cloth or a commercial solution such as iKlear Klear Screen or Monster ScreenClean. Let the surface dry completely before turning the monitor or TV back on.

Smartphones and Tablets:
If you wear glasses, you’re already familiar with the best in-a-pinch cleaning method for phone and tablet screens — breathe on it and wipe it with a soft cotton T-shirt. If you have something more stubborn, a soft, slightly damp cloth and a bit of elbow grease will take care of it. Avoid glass cleaners, as the screen on smartphones and tablets often have special coatings on them that can be damaged by the chemicals in spray cleaners. The same goes for the case of phones and tablets — a damp cloth is sufficient to clean most grime from them.

Precautions and Warnings:
Turn off a computer before spraying cooling fans with compressed air or the fan may be forced to turn backwards, damaging the motor. Before working on the interior of any electronic device, wear an anti-static wrist strap or discharge any static in your body by touching something metal, then unplug the device and remove any batteries to prevent the chance of electric shock or damage to the equipment. If any cleaning products touch the internal components, ensure all parts of the device are completely free of liquid before reapplying power in order to prevent short-circuiting or other damage.

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