Laptops

Here's how to disinfect your laptop and keep yourself safe

Here's how to make sure your laptop stays virus-free, inside and out

An HP Spectre laptop sitting next to a bowl of fake fruit. Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

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Your laptop gets dirty way faster than you realize. All sorts of germs, crumbs, and crud can lodge their way into the crevices of your keyboard and the corners of your trackpad. You should clean your laptop regularly (ideally once a day) during the best of times.

Now that COVID-19 is sweeping across the world, it’s more important than ever to keep your laptop clean. We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to clean and disinfect your laptop so you can stay healthy year-round.

Safety Precautions

  1. Always turn off your laptop before cleaning it. The last thing you want to do is cause a short or put yourself in danger.
  2. Don’t apply liquids directly to your laptop. Do not spray it or place it in or around running water. Keep cleaning cloths damp but not wet.
  3. Don’t use harsh cleansers. Bleach, ammonia, and other household cleaners are a no-no.
  4. Do not sterilize your laptop by heating it. Laptops do not belong on stoves or ovens.
  5. Always use a gentle touch when cleaning. This is especially true for the display, as too much pressure could damage it. Press firmly enough to make contact, but don’t strain.
Cleaning laptop 4
Credit: Getty Images

Even if your laptop looks clean, it could be harboring flu germs, bacteria, or even COVID-19. Three minutes of work can solve that.

When should I clean my laptop?

Even in a non-corona world, you should gently clean your laptop often to keep germs at bay. Due to the infectiousness of the novel coronavirus, we recommend daily cleaning if possible, as well as wiping down your laptop every time it leaves your home.

What solutions are safe for my laptop?

Apple warns against using strong disinfectants, such as bleach and hydrogen peroxide, as they may cause damage to protective finishes on your laptop (this advice holds true for non-Apple devices, as well). Unfortunately, scientific evidence suggests gentler solutions—such as water or white vinegar—do not kill SARS-Cov-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.

Whether you use CDC-recommended solutions is up to you, but using alcohol-based solutions for a few months is unlikely to cause major damage to your laptop. Check with your laptop’s manufacturer for more info (we’ve linked Apple’s and Microsoft’s advice in the Resources section below).

Cleaning laptop 2
Credit: Getty Images

Wiping down your keys regularly will help keep your laptop working correctly.

Here’s what you’ll need to clean and disinfect your laptop:

  1. Compressed or canned air
  2. A Clorox or Lysol wipe or a DIY wipe made from:
    • A textureless microfiber cloth, like a lens cloth
    • An approved cleaning solution (see below)
  3. Cleaning/disinfecting solutions

For milder cleaning, use:

  1. Dedicated screen cleaners
  2. Distilled water (not tap, or spring water)
  3. Mild soap and distilled water (not recommended for display panels)
  4. Water and white vinegar mix (only for external surfaces, not bare electronics)

Never use:

  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Household cleaners like Scrubbing Bubbles or Windex
Cleaning laptop 3
Credit: Getty Images

When cleaning your screen, don't spray cleaner directly onto the surface.

How to clean your laptop:

  1. Turn off your laptop
  2. Clean your keyboard
    • Daily: Dampen a wipe or clean microfiber cloth with your preferred cleaning solution and gently wipe your keys. Take care to avoid wiping under the keys or getting liquid trapped underneath.
    • Monthly: Clear out the debris in your keyboard by holding your open laptop with the keyboard facing down, and gently tapping to dislodge debris. Then place your laptop on a flat surface and grab some compressed air. Do not shake the can. Keeping the nozzle upright and 10”-12” away from the keys, blow away any remaining particles. You can also use a dusting brush.
  3. Clean your ports
    • Take your canned air and blow it into your ports. Never use liquids of any kind to clean ports.
  4. Clean your display panel
    • Use a dry microfiber cloth, or a microfiber cloth dampened with distilled water, a pre-bought display cleaner, or 70% isopropyl alcohol. Wipe the screen using small, circular motions, while being careful not to apply too much pressure.
  5. Clean your touchpad and your chassis
    • Gently wipe all surfaces until you’re confident you’ve applied cleaning solution to the whole chassis. For practicality, we recommend doing the inner surfaces first and then the bottom and outer lid chassis.

You’re done. Now leave your laptop alone for at least four minutes to let the cleaning solution kill any germs.

Other Tips:

  • Practice social distancing and good hygiene. We know you’re tired of hearing it, but it’s the most effective strategy to prevent COVID-19.
  • Leave your electronics at home if you can. This will reduce their exposure to outside pathogens.
  • Use a removable, wipeable cover on your electronics. It will reduce the laptop’s exposure to the elements.
  • Don’t shake canned air, and always keep it upright. Otherwise, it might eject freezing cold liquid instead of air.
  • Don’t eat or drink around your laptop. That way, you’ll reduce the amount of debris that accumulates in and around it, as well as reducing saliva particles that might land on your laptop.

Resources

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