How to Physically Clean Your Laptop

Keep your laptop running in tip-top shape

When was the last time you cleaned your laptop? Yeah, we thought so. This simple computer maintenance task doesn't just get rid of accumulated dirt and dust--it keeps your laptop running in tip-top shape.

Laptop Parts to Clean

The five general parts of the laptop you should keep clean are the case, the LCD screen, the laptop keyboard (and touchpad), the ports, and the cooling vents.

You can also open up your laptop to expose and clean its cooling system (the fan and heatsink), but only attempt that if you're comfortable opening up your laptop. Cleaning the cooling system can help solve laptop overheating problems and related symptoms like your laptop freezing or having issues shutting down.

As always, defer to your laptop manufacturer's manual for the recommended procedure for laptop cleaning.


You'll need the following things to clean your laptop (click on the links to compare prices and buy them online):

  • Isopropyl alcohol, available at drugstores and supermarkets. Because it evaporates quickly and doesn't leave a residue, isopropyl alcohol is safe to use on electronic equipment and LCD displays. Not safe to use: ammonia, tap water, mineral water, and household window cleaners.
  • Distilled or purified water or bottled water. Avoid tap water, which can leave permanent mineral spots.
  • Can of compressed air, also commonly available at many types of stores.
  • Lint-free cloth, like the kind used for cleaning eyeglasses. In a pinch, you can use a soft, 100% cotton cloth. Do not use: paper towels, facial tissues, or scratchy or abrasive cloths.

Prepare to Clean

  • Make sure the computer is off and unplugged, and remove the battery.
  • Make a 1:1 cleaning solution using the water and alcohol.
  • Dampen the cloth with the cleaning solution--it should be slightly moistened rather than very wet. Also, never spray anything directly on the computer; the liquid should go on the cloth first.

Clean the Laptop Case

Use the damp cloth to wipe down the exterior of the laptop. This will help you make it look brand-new again. Then open the lid and wipe the areas around your keyboard.

Clean the LCD Screen

Clean the display using the same cloth or a newly moistened one if the original is too grimy (again, don't spray any solution directly on the screen). Use gentle circular motions or wipe the screen from left to right, top to bottom.

Clean the Keyboard and Touchpad

cleaning laptop keyboard with cloth
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Use a can of compressed air to loosen and remove dirt, crumbs, and everything else that may be stuck in the keys. Alternately, you can turn the laptop over and gently shake out any loose debris, running your fingers over the keys to aid the process.

If you have stuck keys or a very dirty keyboard (due to spilled drinks, for example), you can also remove the individual keys and wipe beneath them with a cotton swab dipped in the cleaning solution. Be sure you check your laptop manual to make sure the keys can be removed for cleaning, and, of course, put them back the right way.

Some laptops have drains built into the keyboard tray. If yours is like that, you can pour distilled water into the keyboard and let it air-dry. Check your manual to be sure.

Finally, use the damp cloth to wipe the keys and the touchpad.

Clean the Ports and Cooling Vents

Use the can of compressed air to clean the case openings: the ports and cooling vents. Spray from an angle so the debris is blown away from the computer, rather than into it.

Also, be careful when spraying the fans, because if you spray too hard liquid may get in the fan blades. To prevent the fans from over spinning while you're blowing the air on them (which can damage the fans), place a cotton swab or toothpick between the fan blades to hold them in place.

Last but Not Least

Make sure your laptop is completely dry before turning it on.