Computer Cleaning Guide: How to Clean Keyboards, Mouses, Monitors, and Laptops

Bowl o'keys
Bowl o'keys
My keyboard---full of dust and the occasional cat hair. Yuck!
My keyboard---full of dust and the occasional cat hair. Yuck!
Vacuuming the keyboard
Vacuuming the keyboard

Keyboard Layout

Here is the layout for a keyboard. Use this to make sure your keys are in the right place after you've finished cleaning them.

~ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 - + 
 Q W E R T Y U I O P [ ] \
 A S D F G H J K L ; ' 
 Z X C V B N M , . / 

Desktop Computers: How to Clean Your Keyboard

Keyboards have this way of getting filthy, gross, get the idea. Between the dirt and oils from our hands making the keys grubby, dirt, dust, pet hair, crumbs, and the occasional coffee spill can make their way under the keys. Add the fact that those keys are a breeding ground for bacteria, and it's pretty clear that cleaning the keyboard regularly should be priority. We'll cover two ways of cleaning: a thorough cleaning, which you should do anytime you have spilled something, or when your keys start sticking. Then, we'll cover a quick-clean method to do once a week or so to keep your keyboard in good shape.

The Big Clean

Supplies: soft cloth, warm water, cotton swabs, compressed air or a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool, small flathead screwdriver, small bowl

Step One: Unplug your keyboard from the computer.

Step Two: Use the soft cloth (dry) to wipe any surface dust off of the keyboard.

Step Three: Make note of the position of each key. Either write it out on a sheet of paper, or use the handy chart below.

Step Four: Using the screwdriver, pop each key off of the keyboard and place into the bowl. Note: don't bother with the larger keys, such as the space bar, enter key, or shift keys. These often have additional wires or springs below them that can make replacing them a pain. The dirtiest part of the keyboard is beneath the letter keys, so just removing those will be plenty.

Step Five: Use the compressed air or vacuum to remove any dust, dirt, or hair. Vacuum or blow around any keys you left on the keyboard to dislodge any dirt from beneath them. For any spills, wipe with a swab dipped in a bit of water or isopropyl alcohol.

Step Six: Use a cotton swab, either dry or slightly moistened with isopropyl alcohol, to clean around and the tops of keys you've left on the keyboard.

Step Seven: Slightly dampen your soft cloth with a little water. It should be barely damp. Wipe each key you've removed with the dampened cloth, set them aside to dry.

Step Eight: Replace the keys, according to your keyboard layout chart. You don't need to press hard--just until you hear a click. They'll only go on one way, so don't force them.

Step Nine: Plug your keyboard back in, and you're ready to work.

The Quick Clean

Supplies: Cotton swabs, isopropyl alcohol, soft cloth

Step One: Unplug your keyboard.

Step Two: Turn keyboard upside down and gently shake it over a garbage can. This will dislodge trapped dirt from under the keys.

Step Three: Wipe the keyboard down with a dry soft cloth.

Step Four: Use the cotton swab, slightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol, to clean between, around, and the surfaces of the keys.

Step Five: Plug it back in, and get back to work.

Remove the round coverplate to remove and clean the ball.
Remove the round coverplate to remove and clean the ball.

Desktop Computers: How to Clean Your Mouse

Many of us still use rollerball mouses for our computers, and if you use one, you know how annoying they can get when they're dirty. They start getting less accurate, start moving jerkily, or just plain won't do what you want them to do. When this happens, the solution is a simple cleaning.

Supplies: soft cloth, cotton swabs, isopropyl alcohol

Step One: Unplug your mouse.

Step Two: Look at the bottom of your mouse. You will see a circular cover plate that holds the ball in place. Give this cover plate a slight turn to the right, and it will pop right off. Remove the ball.

Step Three: Use a swab dampened with alcohol to wipe down the ball, the cover plate, and the inside of the mouse.

Step Four: Use the cloth, slightly dampened with a bit of water, to clean the top and sides of the mouse. Let dry.

Step Five: Pop the ball back in, replace the cover plate, and plug your mouse back in.

Desktop Computers: How to Clean a Monitor

Blurry, finger-printy monitors are a pain to look at. The good news is, it's an easy job to get them clean. Always begin by turning your monitor off.

CRT Monitors: For CRTs, use a soft cloth sprayed with a bit of Windex or whatever other cleaner you use to clean your windows. Wipe the monitor and housing with the cloth to remove smudges and other grime. Note: never spray the cleaner directly on the screen. It can seep and drip under the edges of the monitor surround and damage the circuits inside. Another option, though more expensive, is to use pre-moistened monitor wipes that you can purchase at office supply stores.

LCD Monitors: Never use any ammonia cleaners or abrasives on an LCD. The best option is to use a soft cloth (not paper towel---it's too abrasive) slightly dampened with plain water. Wipe the whole thing down (gently---there's no need to go all He-Man on it) and you're done.

Supplies for Cleaning Your Computer

Laptops: How to Clean the Screen and Keyboard

Laptops seem to get grosser, faster. Maybe it's because they come on the road with us. For whatever reason, laptops seem to need regular cleaning. They present special challenges. I'm going to give a bare-bones, safe for all laptops cleaning method here. You can get involved removing your keys and all that, if your user manual says it's okay. The method I'm going to give you will do great job, and you can be sure it won't do any damage.

Supplies: Soft cloth, cotton swabs, isopropyl alcohol, water, vacuum with crevice tool

Step One: Turn off your computer.

Step Two: Open it up, turn it upside down, and gently shake it over a garbage can to dislodge dirt and crumbs.

Step Three: Use the vacuum to thoroughly vacuum the keyboard. This will remove most dust and gunk that is still hiding under the keys.

Step Four: Using a swab slightly moistened with isopropyl alcohol, clean around and on the surface of each key.

Step Five: Using a soft cloth, slightly dampened with water (barely damp!) clean the casing, touchpad, and screen.

Step Six: Let it dry, and you're ready to work.

Comments 26 comments

blerim profile image

blerim 8 years ago from BOSTON

I think air duster tends to be more efficent than vaccum.

Misha profile image

Misha 8 years ago from DC Area

I'm bad, I never clean my keyboard - but my keys are not sticking yet - so I should be fine, shouldn't I? ;)

Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

My keyboard is disgusting. I'm going to follow these tips and clean it. Thanks.

Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Misha- me too... I don't think I've ever cleaned a keyboard. Ha.

C.M.- What are your thoughts about the can keyboard cleaners?

Sybille Yates profile image

Sybille Yates 8 years ago

Great hub! Thumbs up! Don't forget the hoover/ vacuum cleaner and/ or the hairdryer might come in handy also ;-) SY

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

Blerim---They both worked about the same for me, but if you like one method more than another, that's the one you should use :-)

Thanks for commenting!

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

Misha---Hey, as long as you can still Hub, you're in good shape ;-)

In all honesty, I never thought of it either until a few years ago. In my past (pre-children) life, I was the computer lab supervisor in an elementary school. Every day, I had between 150 and 200 five to ten year olds in the lab. By the end of the day, the computers were totally gross. I got pretty good at cleaning them!

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

Paul---glad to hear it. And thanks for making the request in the first place. I was having trouble deciding what to write about untiil I saw your request :-)

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

Whitney---the can cleaners worked fine for me as well. I just like being able to use stuff that I already have around the house. But if you'd like to go that route, they work just fine :-)

Thanks for commenting!

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

Sybille---Thank you! The hoover is definitely useful. I hadn't thought about the hair dryer, but you're right---it could definitely come in handy!

zerlate profile image

zerlate 8 years ago from Philippines

Great idea, its been a good thing to know the right way of cleaning those stuffs. Its always nice to work having clean stuffs and its refreshing having them cleaned.

compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Most keyboards that have not been cleaned will have so much "stuff" inside the keys..The simplist way to see how gross it is is to turn upside down and give a few firm taps and you will see all kinds of stuiff falling out!!

KwameG profile image

KwameG 8 years ago from MS

I like to take the inflaters that come with the blow up air mattresses to use instead of can air. You can usually reverse the end that the hose is on and create a nice blower.

Iðunn 8 years ago

useful knowledge. I have to say though I'm pretty leery about removing the keys though. I have done that and it messed the whole thing up and I had to buy a new keyboard. :(

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

lounn---Thanks for stopping by! I've done it hundreds of times, and I haven't lost a keyboard yet :-) (And, yes, literally HUNDREDS---the computer lab I managed had 40 workstations, and I did the big remove-the-keys cleaning at least once a month for over two years!)

I do understand being leery of it though. Shaking it out over a trash can or vacuuming/blowing with compressed air with the keys still on will dislodge plenty of gross stuff :-)

Iðunn 8 years ago

yeah, I'm not sure what I did to it, but I hope to never do it again. :p I got that liner offtrack somehow, so when you typed one letter, you got a different one.

I took apart my printer once too, which is why I don't have one. I'd never make a tech.

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

LOL Caring for printers is a different story---you won't see any hubs from me on that! Anyone ever seen the movie "Office Space"? There's a reason one of my favorite movie scenes ever is the one where they take the printer out to the field and beat the crap out of it :-)

Iðunn 8 years ago

hehe. :D I could be in for that. No, I missed that movie, actually.

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

It's a good one. It's actually on Comedy Central a lot, and I end up watching it every time I catch it on :-)

Iðunn 8 years ago

I'll try to take a look, I usually go for the horribly depressing in movie choice unless my children drag me to teen comedies, which might explain how I missed it. :p

C.M. Vanderlinden profile image

C.M. Vanderlinden 8 years ago from Metro Detroit Author

That would definitely explain it. Let's just say, as a movie, that it speaks for all of us who have ever been stuck in a crappy office job. One of my favorite lines in the movie: "What if we're still doing this when we're 50?" = something I asked myself about a million times before I realized I could actually make a decent living writing ;-)

Iðunn 8 years ago

I think it's in our very nature to wonder if we're in a rut sometimes with jobs. I have worked in offices, construction, and clubs and it doesn't make any difference. At some point you always think to yourself, 'what if this is it'. I suspect it's tied to a fear related to our own mortality.

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

The dirt hasn't obscured the letters on my laptop keyboard yet, so I haven't gotten around to doing a major cleaning job. Frankly, C.M., I'm not looking forward to it. I'm usually all thumbs when it comes to such things. But I've taken note, just in case!

jormins profile image

jormins 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

I always wondered if the keys of the keyboard came out and how easy/hard it would be as I slowly see debris accumulating over the months. I'll have to refer back to this good hub when I get up the courage & time to clean it out. Until reading this I usually would use the upside down shaking method of cleaning it.

naturebeds profile image

naturebeds 8 years ago from New Zealand

Great Hub,

it's true, computer can get Gross if not looked after.

The roller ball mouse....kinda satisfying cleaning that one.But I have a sensor mouse now and haven't looked back.


Bonnie Ramsey profile image

Bonnie Ramsey 8 years ago from United States

Great hub! I am one of those who are afraid to "dismount" the whole thing but I do keep it cleaned out regularly. I have a small portable air compressor that I keep in the office for those cases. You would not believe what accumilates in just a short amount of time in these tiny crevices! LOL


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