View New Gadgets


Screen grime is the most common cleaning problem with laptops, and with the display cleaning section of this guide, we've got that covered. That said, laptops collect filth in a variety of other ways, and they can get real microbial, real fast.

To clean a typical keyboard—that is, a non-chiclet design—you've got three steps to try. First, use a damp cloth with the aforementioned 40/60 alcohol/water mixture, turn off the laptop, and run it across the keys. Fold it a few times and use the edge to reach between the keys. You can use this same cloth to clean the rest of your laptop as well, excluding the screen, but including the touchpad. If that doesn't do the trick, and you can spot some dust or hair in between keys, it's time for some canned air. You can pick this stuff up at most big box electronics stores or online for $10 or less, and using it is as simple as tilting your laptop sideways, and blowing air in the cracks.

If this doesn't work, it's time to start popping off keys. Since you're disassembling a keyboard that really isn't meant to be taken apart, there's a definite inherent risk here, but the results are practically guaranteed to be good. Here's an extremely thorough guide, if you're game for it. To give you an idea of what this entails, there's a point in this tutorial at which all your laptop's keys are swirling in a cereal bowl full of soapy water. It's gruesome.

Another problem area for laptops is fans, air intake vents and heatsinks. These all stand in the pathway between outside air and your processor, which needs said air to keep cool. Any blockage can cause your laptop to run hot, your fans to run high, and consequently, your battery to run low. Disassembly instructions will vary from laptop to laptop, and typically will involve removing your entire keyboard. Once you've done this, though, removing the dust is a matter of blasting with air, scraping with a clean toothbrush or even just wiping with your finger. It's not about total cleanliness here, it's about clearing your computers' windpipe.

Another helpful trick: Those white, last-gen MacBooks have a disgusting tendency to accumulate a beige (then brown, then black) residue where users' palm touch the laptop. This discoloration is more of a stain than a buildup, so you can't fix it with water or alcohol. The fix? Acetone. Seriously, the best way to wipe that crap off is with nail polish remover.