Cleaning the computer and its components Introduction
Cleaning your computer and your computer components and peripherals helps keep the components and computer in good working condition and helps keep the computers from spreading germs. To the right is an example image of how dirty the inside of your computer case can get. This example is a dirty computer case fan.
Depending on the environment that your computer operates in determines how often you should clean your computer case. The below list is our recommendation and may change depending upon your computer’s environment.
How often should I clean my computer?
The frequency of how often you should clean your computer varies on several different factors. To help you determine how often you need to clean your computer we’ve created the below chart. If it is a touch screen cash register for small businesses it can mean a special type of care vs a regular laptop. Check each of the boxes below that apply to your computers environment to determine how often it should be cleaned.
General cleaning Tips
Below is a listing of general tips that should be taken when cleaning any of the components or peripherals of a computer as well as tips to help keep a computer clean.
1. Never spray or squirt any liquid onto any computer component. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth and then use that cloth to rub down the component.
2. You can use a vacuum to suck up dirt, dust, or hair around the computer on the outside
case. However, do not use a vacuum for the inside of your computer as it generates a lot of static electricity that can damage the internal components of your computer. If you
need to use a vacuum to clean the inside of your computer, use a portable battery powered vacuum designed to do this job or try using compressed air.
3. When cleaning a component or the computer, turn it off before cleaning.
4. Be cautious when using any cleaning solvents; some individuals may have allergic
reactions to chemicals in cleaning solvents and some solvents can even damage the case. Try to always use water or a highly diluted solvent.
5. When cleaning, be careful not to accidentally adjust any knobs or controls. In addition, when cleaning the back of the computer, if anything is plugged in, make sure not to
disconnect any of the plugs.
6. When cleaning fans, especially the smaller fans within a portable computer or laptop it’s
suggested that you either hold the fan or place something in-between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning. Spraying compressed air into a fan or cleaning a fan with a vacuum may cause damage or back voltage to be generated.
7. Never eat or drink around the computer.
8. Limit smoking around the computer.
Although many companies have created products to help improve the process of cleaning your computer and peripherals, users can also use household items to clean their computers and peripherals. Below is a listing of items you may need or want to use while cleaning your computer or computer peripherals.
Keep in mind that some components in your computer may only be able to be cleaned using a product designed for cleaning that component; if this is the case, it will be mentioned in the cleaning tips.
· Cloth – A cloth is the best tool used when rubbing down a component; although paper towels can be used with most hardware, we recommend using a cloth when ever possible. Caution: We only suggest you use a cloth when cleaning components such as the outside of the case, a drive, mouse, etc. You should not use a cloth to clean any circuitry such as the RAM or motherboard since they can generate ESD that can damage electronics.
· Water or rubbing alcohol – When moistening a cloth, it is best to use water or rubbing
alcohol. Other solvents may be bad for the plastics used with your computer.
· Portable Vacuum – Sucking the dust, dirt, hair, cigarette particles, and other particles out
of a computer can be one of the best methods of cleaning a computer. Over time, these items can restrict the airflow in a computer and cause circuitry to corrode. Do not use a standard vacuum as it can generate a lot of static electricity that can damage your computer.
· Cotton swabs – Cotton swaps moistened with rubbing alcohol or water are excellent tools for wiping hard to reach areas in your keyboard, mouse, and other locations.
· Foam swabs – Whenever possible, it is better to use lint-free swabs such as foam swabs.
Why? Keeps the appearance of the computer looking new. During cleaning, if ventilation locations are found, these can be cleaned helping the case keep a steady airflow to the computer, keeping components cool and in good working condition.
Procedure: The plastic case that houses the PC components can be cleaned with a lint-free cloth that has been slightly dampened with water. For stubborn stains, add a little household detergent to the cloth. It is recommended that you never use a solvent cleaner on plastics.
Make sure all vents and air holes are hair and lint free by rubbing a cloth over the holes and vents. It is also helpful to take a vacuum around each of the hole, vents, and crevices on the computer. It is safe to use a standard vacuum when cleaning the outside vents of a computer; however, if you need to clean the inside of the computer, use a portable battery powered vacuum to prevent static electricity.
CD-ROM, DVD, and other disc drive cleaning
Why? A dirty CD-ROM drive or other disc drives can cause read errors when reading discs. These read errors could cause software installation issues or issues while running the program.
Procedure: To clean the CD-ROM drive we recommend purchasing a CD-ROM cleaner from your local retailer such as a local Radio Shack. Using a CD-ROM cleaner should sufficiently clean the CD-ROM laser from dust, dirt, and hair.
In addition to cleaning the drive with a special disc designed to clean drives users can also use a cloth dampened with water to clean the tray that ejects from the drive. Make sure however that after the tray has been cleaned that it completely dry before putting the tray back into the drive.
CD and DVD disc cleaning
Why? Dirty CDs can cause read errors or cause CDs to not work at all.
Procedure: Cleaning CDs and DVDs should be done with a cleaning kit but can also be done with a normal clean cotton cloth or shirt. When doing this with a clean cotton cloth or shirt, wipe against the tracks, starting from the middle of the CD or DVD and wiping towards the outer side as shown in the below picture. Never wipe with the tracks; doing so may put more scratches on the disc.
It is recommended when cleaning a CD that water is used. However, if the substance on a CD
cannot be removed using water, pure alcohol can also be used.
Hard disk drive cleaning
Why? While hard drives cannot be cleaned physically, they can be cleaned with various utilities on the computer to help it run fast and more efficiently. Utilizing these utilities will prevent the hard drive from slowing down.
Why? Headphones that are used by multiple people may need to be cleaned frequently to help prevent the spreading of germs and head lice.
Procedure: If the headphones being used are plastic or vinyl, moisten a cloth with warm water and rub the head and earpieces of the headphones. As mentioned earlier in our cleaning tips, it is recommended that if your headphones are being used for a library or school that you do not use any disinfectant or cleaning solvent as users may have allergic reactions to the chemicals they contain.
Headphones that have cushions also have the availability of having the cushions replaced. Replacing these cushions can also help keep the headphones clean.
Finally, in regards to headphones and the spreading of head lice, if multiple students are using your headphones, you should consider having the students use their own headphones, using bags
that are placed over the headphones, or having headphones that can be wiped with warm water after each student has used the headphones.
The below steps are for cleaning a standard desktop keyboard.
Dust, dirt, and bacteria
The computer keyboard is often the most germ infected items in your home or office, often it will contain more bacteria than your toilet seat. Cleaning it can help remove any dangerous bacteria. Dirt, dust and hair can also build up causing the keyboard to not function properly.
Procedure: Before cleaning the keyboard first turn off the computer or if you’re using a USB keyboard unplug it. Not unplugging the keyboard can result in causing other computer problems as you may press keys that cause the computer to perform a task you don’t want it to do.
Many people clean the keyboard by turning it upside down and shaking. A more effective
method is to use compressed air. Compressed air is pressurized air contained in a can with a very long nozzle. aim the air between the keys and blow away all of the dust and debris that has gathered there. A vacuum cleaner can also be used, but make sure the keyboard doesn’t have loose “pop off” keys that could possibly be sucked up by the vacuum.
If you wish to clean the keyboard more extensively you’ll need to remove the keys from the keyboard.
After the dust, dirt, and hair has been removed. Spray a disinfectant onto a cloth or use disinfectant cloths and rub each of the keys on the keyboard. As mentioned in our general cleaning tips, never spray any liquid onto the keyboard.
Substance spilt into the keyboard
If the keyboard has anything spilt into it (e.g. pop, cola, Pepsi, Coke, beer, wine, coffee, milk, etc.), not taking the proper steps can cause the keyboard to be destroyed.
Procedure: Below are a few recommendations to help prevent a keyboard from becoming bad once a substance has been spilt within it.
If anything is spilt onto the keyboard turn the computer off immediately or at the very least disconnect it from the computer. Once done quickly flip the keyboard over helping to prevent the substance from penetrating circuits. While the keyboard is upside down, shake the keyboard over a surface that can be cleaned later. While still upside down, use a cloth to help clean out what
can be reached. After cleaned to the best of your ability leave the keyboard upside down for at least one night allowing it to dry. Once dry, continue cleaning the keyboard with any remaining substance.
If after cleaning the keyboard you have keys that stick remove the keys and clean below the keys and the bottom portion of the key.
Finally, if the keyboard still works but remains dirty or sticky before discarding the keyboard as a last resort try washing the keyboard in the dishwasher.
If after doing all the above steps the keyboard does not function properly or at all it’s recommended you buy a new keyboard.
Why? Dirt, dust, and finger prints can cause the computer screen to be difficult to read.
Procedure: Unlike a computer monitor, the LCD / flat–panel display is not made of glass, therefore requires special cleaning procedures.
When cleaning the LCD screen it is important to remember to not spray any liquids onto the
LCD directly, press gently while cleaning, and do not use a paper towel as it may cause the LCD
to become scratched.
To clean the LCD screen we recommend that you use a non-rugged microfiber cloth, soft cotton cloth, or Swiffer duster. If a dry cloth does not completely clean the screen, you can apply rubbing alcohol to the cloth and wipe the screen with the damp cloth. Rubbing alcohol is used to clean the LCD before it leaves the factory.
This section is for computer monitors if you have a LCD or flat-panel see the LCD cleaning section.
Why? Dirt, dust, and fingerprints can cause the computer screen to be difficult to read.
Procedure: The glass monitor screen can be cleaned with ordinary household glass cleaner*. Be sure to remove power from the monitor and spray the cleaner onto a lint free-cloth so the fluid doesn’t leak into the electrical components inside the monitor. Vacuum off any dust that has settled on top of the monitor, and make sure no books or papers have been placed on the air vents. Obstructed monitor vents can cause the monitor to overheat or even catch on fire.We suggest using a cloth dampened with water when cleaning monitor on a screen that is not made of glass or has any anti-glare protection on the screen. Using ordinary household glass cleaner on special screens, especially cleaners with ammonia can remove anti-glare protection or other special surfaces.
Other good cleaning solutions
· Microfiber Towels
· Swiffer Dusters
Why? Dust and especially particles of cigarette smoke can build up and corrode circuitry causing various problems such as computer lockups
When inside the computer take the necessary ESD precautions and try to avoid unplugging any cables or other connections.
Procedure: Our recommendation when cleaning the motherboard from dust, dirt, or hair is to use compressed air. When using compressed air, hold it in the up-right position; otherwise, it is possible chemicals may come out of the container that could damage or corrode the Motherboard or other component within the computer. Also, ensure when using compressed air that you
always blow the dust or dirt away from the motherboard, or out of the case. Another good alternative to compressed air is to use a portable battery powered vacuum that can effectively remove the dust, dirt, and hair from the motherboard completely and prevent it from getting trapped within the case. However, do not use a standard electricity powered vacuum as it can cause a lot of static electricity that can damage the computer. When using the vacuum it is vital that you stay a couple inches away from the motherboard and all other components to help prevent contact as well as to help prevent anything from being sucked into the vacuum. Ensure that you do not remove any small components with the vacuum such as jumpers. When cleaning the inside of the case also look at any fans or heat sinks. Dust, dirt, and hair collects around these components the most.
Why? A dirty optical-mechanical mouse (mouse with a ball) can cause the mouse to be difficult to move as well as cause strange mouse movement.
Procedure: To clean the rollers of an optical-mechanical mouse, you must first remove the bottom cover of the mouse. To do this, examine the bottom of the mouse to see what direction the mouse cover should be rotated. As you can see in the below illustration, the mouse cover must be moved counter clockwise. Place two fingers on the mouse cover and push the direction of the arrows.
Once the cover has rotated about an inch, rotate the mouse into its normal position, covering the bottom of the mouse with one hand and the bottom should fall off including the mouse ball. If this does not occur, attempt to shake the mouse gently.
Once the bottom cover and the ball are removed, you should be able to see three rollers located within the mouse. Use a cotton swab, finger, or fingernail to remove any substance. Usually, there will be a small line of hair and dirt in the middle of the roller, remove as much as this substance as possible.
Once you have removed as much dirt and hair as possible, place the ball back within the mouse and place the cover back on.
If the mouse still appears to be having the same issue, repeat the above process; if after several attempts the mouse is still having the same issues, it’s likely that your mouse has other hardware issues and we recommend that it be replaced.
Note: Cleaning your mouse pad with a damp cloth can also help improve a computer’s mouse movement.
Why? To help keep a mouse clean and germ free it can be helpful to clean the mouse.
Procedure: Use a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol or warm water and rub the surface of the mouse and each of its buttons.
Why? Cleaning the outside of a printer can help keep the printer’s appearance looking good; and in the case of a printer that is used by many different people, keep the printer clean of germs.
Procedure: First, make sure to turn off the printer before cleaning it. Dampen a cloth with water or rubbing alcohol and wipe the case and each of the buttons or knobs on the printer. As mentioned earlier, never spray any liquid directly onto the printer.
Why? With some printers it may be necessary to clean the inside of the printer to help keep the printer running smoothly.
Procedure: Because of how many different printers there are, steps in cleaning printers, and printer manufacturer policies on cleaning the inside of the printer, we recommend you obtain the printer cleaning steps from your printer manufacturer.
Why? Flatbed scanners commonly become dirty with dust, fingerprints, and hair. When a scanner is dirty, the images may have distortions.
Procedure: Clean a flatbed scanner’s surface by spraying a window cleaner onto a paper towel or cotton cloth and wipe the glass until clean. As mentioned earlier, never spray a liquid directly onto the component.
To clean the outside of the scanner, the same towel or cotton cloth can be used.
Miscellaneous cleaning steps
Below are a listing of miscellaneous computer hardware that is rarely used today, but kept on this page for the few people who are working on older computers and need to clean these devices.
Floppy drive cleaning
Why? Dirty read/write heads on the floppy drive can cause errors during the reading or writing process.
Procedures: The floppy drive can be cleaned two different ways. The first method of cleaning a floppy drive, and our recommended method, is to purchase a kit at your local retail store designed to clean the read/write heads on your floppy drive.
The second method of cleaning the floppy drive is only recommended for experienced computer users. Open the floppy drive casing and physically swab the read/write heads with a lint-free foam swab soaked in pure alcohol, free-on, or trichloroethane. When performing these steps, be extremely careful when cleaning the heads to ensure that you do not lock them out of alignment causing the floppy drive to not work. To help prevent the heads from becoming out of alignment, use a dabbing motion lightly putting the swab on the head and removing it, do not perform a
side-to-side motion with the swab.
Palm pilot cleaning
Why? Dirty touch screens can cause difficult navigation.
Procedure: To clean the Palm Pilot Screen, use a soft cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol and rub the screen and the casing of the palm pilot. It is not recommended to use glass cleaner as it could damage plastics over time.
SuperDisk / LS120 cleaning
Why? It is recommended that the SuperDisk / LS120 drive be cleaned regularly to prevent drive heads from becoming dirty.
Procedure: Purchase the SuperDisk cleaning kit available through Imation. Using any other method will void the warranty on your drive.
From dusty computer fans to fingerprints on compact discs, computer parts and devices can get awfully dirty from normal everyday use or when left sitting unused. The best way to have any computer component cleaned is to have it professionally serviced, but if you no longer have a service warranty, or if you picked up a second-hand item and want to clean it to see if it even works, here are some tips on how to clean some common items.
When working around electronics there are some precautions you should always take when cleaning:
· The best way to clean any computer component or device is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in your user manual.
· Always power off the system first
· Always use anti-static wristband or other professional grounding devices
· Never work on carpeted surfaces
· Never spray cleaning fluids directly onto computer components. Always spray the cleaner onto a cloth then wipe
· Do not allow any cleaner to run or drip near circuit boards, or near seams on device casings.
· Never allow circuits or electronics to become damp or wet.
· Some cleaning solvents can damage components. In most cases, water will work just as
· Cleaning electronics and circuit boards requires experience, knowledge and special
electronics cleaners. This type of cleaning is best left to professionals.
General Cleaning Tricks & Tips
· If compressed air is too strong for little dust jobs, try using a plastic liquid medicine plunger style dispenser. Pull the plunger all the way back to fill it with air and then push it forward quickly for a quick output of air to blow away dust in small places such as USB ports or SD memory card slots. The small ends of these dispensers enable you to reach a more concentrated area with the air then you could get with just blowing our air yourself (from your mouth).
· When using compressed air, always release in short blasts. Longer blasts can actually result in condensation.
· Anti-static cloths are great for attracting dust and are safe to use around computer equipment.
· The cleaner you keep your work space, the cleaner your equipment will be
· Be sure to hang on to your user manuals as they provide you with the best cleaning
methods for that particular device.
How Do I Clean That?
A Digital Camera
The lens on a digital camera should never be touched and should be cleaned only when absolutely necessary, so be sure to put that lens cap to good use. For basic dust removal, you can buy a soft lens brush or plastic air blowers which remove dust and particles without anything touching the lens that could damage it. For cleansing stubborn dirt, invest in a microfiber cleaning cloth for gently wiping off the lens. It’s very important to use a brush or blower first, then use a cloth to remove particles. For more stubborn dirt, you should use only a special fluid designed for lens cleaning. Never use paper towel or similar paper products to clean the lens as it may result in scratching. If you are using a fluid lens cleaner, be sure to put a drop onto proper lens tissues to clean — never put the fluid directly on the lens itself. Cannon also recommends that in place of a lens cleaner you can blow gently on the lens so that moisture condenses on its surface. Use gentle lifting motions (not rubbing motions) to clean and do not press hard. Use a clean lens tissue each time you move over the surface. This will prevent any dirt that is clinging to the tissue from scratching the lens. The outside of the camera can be wiped down using a lint-free cotton cloth, and you can also use the soft brush and blower for cleaning dust from the battery, memory card, power adapter and USB adapter slots.
CD & DVD Discs
Dirty media can cause errors or make the media not work at all. You can remove fingerprints and dirt by lightly rubbing with a clean lint-free cloth. Cotton is the best material to use. You need to wipe starting at the middle of the disc and work your way to the outer edge. Never wipe in the direction of the tracks (the lines running around the disc). If the dirt is harder to remove, like
dried on liquids for example, use water or a spot of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to clean it. You can also purchase disc cleaning kits. Never use a general all-purpose cleaner on a disc.
Dust Inside The Case
If you want to clean the build-up of dust from inside your computer case, you must shut the system down first, and make sure you are not working on carpet or any surface which is a electricity conductor. It is recommended you ground yourself (using an electronics wristband or other professional grounding equipment and follow the procedure for your equipment). To clean dust from the components inside you will need compressed air, an anti-static cloth, a small (child size) soft paint brush, and a cleaning fluid made specifically for electronics. Inside the case you will want to use the compressed air to clean around the fans, power supply and areas where the dust is building up. Be careful not to aim the air directly towards any circuit board or electronic components in the case. Use short blasts and arm movement to direct the falling dust outside of the case. You can use the small brush to dislodge dust in areas where the compressed air did not remove the build-up (such as the edges of fan blades). You can also use the brush to wipe dust away from the inside case walls and the wires. If you find dust has fallen down to the bottom of your case, dampen the anti-static cloth with the electronics cleaner and wipe along the bottom of the case to remove it. You can also use the damp cloth to wipe all around the metal case of your tower and the cover.
A CRT Monitor
Monitors that are made of glass and do not have any special coatings can be cleaned using a basic glass cleaner, or water (preferred). Do not spray directly on the monitor as the liquid could run down into seams and into the electronics. Using a soft lint-free cloth cloth such as cotton, spray the cleaner onto the cloth to moisten it and gently wipe the viewable surface. You can use a computer vacuum or compressed air to remove dust from the monitor housing, paying special attention to the vents, to make sure they are free of dust. Cleaners may damage the plastic casing of your monitor, so avoid this. Use a cloth slightly moistened with water if you need on the case.
An LCD Display
LCD monitors require a different cleaning than a CRT does. LCDs are not made of glass and will have special coating on them for anti-glare. Following your manufacturer’s recommendations is
the best method for cleaning an LCD. If you can’t obtained this information, here are a few general tips: Never use paper towel on an LCD as it can cause scratching. Instead be sure to use a soft cotton cloth. You can also purchase microfiber cleaning cloths that are designed for LCD and camera lens cleaning. If a dry cloth cannot remove the prints, you can use a special LCD cleaning liquid. Always slightly dampen the cloth and wipe, do not put any liquid directly onto the display.
Keyboards that are dirty can cause some keys to stick when pressed or other malfunctions. Dirt and dust can easily be cleaned from your keyboard by periodically holding it upside down and shaking it, or blasting it with compressed air. If the keys are dirty, once you have powered off the system, you can use a damp lint-free cloth to wipe the top facings of the keys. Never spray cleaner directly onto the keys as it may drip down into the circuitry beneath.
If you spill a liquid on the keyboard, you should immediately shut down the computer (or if using a plug-and-play keyboard, unplug it from the computer). Turn the keyboard over onto a towel or cloth to prevent as much liquid from getting into the circuits as possible. You can use a small lint-free cloth to help clean the liquid out from between the keys, but do so with the keyboard still upside down. Leave the keyboard upside down for a day to help ensure as much of the liquid dries out as possible. A large amount of liquid spilled into the keyboard will usually result in the keyboard needing to be replaced, regardless of how well you try to clean it. If you just want to freshen up the look of the keyboard (e.g. not clean due from problems or spilling of liquid) a cloth that has been moistened with warm water and a gentle soap will work quite well.
A PDA, Smartphone, Cellphone, & Similar Displays
Many of these devices do not contain glass, and glass cleaner and paper towel should never be used. For these devices, use the same procedure for cleaning the display area as listed for LCD monitors. Use a slightly moistened (water and gently soap) soft cotton cloth to wipe the external casing on these types of devices.
A trackball and roller mouse will need regular cleaning. When you begin to notice delays or jerkiness in cursor movement on the screen chances are your mouse needs a a good cleaning. To clean the mouse you will need to have a few supplies in easy reach such as cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol and a soft lint-free cloth. With the mouse disconnected from the computer, you turn the mouse over and unlock the cover ring that holds the trackball inside. When you turn the mouse back over, both should fall out easily (be sure to catch them with your hand — don’t drop the trackball onto your desk or other surface). Both the trackball and ring can be cleaned using a soft lint-free cloth. Set the ring down and place the trackball on top of the ring to securely hold it while cleaning the rest of the mouse. Start by blowing into the trackball holder area of the mouse to get rid of dust and loose particles. Inside you will see the rollers that hold the trackball in place. Chances are you will also see strands of dirt all the way around the rollers. Use a drop of alcohol on the cotton swap (just enough to dampen it) and use the swab to push against the dirt buildup on the roller to free it. Keep the tip of the swab against the dirt and rotate the rollers. You usually will see the dirt come off in a long piece (or several small if it breaks). You can also use your fingernail to pull the strip off instead of the cotton swab, once it has been loosened. Don’t use anything sharp that could damage the rollers. Make sure you pull the gunk out of the trackball hole when it comes off the roller. You will need to repeat the process on each of the rollers inside. Leave the mouse opened to the air to ensure any wetness from the alcohol has completely dried up before replacing the trackball and cover ring. Every time you move this type of mouse across a mouse pad it picks up dirt and dust. To help cut down on the amount of dirt buildup in the mouse, you should ensure that the surface of your mouse pad is clean and dry. Wash it frequently making sure you give it lots of drying time before using the mouse on it again.
Optical or Laser Mouse
An optical or laser mouse usually won’t malfunction like a mechanical trackball mouse will, but you can still clean them for optimal performance. Wipe the bottom surface of the mouse with a clean lint-free cloth. For dust and particles over the lens area, you can use compressed air to blow it away. If you don’t have compressed air you can also try just blowing air (from your mouth) in a couple quick strong spurts. If this doesn’t clear the lens, you can also try a cotton swab to clean it without scratching.
USB Connectors and Ports
With USB powering so many devices, these ports get a lot of usage. Some front USB ports come with covers, which many people actually leave open because they are used so frequently. Thumb drives get left laying on desks, without the caps on and so on. Digital camera cords pick up dust then get transferred when plugged into the USB port. The list goes on. For the most part you can clean around the USB connector to remove dust and particles, simply by using compressed air or blowing inside of it. You can also wipe the plastic case area near the USB port every so often with an anti-static wipe which helps to repel dust.
There are professional battery contact cleaners available. If there is only a small buildup but enough to cause problems with enabling the battery to get a good contact you can clean the contact by rubbing them gently with a cotton swab that has been slightly dampened with alcohol. If it is a heavier buildup, you can also try rubbing gently with a pencil eraser. Just remember not to apply too much pressure when rubbing as you could damage the contacts.