How to properly clean your gross laptop

Use the right cleaners, cloths and techniques to air your filthy laptop, from the screen to the vents.

If you’re like me, you’re sitting in front of a laptop that’s seen cleaner days. No matter the make or model, it doesn’t take long for a laptop to start looking tired from a smudged screen and a filthy keyboard to dirty, dusty vents and ports. Some laptops, especially the latest MacBooks , have keyboards that are especially sensitive to dust and debris, and keeping your keyboard clean is one way to reduce the chances that you’ll have a problem.

To clean your laptop, you will need:

  • Soft, lint-free cloths (microfiber cloths work well)
  • Mild dish detergent such as Dawn
  • A can of compressed air
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol

How to properly clean your gross laptop

Gather your cleaning supplies.

Before you begin, power down your laptop and unplug it from the wall. The days of removable batteries are long past, so just keep in mind you’ve still got a giant battRemove the battery, if your model allows such a maneuver.

First area to hit: the lid and bottom panel. Mix a couple drops of Dawn (or another, inferior dish soap) and a couple cups of warm water together, dip your lint-free cloth in the soapy mixture, wring out, and wipe down the surfaces. Rinse out the cloth with clean water and wipe down again. Lastly, to avoid water streaks, wipe down a third time with a dry cloth.

I have found that using this mixture of Dawn and water is also effective in cleaning the display. Read my post on how to clean your monitor or TV screen for more on that.

Next up: the keyboard. The key here is not to let any liquid drip down underneath your keyboard. Use your can of compressed air to remove any crumbs that are lying in the crevices in between the keys. After that, dab a lint-free cloth in isopropyl rubbing alcohol and gently rub your keys.

You might be able to remove some stains with soap and water, but isopropyl rubbing alcohol is better for two reasons. For one, it evaporates almost immediately, which greatly reduces the risk of liquid getting inside your laptop. Secondly, it’s effective in removing the oily residue left behind by your fingertips.

If you lent your laptop to a friend who returned it while sneezing and coughing, you can disinfect your keyboard by using a disinfecting wipe containing up to 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide.

25 best battery life laptops

How to properly clean your gross laptop

How to properly clean your gross laptop

Lastly, if your laptop has large side vents, you’ll likely find that they are a magnet for dust bunnies. (Same goes for expansion ports.) Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust bunnies out; this will not only make your laptop look better, but it can also improve performance by letting your laptop better control its temperature with a clean vent.

If there is a dust bunny that you see is stuck behind the vent that you can’t dislodge by blasting it with compressed air, then consult your user manual on how to open the case. Be sure you remember which screws went where for the reassembly; snap a picture or two of your laptop before opening the case for a handy reference.

If it’s finally time to say good-bye to your beat-up old laptop, take a look through our list of the best laptops you can buy right now.

Originally published April 11, 2014 and updated periodically.

How to properly clean your gross laptopRattana.R/Shutterstock

Like any computer, laptops are dust and grime magnets. But a dirty laptop isn’t just a cosmetic nightmare—it can also cause poor performance and overheating. So, how can you clean your laptop properly?

Cleaning a laptop is arguably more tedious than cleaning a desktop. You have to clean the keyboard, the internals, the screen, and the case itself. Still, you can easily give your laptop a makeover in under one hour, provided you have canned air, some 90%-100% isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs, and a microfiber cloth.

Start on the Inside

Most of the dirt and grime you see on your laptop is purely a cosmetic issue. While everyone wants their laptop to be beautiful on the outside, it’s really the inside that counts. But the dust, crust, and crumbs that accumulate inside your laptop can clog fans, vents, and heat sinks, which result in overheating and poor performance.

We’ll start by cleaning your laptop’s internals. This will be easier on some laptops than for others, but it’s mostly the same process across the board. Take your laptop somewhere dust-friendly (a garage or outside), prepare your compressed air or eco-friendly canless air (don’t use a vacuum), and get to work!

How to properly clean your gross laptopalgre/Shutterstock

If Your Laptop Opens: Power it down, remove the battery (if you can), and then unscrew the back panel. This may void your warranty, but that’s the price you pay for beauty. Use short bursts of compressed air to push dust from the center of your laptop toward its vents. Then, push all of that dust out the vents with gentle bursts (if the fans spin too fast, they might break). That’s it! You’re done. Screw your laptop back together.
If Your Laptop Doesn’t Open: Most modern laptops can’t open, which makes cleaning less of a science and more of a guessing game. Power down your laptop and push some quick bursts of compressed air into its vents. Be patient and don’t shove the compressed air stick into the vents. You could hit a wire or push canned air condensation right against the board.

It’s rare to find anything other than dust, hair, and crumbs inside of your laptop. If you do happen to see some stains on or around the board, clean them off with 90%-100% isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab. Make sure that you apply the alcohol to the cotton swab, not the board, and never use household cleaners on your laptop (or other electronics).

Hit That Nasty Keyboard

Once your laptop is beautiful on the inside, it’s time for a Princess Diaries makeover. We’ll start with the keyboard since it’s probably covered in years of small stains and finger grease.

Cleaning a laptop keyboard is a strange process. Unlike a desktop keyboard, which can usually be disassembled, laptop keyboards are a fairly surface-level operation. You’ll need a microfiber cloth, cotton swabs, some 90%-100% isopropyl alcohol, and compressed air. Never use household cleaners to clean electronics and don’t use vinegar instead of alcohol—it could seep into the keyboard and corrode its components.

How to properly clean your gross laptopDenis Torkhov/Shutterstock

Start with a dry microfiber cloth: Use this to wipe down your keyboard before you get into the more detailed work. It’ll pick up most of the dust so you can focus on the grime.
Hit it with compressed air: Like the microfiber cloth, compressed air can get some dust off your keyboard before you get into detailed work. Remember to use short bursts or condensation can form under the keys.
Whip out the alcohol: Apply some 90%-100% isopropyl alcohol to a cotton swab (don’t pour it on your laptop) and start rubbing down your keyboard. Get between those keys, and don’t be afraid to use a dry (preferably unused) toothbrush to deal with tight spots.
If there are crumbs under your keys: Laptop keyboards are hard to take apart. Do a Google search on yours to see if the keys are removable. If so, remove them with a small, flat tool (a guitar pick works well), and then hit the troubled spot with a cotton swab of alcohol or a short burst of compressed air. If the keys can’t come off, aim a quick blast of canned air under your troubled keys and pray for the best. Don’t go overboard or you’ll end up with condensation under the keys.

If you have trouble getting the crud out from under your keyboard, consider sending it to the manufacturer for repairs or take it to a local service person. There’s no point ripping apart your laptop when someone else can do it for you.

Like any tool we use every day, our laptops accumulate dust, grime, oils from our skin and who knows what else. Yours is probably due for a cleaning, and here’s how to do it right.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

By Whitson Gordon

  • June 26, 2018

You know your laptop is filthy. You can see the dirt and grime on your keyboard. You can see that circle of skin oils on the middle of the trackpad. So when’s the last time you cleaned it?

Using a freshly cleaned laptop is almost as satisfying as getting a brand new one. The keys are clean, the screen is free of smudges and you fall in love with that three-year-old MacBook all over again. It’s also a useful skill if you buy or sell used laptops, since the previous owner doesn’t always leave them in pristine condition.

Gather Your Supplies

“You don’t need much to clean a computer,” said Jolie Kerr, New York Times contributor, cleaning expert and host of the podcast “Ask a Clean Person.” “I use exactly four things to keep my laptop clean: Rubbing alcohol, microfiber cloths, cotton swabs and canned air.” Ninety percent or higher isopropyl alcohol is ideal, since it won’t damage the internal components. And if you have some particularly tough grime or oil, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (or other melamine sponge) can also work wonders, though it should be a last resort since it’s abrasive.

Don’t bother with specialty cleaners you see at big box electronics stores — they’ll work fine, but they’re probably overpriced compared with what you have at home. “Some people like having them, or they feel better about using an Officially Sanctioned Product,” Ms. Kerr said. “That is fine! They also make nice add-on gifts for people who are getting a new computer/tablet/phone for a special occasion.” But don’t feel like you need them.

Start With the Inside

Once you’ve gathered your tools, it’s time to start cleaning the inside of the computer. Tackling that grime on the keyboard may be tempting, but Ms. Kerr said you should start with the less glamorous internals: “Canned air will blow crumbs and cat hair and what-have-you everywhere, so if you’ve already cleaned the screen and bezel, you’ll just end up having to clean them again after you’ve used canned air.” Start by blowing out the dust, then move on to the outside.

Provided you’ve maintained your laptop well, you shouldn’t have to open it up for this step. Just turn off the laptop, unplug the power cable and remove the battery (if it’s easily removable). Grab your compressed air, give it a quick burst away from the laptop to get rid of any condensation, then start blowing air into any cracks and crevices: the keyboard, the vents and even the USB ports. Blow in short bursts, since longer sprays can cause moisture to accumulate inside your computer and can damage the fans by making them spin too fast.

If you’re lucky, you probably won’t see a big change after doing this. The goal is to prevent dust buildup over time, which can cause your laptop to overheat. If there are visible dust bunnies in the vents, you’ve let it go far too long without a cleaning. In that case, you may want to open it up (if you’re comfortable doing so) or take it to a repair shop for an in-depth cleaning. Smokers and pet owners should take special care to clean the inside often, since you’re likely to experience much quicker buildup of dust, smoke, hair and other particulates.

Wipe Down the Outside

Next comes the fun part: making that laptop shine again. “The most critical thing when cleaning a laptop or desktop computer is to apply the cleaning product to the tool you’re using to clean, never ever directly onto the computer,” Ms. Kerr said. So grab your microfiber cloth, pour a few drops of alcohol onto it, wring it out so it isn’t dripping wet, and go to town on the surface. You may want to use cotton swabs and alcohol for the keyboard keys and the small spaces between them. (If there are marks that won’t come off, you can try rubbing them with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser very lightly, but again, they’re mildly abrasive and this can alter the finish of the surface.)

It may take a few passes to get all that grime off, but once you do, you should notice a dramatic difference. If your laptop is particularly old, you may not be able to get rid of the shine on the keys; some of us may type like the Incredible Hulk and have worn down the top layer of plastic. There’s not much you can do about that.

The screen is a slightly different matter. You should be able to wipe fingerprints off with a dry microfiber cloth, but if you need a bit more cleaning power, a little bit of water — again, poured onto the cloth and wrung out first — can go a long way. Some manufacturers, including Dell and Lenovo, even say you can use a 50:50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water, if need be. Just avoid household cleaners with harsh chemicals like ammonia or alkaline on the screen. (That means no Windex, as tempting as it might be!)

Get Rid of Nasty Smells

Let’s say you have a particularly terrible case of gross laptop, and even after the above steps, your laptop still carries the stench of … whatever you’ve subjected it to. I’ve seen more than my share of laptops that smelled like smoke (cigarettes and otherwise), and getting rid of that is a challenge. Cleaning the surface can help, but a lot of those smells may also be inside the computer. For that, you can turn to the world’s best natural deodorizer: charcoal.

You don’t have to go digging through your grill for briquettes, though. Ms. Kerr recommends kitty litter: “Because most kitty litter formulas have active charcoal in them to neutralize litter box smells, it’s a great odor eliminator. Seal the laptop up in a bag or closable bin with a cup or so of the litter and leave it for 24 to 48 hours.” If you don’t have a cat, I’ve also had good luck with diaper pail deodorizers, which are neat little packets of charcoal you can throw away when you’re done. The longer you leave the computer in the bin, the better.

If you’re comfortable taking your computer apart, you can also open it up and clean off the board with isopropyl alcohol. But in my experience, this isn’t usually necessary — it just speeds up the process a little bit.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

Welcome to TNW Basics , a collection of tips, guides, and advice on how to easily get the most out of your gadgets, apps, and other stuff.

You wouldn’t go weeks without washing your bedding, continuously use the same coffee mug, or wear the same socks every day — or maybe you would, but you’re missing the point. Like anything you use every day, it needs cleaning, and that includes your — probably disease-riddled — laptop.

But we’re not here to make you feel bad about your gross life choices, we’ve instead produced a handy guide on how to clean your laptop exterior safely, whatever the brand.

So here’s some good news, you don’t need much to give new life to your machine. To get the new-laptop feels, here’s all you’ll need (so there’s really no excuse):

  • Microfiber cloths
  • Canned air
  • Eco cotton buds
  • Computer screen cleaner
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Or you can have it all in this kit

So, where do I begin?

First things first, don’t forget to switch your laptop off — you’ll be cleaning the keys and the last thing you want is to accidentally change your laptop language or send a weird message. Also, unplug any leads that are connected to your machine, including charging wires, USB cables, earphones, and the battery if your laptop allows — note: Apple doesn’t.

Once you’ve gathered your cleaning tools, begin the deep clean by focusing on the keyboard. Using the canned air, aim the straw at the keyboard, a few centimeters away, and blow out in short bursts any trapped dust or biscuit crumbs that you’ve collected over the years.

You’ll want to start with the keyboard, as the canned air will blow away all the dirt which will inevitably land on your screen, touchpad, and basically everywhere — depending on how gross your keyboard really is.

Continue blowing the air into other crevices of your machine including the charging port, USB/USB-C ports, and any other gaps. Once you’re sure every crumb is out, carefully wipe away the dirt using a clean microfiber cloth.

By regularly blowing dust out of your keyboard and other cracks, it’ll prevent your laptop from overheating. But if you think your laptop is beyond the point of cleaning at home, for example if you see big lumps of dust or dirt, take your machine into a repair shop for a professional clean; the last thing you want is to make it even worse.

Phew, that’s done. What’s next?

Here’s the part where you’ll see your laptop’s biggest glow-up — its frame and exterior body. We’re going to get out our cleaning liquid for this bit — but you should never apply liquid directly onto your machine. Make sure any cleaning liquid used on the laptop is applied directly onto a cloth and make sure it’s not dripping or overly soaked — you can do this by squeezing the cloth.

Taking a microfiber cloth, add a few drops of the rubbing alcohol, begin wiping the surfaces of your laptop. This includes the edge of your screen, the touch pad, the interior frame, the laptop lid, all edges, and even the bottom of your laptop — but you shouldn’t follow this same procedure on your screen.

And here’s where the cotton buds come in handy. For the gaps your cloth can’t quite reach, add a drop of cleaning product to the cotton bud and scrape away at the edges of your laptop including the frame in between your keyboard keys, the fold of your screen, the edges of any USB or charging ports, and any other gap where you see dirt.

Depending on how long it’s been since you last cleaned your laptop, which I imagine is quite a while, don’t rush this process.

Wow, it looks amazing. Are we done yet?

No, not quite. Your laptop screen probably has smudged fingerprints on it, or it’s covered in a layer of thick dust you’ve somehow got used to. Start off by taking a clean cloth and lightly wipe off any visible dirt or grease. If you think it needs a little more help, take some screen cleaner, spray it directly onto the cloth, and wipe away.

But don’t be tempted by use any household glass-cleaning sprays. Your laptop screen is delicate and there’s been cases where MacBook screens have been permanently damaged by products designed to clean computer screens. If you don’t want to live life too closely on the edge, Apple suggests using a small amount of water on a clean cloth.

How to properly clean your gross laptopDamage on a MacBook screen after using a laptop cleaner

And vwa-lah! Your laptop is clean — unless it was truly too gross and it needs a proper industrial clean. Don’t let the years go by without cleaning the device you probably use every single day, it’s disgusting.

This post includes affiliate links to products that you can buy online. If you purchase them through our links, we get a small cut of the revenue.

Because apparently, lots of people don’t know.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

You’d think people would have a pretty good idea as to how exactly to keep things clean between the cheeks from wipe to wash. But according to Reddit users, plenty of people actually don’t know how to keep their downstairs squeaky clean.

“The number of people that don’t wash their ass is astounding,” Redditor youallsuck6 wrote as a personal hygiene reminder. “Yes, people can tell. Yes, it’s really that bad.”

Wiping and washing might seem as though they’re pretty basic human skills, but in reality, there are plenty of ways to mess them up. (For example, some people are convinced you can wipe while standing, which is nowhere near correct.)

“When you stand, your butt cheeks are pressed together, preventing you from getting full access to the anus. So, most experts will agree that sitting is better than standing to clean yourself,” says Sunitha Posina, MD, a New York City-area internist.

Screwing up the intricate art of washing your butt can lead to odor, discomfort, or swamp ass. “In general, failing to wipe correctly and leaving residue behind can become noticeable after just a few hours, starting with mild itching and irritation,” she says.

None of those symptoms are particularly fun, especially in the age of ass eating, pegging, and prostate stimulation. Butthole visibility is at an all-time high, so make sure that it’s groomed and fresh

Here’s how to wipe right and make sure your 🍑🍑 is – well, just peachy.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

How to Wipe Your Butt

The first step towards peak cleanliness is maintaining a well-wiped butt. Wiping and cleaning go hand in hand, which is something you’d think we generally learned once we left diapers behind.

Unfortunately, the correct way to wipe your butt might elude you. Joel Krachman, MD, is the Chief of Gastroenterology for New Jersey-based AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center. According to Dr. Krachman, there aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to wiping, except that you probably shouldn’t do it hard and/or fast.

“Some people wipe so vigorously that they irritate the anal area,” Krachman says. This can cause painful conditions like hemorrhoids or anal abscesses, which can lead to their own problems, such as bleeding, itching, and leakage. If you suffer from either of those conditions, he recommends using wet wipes instead of the usual dry TP. Or consider a bidet.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

Using enough toilet paper (folded or crumpled is fine), reach behind your back between your legs and wipe from front to back. Wipe backward from the perineum, toward and past the anus.

“Wipe gently, and use additional toilet paper until the paper is clean and never scrub the skin around the perineum. If you cannot reach behind your back, reaching in between your legs from the front is fine as long as you wipe from front to back,” says Dr. Posina. You can also use wipes.

No matter which wipes you choose, make sure you take a close look at the ingredients.

Many popular brands contain the preservative methylisothiazolinone, which is “an ingredient that can cause an allergic reaction in a lot of people,” according to pharmacologist Joe Graedon, the co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy, a consumer advocacy website.

Some of the fancy designer-brands, including Dude Wipes, don’t contain methylisothiazolinone.

There’s also Aquinelle Toilet Tissue Mist, which will run you $10 for about 300 sprays, which moistens your toilet paper thanks to a combination of aloe and witch hazel.

Or, you can skip the fancy products and go straight for liquefied witch hazel, suggests Graedon, who says it’s cheaper and just as effective. After your usual wiping, add a few drops to a small wad of toilet paper—just enough to dampen it—and give your butt a final wipe.

You may not be clean on a microscopic level, Graedon says, but a witch hazel cleanse ensures “far less bacterial contamination.”

The dust and pet hair that clings to the exterior of your PC are easy to locate and clean up. Even the keyboard and monitor can be cleaned with relative ease, using things that are probably already in your home.

Clean the surfaces

Generally speaking, you can wipe down the outside of the console, mouse, printer, monitor, and keyboard using nothing more than a dry cloth. For some items, but not the monitor screen, you can wet a paper towel with household cleaner, such as Formula 409, and then do some rubbing to remove any buildup.

When using liquids to clean the outside of a computer, avoid spilling liquid inside the computer. Wring out that sponge!

Do not spray cleaner on the computer case; instead, first spray it on a paper towel and then clean the case.

Clean the console vents

The most important things to clean on any computer are the air vents on the console. Air must circulate inside the box or the computer’s components get too hot. That’s when problems start. In fact, cleaning the air vents on your PC is probably the best way to prevent computer woes.

The computer has two sets of air vents found on the front and back. Clean both. You might be able to clean them out by hand, but a vacuum cleaner is probably a better option. An air can works, but don’t blow the gunk into the console.

How to properly clean your gross laptop

The console is the main PC box. Some folks call it the CPU, though that term is incorrect. Nope, it’s the console, the main box into which all computer goodies plug.

Clean the keyboard

Use a vacuum cleaner to de-crud the keyboard. The vacuum more adequately removes the debris from between the keys than a can of air does, which merely blows the stuff around. For intermediate crud, use tweezers.

Sometimes, it helps to turn over the keyboard and give it a good shake. Be prepared for gross stuff to come out.

The best way to avoid a dirty keyboard is to not eat while you use the computer.

You can clean keycaps by using a pencil eraser. Keep in mind that the more you use a computer keyboard, the more likely it is that certain key cap labels wear off. If you use a pencil eraser to clean key caps, take a vacuum to the keyboard immediately afterward to rid the keyboard’s guts of eraser stubble.

Clean the monitor screen

The traditional glass or CRT monitor is easy to clean. Spray some standard glass cleaner on a paper towel and then rub the monitor’s screen. Just don’t get any of the cleaner inside the monitor. As long as you spray a conservative amount of cleaner on the paper towel, you’ll meet that goal.

Cleaning an LCD monitor is trickier because not only should you not spray anything on the monitor, you also need to avoid using alcohol or ammonia to clean the thing. The best way to clean an LCD monitor is to use an LCD monitor-cleaning kit. For general cleaning, a lint-free or microfiber cloth works fine. In fact, your monitor may have come with this type of cloth.

Clean a monitor when it’s turned off. That way, you can best see the screen.

Watch Video 342 to see a cleaning of a LCD monitor. Video 642 shows cleaning of a CRT monitor:

So you’ve been protecting yourself during the ongoing spread of COVID-19. You’ve been following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for keeping yourself free of germs. You’re washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and have been avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

That’s great, but have you cleaned your phone lately?

At least 18 US states have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as the crisis approaches 100,000 total cases worldwide. Businesses have started to prepare for work in case an outbreak were to force office closures for weeks. Whether you’re going to still report to the office or work remotely during a potential outbreak, it’s very important to make sure you’re clean and safe while commuting and at work.

How to clean your phone

Did you know that your cellphone is 10 times more germs than a toilet seat?

Pretty gross, but don’t worry: it can be cleaned in a few steps. But before you do anything, you should avoid using any kind of rubbing alcohol or disinfectant wipes because it can damage your phone screen. In addition, phones should be unplugged and turned off before cleaning.

For Apple products like the iPhone 11 and other new models, Apple suggests owners use a soft, slightly damp lens cloth to clean the surface of the phone. Normally, that should do the trick since the lens cloth will capture and clean residue, but if dirt or grime is still present after the first clean, you could use a soft, lint-free cloth and apply warm soapy water to it disinfect and clean your iPhone. However, phone users need to be extra careful and try to avoid getting moisture in openings.

A similar cleaning routine can be used for older iPhone models including the iPhone XS, iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 7. For more information on how to properly clean your iPhone and other Apple products, the company has additional details listed on its website.

Other devices like Samsung’s Galaxy Note line advice for a similar cleaning procedure. When cleaning with a dampened cloth, Samsung suggests going up and down the screen to clean it, while using a dry corner of the cloth to remove any excess moisture left on the phone.

If you have a case around your phone, it should be cleaned in addition to your phone at least once a day. Depending on the surface, Lysol wipes or a mixed solution of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol (as microbiologist Charles Gerba suggests) should do the trick.

At work

Think about everything that you touch at your desk. From your keyboard to your mouse, it’s time to clean those daily.

Similar rules apply when cleaning your laptop. Apple recommends powering down your device and unplugging it from a power adapter. MacRumors said a Lysol Wipe or two to wipe down areas including the keyboard and trackpad, but be cautious to not get any liquids beyond the surface. Apple suggests squeezing the wipes before use. After the initial cleaning, use a wet microfiber or cloth to wipe down the areas that were dampened.

On the commute

The New York Post spoke with Gerba about how to avoid germs on the New York City subway after the Coronavirus officially reached the Big Apple.

Gerba suggested using hand sanitizer immediately after getting off the subway. Here are a few other tips he recommended:

Avoid crowds: Try to travel during off-peak hours and avoid over-crammed subway cars. More people means more potentially unsanitized hands.

Careful with the turnstile: Avoid using your hands. Gerba said use your hips or the back of your hand when pushing through the turnstiles.

Bags: If your bag touches the subway car or station floor, you should wipe it with a disinfectant wipe immediately.

Phones: Try to avoid using your phone on the subway for germ purposes.

Don’t eat: Because no one wants hand-to-mouth contamination.

The best tips to remove smudges and stains from a PC monitor or an HDTV.

Even if you don’t have snot-nosed kids or wet-nosed pets, your computer monitor or HDTV panel will eventually accumulate a collection of annoying smudges and stains. My household happens to contain both of the aforementioned creatures and, thus, I’ve developed a method for wiping down the HDTV in the living room and the LCD monitor in my office, as well as the screen of my laptop and iPad.

If you take a quick survey of LCD or HDTV manufacturers about the recommended method for cleaning the surface of your monitor or TV screen, you’ll discover more don’ts than dos, often in conflict with one another.

In the don’t column:

  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives. (This means don’t reach for the Windex under the kitchen sink, as tempting as it may be.)
  • Don’t use anything other than warm water.
  • Don’t use any liquid at all.
  • Don’t spray a liquid directly on the screen.
  • Don’t use a hard cloth.
  • Don’t use your fingernail or a sharp object to remove stubborn stains.

In the do column:

  • Use a dry, soft, lint-free cloth, preferably the micro-fiber cleaning cloth that may have come with your TV or monitor.
  • Use a solution of mild soap and water, if needed.

Taking all of the above advice into consideration and speaking from my own experience, the following is my recommendation:

First, attempt to clean your screen with a dry, lint-free cloth. If you can’t find the cleaning cloth that came with your screen in question, then it’s likely you have one laying around from a laptop, iPad, or iPhone purchase.

If a dry cloth doesn’t remove the smudges and stains on your screen, then get yourself two cloths and a solution of diluted dish soap and warm water. (I use Dawn dish soap, and just a drop.)

How to properly clean your gross laptopMatt Elliott/CNET

After removing any dust from your screen with a dry cloth, dip the other cloth in your dish soap solution, wring it out, and gently wipe your display. Next, rinse out your soapy cloth, wring it out again, and wipe your display to remove any soap residue. Finally, take your dry cloth and wipe the display to remove any streaking.

Do you have any tips or cautionary tales about cleaning monitors or HDTV displays? If so, please share in the comments below.

Editors’ note: It’s time for spring cleaning! Week’s two’s theme: physical cleaning. Check back every day this week to see how best to keep dirt, grime, crumbs, and other annoying bits off your devices. And be sure to return next week for more spring cleaning tips and tricks.

Real Simple answers your questions.

Q. What is the best cleaner to use on computer screens?
Mary Richarte, San Antonio, Texas

A. As easy as it is to swoosh around the house with one multipurpose cleaner, the spray you use to clean windows and mirrors could harm your computer.

“Steer clear of all-purpose cleaners with acetone or alcohol, since they can take off the screen’s protective coating,” says Darren Dotson, an IT systems administrator in New York City.

Instead, use a soft microfiber cloth, such as an Endust Micro Fiber Towel ($6.50 for two,, to dust off the computer and the monitor. If the computer has endured too many sticky fingers and a dry cloth just won’t cut it, then turn off the machine and wipe down the screen with a slightly damp cloth. If you’re cleaning the exterior, use a cloth moistened with a mild all-purpose cleaner, like Windex. Or try a computer-specific product, like Sara Lee Cleaning Wipes from Endust ($7, —Carlos Greer

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