- Never spray or squirt any liquid onto any computer component. If a spray is needed, spray the liquid onto a cloth.
- You can use a vacuum to suck up dirt, dust,or hair around the computer. However,do not use a vacuum inside your computer as it generates static electricity that can damage your computer. If you need to use a vacuum inside your computer, use a portable battery powered vacuum or try compressed air.
- When cleaning a component or the computer, turn it off before cleaning.
- Be cautious when using any cleaning solvents; some people have allergic reactions to chemicals in cleaning solvents, and some solvents can even damage the case. Try always to use water or a highly diluted solvent.
- When cleaning, be careful to not accidentally adjust any knobs or controls. Also, when cleaning the back of the computer, if anything is connected make sure not to disconnect the plugs.
- When cleaning fans, especially smaller fans, 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 generate a back voltage.
- Never eat or drink around the computer.
- Limit smoking around the computer.
Although computer cleaning products are available, you can also use household items to clean your computers and peripherals. Below is a listing of items you may need or want to use while cleaning your computer.
- Cloth – A cotton cloth is the best tool used when rubbing down computer components. Paper towels can be used with most hardware, but we always recommend using a cloth whenever possible. However, only use a cloth when cleaning components such as the case, a drive, mouse, and keyboard. You should not use a cloth to clean any circuitry such as the RAM or motherboard.
- 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. However, do not use a vacuum that plugs into the wall since it creates lots 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? Cleaning your case keeps the appearance of the computer looking new. While cleaning, if you see ventilation slots, these can be cleaned or cleared to help keep a steady airflow into the computer and keep all components cool.
Procedure: The plastic case that houses the PC components can be cleaned with a slightly damp lint-free cloth. For stubborn stains, add a little household detergent to the cloth. You should not 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.
CD and DVD Disc Cleaning
Why? Dirty CDs can cause read errors or cause CDs to not work at all.
Procedure: Use a cleaning kit or damp clean cotton cloth to clean CDs, DVDs, and other discs. When cleaning a disc wipe against the tracks, starting from the middle of the CD or DVD and wiping towards the outer side as shown in the picture below. Never wipe with the tracks; doing so may put more scratches on the disc.
Tip: If the substance on a CD cannot be removed using water, pure alcohol can also be used.
Hard Drive Cleaning
Why? Computer hard drives cannot be cleaned. However, they can be cleaned with software utilities to help it run fast and efficiently. Utilizing these utilities prevent the hard drive from slowing down.
Procedure: Refer to our basic troubleshooting section for your operating system for steps that can be done to help improve the performance of your computer.
Why? Headphones and headsets can be used by many different people and may need to be frequently cleaned 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.
Note: If the headphones are being used for a library or school, do not use any disinfectant or cleaning solvent since some people can 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 spreading head lice. If different students use the same headphones, have students use their own headphones, place bags over the headphones, or using headphones that can be wiped with warm water after each use.
These steps are for cleaning a desktop keyboard. See the cleaning a laptop keyboard page for laptop steps.
Dust, dirt, and bacteria
The computer keyboard is usually the most germ infected items in your home or office. A keyboard may even contain more bacteria than your toilet seat. Cleaning it helps remove any dangerous bacteria and keeps the keyboard working properly.
Procedure: Before cleaning the keyboard first turn off the computer or if you are using a USB keyboard unplug it. Not unplugging the keyboard can cause other computer problems as you may press keys that cause the computer to perform a task you do not want it to perform.
Many people clean the keyboard by turning it upside down and shaking. A more efficient method is to use compressed air. Compressed air is pressurized air contained in a can with a very long nozzle. To clean a keyboard using compressed air aim 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 does not have loose “pop off” keys can be sucked up by the vacuum.
If you want to clean the keyboard more extensively, 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 on it (e.g. pop, cola, Pepsi, Coke, beer, wine, coffee, and milk), not taking the proper steps can destroy the keyboard.
Procedure: Below are recommendations that can help prevent a keyboard from becoming bad after something has spilt into the keys.
If anything is spilt onto the keyboard turn the computer off immediately or at the very least disconnect the keyboard from the computer. Once done flip the keyboard over 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 start cleaning the keys. After cleaned 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 keys are sticking, 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 still does not work we recommend buying a new keyboard.