How to Clean a Notebook

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Thinking about a new notebook? A quick clean and yours could look as good as new. We show you how in this comprehensive guide.

Materials Needed

We’ll be counting on you to have the following to go through this guide:

  • Two microfiber towels that are larger than your notebook (available at automotive stores such as AutoZone, or retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart)
  • Water or mild cleaning solution (no ammonia, bleach, or other harsh chemicals)
  • A pair of plastic or rubber gloves
  • A handful of cotton swabs (available in grocery stores in the personal care aisle)
  • Canned air (optional; available at home improvement and grocery stores)

Let’s get started.

Note: NotebookReview.com isn’t responsible for damage or otherwise performed as a result of following this guide. You follow this guide at your own risk.

Basic Preparation and Tips

Completely power off your notebook before starting. Also unplug it and remove its battery (the latter may not be possible with some notebooks that have sealed batteries.)

Have a clean working space, such as a table or desk. Give yourself plenty of room to pick up and move your notebook around while you’re cleaning it.

While picking up your notebook and moving it around, take care not to pick it up by its lid or corners. Always support the chassis with both hands. If you pick the notebook up with one hand, it can put excess pressure on that portion of the chassis and cause damage.

Expect to spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes to clean a typical notebook.

Cleaning the Screen

The most noticeable part of your notebook, clean or dirty, is its screen. Take a look at all the fingerprints on this notebook’s screen – it’s not a pretty sight.

For cleaning the screen, you’ll need one of the microfiber towels. Lightly dampen a portion of the towel with tap water; and by lightly, we mean that if you squeeze the towel, water shouldn’t drip out.

Note that we don’t recommend using any sort of chemicals on the screen, as screen surface coatings can be degraded or damaged by their use. You can experiment with a mild cleaning solution if there are parts of the screen that won’t get clean with just the water-dampened microfiber towel. Observe all of the guidelines below.

  • The key to safely cleaning the screen is to NOT use a lot of pressure. Pressing against the surface of the screen can damage it. Therefore, get the towel in contact with the screen and use just enough pressure to keep it against the surface. That’s all that’s needed for the towel to be effective.


  • Wipe horizontally across the screen in one direction with a portion of the towel; this will push any large particles to one side. Then wipe vertically down that side to remove those particles, and “pinch” with your fingers at the bottom to capture the particles. You can then proceed using the towel to clean the rest of the screen. Try not to reuse parts of the towel, as it may have picked up contaminants that could scratch the screen.
  • Use a dry portion of the towel to gently dry off any dampness when finished.

Cleaning the Keyboard

The keyboard is the second major area of the notebook that you’ll notice if it’s clean or dirty. It’s also the number one place where germs live on a notebook, so we’ll be using a cleaning solution in this part.

(If you have sensitive skin, observe all warnings on the cleaning solution you’re planning to use for this section. A mild solution is all that’s needed, e.g. no bleach. You may wish to put on a pair of rubber or plastic gloves.)

  • Dampen a portion of your microfiber towel with cleaning solution.

  • Notebook keyboards differ in design. Be especially careful when moving the towel across your keyboard; the towel can catch on the edges of the keys and rip them off if you aren’t careful. Therefore, you may want to put the towel over your finger and just do one key surface at a time.
  • If you’re cleaning key by key as described in the bullet above, press down the key and then rub its surface with the cleaning solution-dampened towel until it comes clean. Take a look at your towel while you’re doing this – you may be surprised at how dirty it gets! Dark-colored keyboards especially can hide a lot of grime.

  • Optional: use canned air in short bursts to blow out any particles from under the key caps.

Now that we’re done with the tops of the keys, it’s time to start getting between them. A cotton swab is a good tool for this job.

  • Dampen the end of a cotton swab with cleaning solution or tap water, and start tracing the spaces between the keys. This will take a little time, but it will be well worth the effort once you see how clean the keyboard looks.

Cleaning the Touchpad

You can imagine that the touch pad is a home for germs and bacteria. It also has a habit of attracting dust and other debris, as you can see in our photo here. The touch pad is one of the less-sensitive parts of the notebook, so use a microfiber towel dampened in mild cleaning solution to rub the touch pad’s surface until it’s clean. You shouldn’t need to use much pressure.

Cleaning the Exterior

For this part, it’s a good idea to place your notebook on top of a microfiber towel. This is especially important when you turn the notebook on its lid as to avoid scratching it.

You can use a cleaning solution for the exterior of the notebook or tap water. We suggest starting with water; only use a cleaning solution if water is ineffective at removing contamination. The microfiber towel should be doing most of the work in either event.

  • Dampen a microfiber towel in water or the cleaning solution.
  • Close the lid of the notebook and start with the sides of the chassis. The do the top and the bottom, respectively. You’ll probably have to hold a portion of the notebook in the air to clean the sides, but for the top and bottom, place the notebook on a microfiber towel and then work on it. (As in, don’t try to hold the notebook in the air and clean it at the same time.) Remember to use a different part of the towel after a portion of it gets dirty.
  • Open the lid and start on the palm rest and the screen bezel. Once they’re clean, dry them off with a part of the microfiber towel.

Cleaning the Ports

You’ll need canned air for this part. Use short bursts into each of the ports to (hopefully) blast away dust and other particles. Be careful to keep the canned air can as level as possible; unless it’s upright and held close to level, water vapor can come out of the can. That’s definitely not something you want to spray into your notebook.

Cleaning the Cooling Fans

(If your notebook doesn’t have cooling fans, then this is something you can obviously skip.)

This part is optional; we only recommend doing this if you’re comfortable removing the access panel on your notebook. (Note that this step will not be possible with all notebooks, as not all notebooks will have an access panel.) Refer to your notebook’s service manual if you’re unsure about how to go about removing the access panel. (Again, that’s assuming the notebook has one in the first place.) You can always ask for advice in our forums!

After you can see the notebook’s cooling fans, make an assessment of whether they need to be cleaned. If they have dust built up on them, or there is hair and dust in the general vicinity, it’s a good idea to clean that out.

Cleaning the fans is a tricky proposition. You can use cotton swabs and/or canned air for this. Here are our best tips and suggestions:

  • If you can fit a cotton swab between the fan blades, do so, and gently knock off the dust. Take care NOT to apply any downward pressure on the fan blades; just get in between them as gently as possible.

  • When using canned air, you don’t want the fans to spin; this can damage the fan’s motor. Therefore, use a cotton swab or your finger to very gently hold down the fan (preferably in the center) to keep it from spinning. You can see us doing that here using a cotton swab, as the fan opening is just too small for a fingertip. Use the canned air in short bursts to clear any dust. Be careful to keep the canned air can as upright and level as possible to prevent any moisture from coming out of the can.
  • In addition to using the canned air against the fan, also aim it out the exhaust vent and use a few bursts to clear them. If you are going to shoot canned air into the notebook through the vents, hold down the fan as described above to keep it from moving.

Conclusion

There’s nothing like a clean … anything. A clean notebook will make using it more enjoyable for any purpose. That’s not to mention it will reflect better on you if you have to bring your notebook somewhere public. Last, it’s a matter of hygiene; the outer surfaces of notebooks can be crawling with germs, especially around the keyboard and touch pad.


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