Compu-clean: How to clean your PC

If you’re anything like me, your cleaning regiment is probably very structured: clean the tops of things. Clean underneath those same things. Repeat as necessary.

But many homeowners neglect the most frequently-used items in their homes – their electronics, and in particular their computers. These ubiquitous (and expensive) devices can become clogged with dust and grime after years of continuous use, which can shorten their lifespan and expose you and your family to harmful bacteria (just think of how many people touch your keyboard in an average week.)

Fortunately, cleaning your PC is as easy as 1-2-3.

What you’ll need:

  • A Screwdriver
  • Can of compressed air (available from computer dealers or office-supply stores)
  • Cotton swabs (do not use a cotton ball)
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft, lint-free cloths, paper towels, or anti-static cloths
  • Water

(Note: ALWAYS turn off electronic devices and unplug them before performing any cleaning or maintenance).

Step 1: Cleaning your tower

Computer towers require ventilation to avoid overheating. But the fan and vents also allow dust to get inside, which can make the ventilation systems less efficient.

To clean inside your tower, you must first open the case. Computers vary in the kinds of fastening mechanisms that hold the tower together – some use knobs or slots that can be removed by hand, while others are held together by screws. If in doubt, consult your computer’s owner’s manual. (Note, it some cases opening your computer case will void the warranty. If in doubt, consult your computer’s owner’s manual.)

Once the case is open, you’ll want to avoid touching the interior as much as possible. Remove large pieces of dust or lint with a cloth or a pair of tweezers. Angle the computer downward, then use the compressed air to remove dust from hard-to-reach corners. Use the compressed air to clean the tower vents, fan, disk drive and CD-ROM drive.

Finally, close the case, and wipe down the exterior of the tower with a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol.

Step 2: Cleaning your monitor

Take care when choosing what materials to use when cleaning your monitor. Do not use paper towels, which can scratch the monitor surface – use a soft, lint-free cloth instead. Also, never spray cleaning materials directly onto a monitor screen – spray onto the cloth.

For LCD screens (used in flat screen and laptop monitors), wipe down the screen using a small amount of water on a soft, lint-free cloth. For glass screens (used in “TV-style” monitors), you can use glass cleaner, again with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Step 3: Cleaning your Mouse and Keyboard

Unplug the mouse and keyboard, if they’re connected to your computer, or turn them off, if they’re wireless.

To clean your keyboard, first turn it upside down over a sink or waste basket and shake out any loose debris. Then, use compressed air to clean between the keys. Finally, use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to wipe off any stains. In some cases, you may need to remove “sticky” keys and clean them separately.

To clean your mouse, use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to wipe off the top of the mouse. If your mouse uses an electronic sensor, rather than the traditional roller-ball, make sure to wipe off any dust or debris from the sensor. If your mouse has a roller ball, open the underside of the mouse and remove the roller ball. Soak the roller ball in water and let it air dry. Then, wipe the interior of the mouse with rubbing alcohol and a soft, lint-free cloth, then spray the interior with compressed air. Return the roller ball and to the mouse and close it.