Neptun maintenance series part 2: How to clean your laptop

Antonio Galluccio

11 July 2017


Do you know that feeling when you find a small black dot on your laptop screen, and, fearing a dead pixel, immediately grab the nearest rag to start scrubbing, only to find out that it was just a speck of dust? That went better than expected, didn’t it? So, let’s take some time to find out how to properly clean your prized laptop.

Cleaning the case

Laptop cases, especially ones made from metal, are quite easy to clean. All you need is a microfiber cloth, some dish liquid, and water. The dish liquid should be free from strong chemicals, acids, and bases. Mix one part dish liquid with 5 parts water and wet the cloth with the mixture. It’s important to wring the cloth out thoroughly before using it on your computer to avoid water damage. Once you’ve turned OFF your laptop, you can start gently cleaning all the surfaces of the case. Be careful not to get any water into any ports, into the touchpad, or any other sensitive place. After cleaning the device with the damp cloth, you can use a different microfiber cloth or some paper towels to scrub off any remaining moisture and residue from the soap.
Never squirt any cleaning liquid directly onto the device and only turn your laptop back on once you’ve made sure that it’s completely dry.

Cleaning the display

The display is the most sensitive external part of a laptop, so special care is necessary when cleaning it. As always, you should turn off your laptop and never apply any cleaning liquid directly onto the device. Store-bought glass cleaning liquids are generally too strong for laptop displays and should be avoided. Lenovo claims that you can use a 1:1 mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol to get rid of stubborn stains, but we recommend that you use the same mixture you used on the case or just distilled water. Special screen cleaners are mostly unnecessary, since they don’t do a better job than homemade solutions.
Use a lightly damp microfiber cloth in circular motions on the display and be careful not to push any moisture into the device. If you clean from the edges to the middle of the screen, you can avoid pushing dust and grime into the screen bezel. Use a light touch, since pressure can damage your display. Use a dry microfiber cloth after cleaning to remove residue from the cleaning liquid.

Cleaning the keyboard

Depending on the type of your keyboard, you can just turn over your laptop as a first step and gently shake out any debris. You can also use a stiff-bristled brush to get to the nasty bits inside the keyboard. Q-Tips and other cotton swabs should be avoided, since they tend to leave more dirt inside the keyboard than they remove. Additionally, you shouldn’t blow into the keyboard or use compressed air, as this will only drive the mess deeper into the laptop. You should also never try to remove any keys from the keyboard since modern designs break easily that way.
Just as with the rest of the laptop, use a damp cloth with our cleaning liquid and gently scrub the keyboard, while making sure that you don’t accidently rip out any keys. Only clean the keyboard when the laptop is turned off, and only turn it back on when it’s fully dry.


Cleaning the fans

Dust can clog up the fans of your laptop, decreasing the efficiency of the cooling system and making the device louder. Compressed air from a compressor or in cans is an easy way to get rid any pollution inside your device. Since you don’t want to blow dust into your laptop, you’ll have to open it up to clean it. The hardware maintenance manual of your laptop, which you can find on the manufacturer’s website, will tell you how to do it. When blowing out the fans and cooling fins, it’s important to stop the fans from spinning, since externally induced motion can damage the bearings. It goes without saying that the laptop should be turned off when you’re cleaning it.
We can lend a hand at the Help Points if you have any trouble opening up your laptop and we’ll clean out any dust for a small fee.


Preventative measures

Laptops will inevitably collect some dust and other particles, but there are ways to prevent a quick build-up. If it can be avoided, you shouldn’t use your device on any cloth surfaces like on a bed or on a blanket, since they contain dust and lint. To avoid smudges and the famous keyboard imprint on your screen, you can put a microfiber cloth between your keyboard and screen when you’re closing the laptop. You can also put a special protective screen onto your display that can easily be removed in case of damage or stubborn dirt.
Finally, we recommend that you always use a sleeve for your laptop when you’re carrying it around, since bags and backpacks often contain loads of debris that can easily make it into your device. Sleeves also give you some level of protection if something spills inside you bag.

Manufacturer’s recommendations

Lenovo: https://support.lenovo.com/ch/en/solutions/ht035676
HP: https://support.hp.com/gb-en/document/c00292159
Apple: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204172

Helpful German article on laptop cleaning:
https://www.heise.de/ct/artikel/Notebook-PC-Drucker-Display-richtig-reinigen-3622514.html