Your Computer Is Filthy. Why Won't You Clean It?

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Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.

So I may have had a few too many Cokes last night and thought it was a good idea to eat popcorn when I got home. Now, Sober Me is welcomed by a laptop with popcorn grease all over it.

A friend who is also a writer got in touch with me last week to ask if I'd serve as an expert for a story he's writing about men who debase their laptops and tablets with their personal fluids. Which, sure, of course, always happy to, etc. But it got me to thinking about how I haven't written about cleaning your laptops and such since … well, since this column first started in 2013. So! Time to revisit.

Thank you, also, for not asking me how to clean semen off of laptops. Oh, wait.


Before we get into an overview of how to clean laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. it should first be noted that the best practice is always to consult with the user's guidelines provided by the equipment's manufacturer. Apple, for example, doesn't recommend the use of rubbing alcohol to clean iPhone and iPad screens. So now you know that. Whether or not you choose to heed Apple's directives is, of course, entirely up to you. [MEANINGFUL LOOK.]


Alcohol Wipes

If you're going to jizz on your computers, this box of 200 antiseptic wipes is a wise investment. Even if you're not planning to jizz on your computer (which, don't), the wipes are still a great idea, and here's why: Sure, you can go out and buy fancy tech wipes or cleansing sprays or Silly Putty-esque crumb-picker-uppers. In fact, we'll talk about a few of those options downcolumn, because they're fine and they work. But! They are pricey in comparison to good old rubbing alcohol, which is what those wipes are pre-moistened with, and they work so darn well.


The other thing to love oh-so-very-much about them is the way in which they're packaged: The little pouches make it super easy to pop a few in your laptop or tablet case or sleeve for easy access even when you're on the go. You can absolutely go for the even cheaper option of buying a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and swabbing your machine with a screen-safe cloth dipped in the stuff, but that bottle isn't as easily transportable.

The 'why?' of all of this is that the rubbing alcohol will clean your computer. Specifically, it's going to get the grease right off those keys. The wipes are also great for cleaning the frame, bezel, and touch screens. (Tablet folks! That's for you!)



If your machine has an LED monitor, microfiber is going to be your best bet for keeping it clean. Tempting though they may be, steer clear of paper products when it comes to screen-care, even ones as delicate as facial tissue. Paper products of all stripes can cause scratching on the fine material of which your monitor is made. Stick with the microfiber and you'll be A-OK.


If there's stuck-on stuff that's proving to be stubborn and resisting removal, go ahead and dampen the microfiber with water or a small amount of white vinegar, which will help to convince whatever is stuck-on to relent.

It seems almost impossible that a simple piece of cloth could keep screens clean, but it really is true. The one thing that microfiber won't do—which is obvious, but I do like to be thorough—is it won't disinfect. So in the cases of tablets and smartphones, which are constantly filthy by dint of constantly being in your filthy hands, using those alcohol wipes on the reg is a good thing to remember to do.


Canned Air

Canned air—which is more properly called "compressed air," but I like the sound of "canned air" better, so humor me, yes?—is The Ticket for keeping your keyboard crumb- and cat-hair-free.


The one thing to know about the use of canned air is that it should always be the first thing you use. If you've ever used it, you know why, but for those of you who haven't, here's the deal: The canned air will send everything that's dwelling in/under/around the keys flying up- and outward. That will make a mess. If you've already cleaned the frame, bezel, and monitor, you will have to clean them again. The end.

(Also: The can gets really cold while in use.)

Those Other Expensive Things

Maybe after reading all that, you still want something fancier, something more corporate, something more you. Fine, be that way.


The iKlear products are good. I've used them; they're Apple-approved and fairly easy to find. (I've seen them for sale at the Apple store and also at places like Target, so.)

I've never met a Windex product I didn't love, so I'm confident in recommending their Electronics Cleaner and Wipes. The wipes, in particular, are handy in the same way that the alcohol wipes are, in that you can toss the packet in your computer satchel for all-the-time access.


There are also the toy-like tech-cleaning products like Cyber Clean Electronics Cleaning Putty. They work, they're kinda cool to play with, and they don't cost all that much … not a bad option.

There are tons more products that can fall into this category; perhaps you have a favorite and would like to tell us about it in the comments?


A Quick Note About Cleaning Ports

If you have a clogged port, avoid using anything breakable to clear it out. I know that toothpick is a tempting tool! But avoid it, lest it break, get stuck in the port, and cause an even bigger problem.


Oh, well, as long as I'm here, I might as well add this, on the subject of ports: If you plug earbuds into one of those ports and would like to clean them (you should!), the alcohol wipes will be just grand at that task.

Now then, I'm not generally in the business of doling out homework assignments, but I'm going to make an exception today: Tonight, your homework is to clean your laptops, tablets, and telephones. Trust me: They need it.


Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more of her cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found onTwitter, Kinja, and Tumblr.


Image by Sam Woolley.

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