Cleaning Your Computer, Part 1

Computers get rather dirty very quickly. Lots of dust and dirt looks bad, can make keys stick or monitors hard to read, and in certain cases, can even cause your computer to malfunction. Whenever you think about it, it’s a good idea to clean up a little bit. Over the next few parts, I’ll present my system for keeping everything clean.

First up this week, though, is the tools and cleaning products that I use. There are no hard and fast rules on what you can and cannot use to clean your computer (in general; don’t, for instance, soak your computer in the tub), but these generally do a good job.

  • A can of compressed air. This is better than your breath for several reasons. First, it’s much more powerful, and it comes with a little nozzle to direct a high-powered stream of air at a single point (for instance, you can clean the junk out of a keyboard with it; good luck doing that with your breath). Secondly, the moisture in your breath can theoretically cause electrical components to short out if you turn them on again too quickly. I’ve never seen this cause a problem, but I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. (Warning: Compressed “air” is not actually plain air, and it’s weird stuff. Don’t spray it upside down, shake it before using, or try to inhale it. I’ve been looking for some reusable product that uses normal air instead of weird chemical compounds, but I haven’t found anything acceptable yet.)
  • A handheld or canister vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool. This comes in handy for dragging junk out of keyboards, computer cases, and any other things with small spaces. The compressed air does a good job loosening it, but the vacuum cleaner can do better with actually getting it out of the space. If you don’t have one, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s nice to have.
  • Rubbing alcohol. This does a great job at cleaning between keys, cleaning off the eyes on optical mice, wiping down screens, and all sorts of other stuff. You can pick up a cheap bottle at any drugstore if you don’t have some sitting around already.
  • Microfiber cloth. This is nice for cleaning off screens and for general wiping down of things. If you don’t have one, cotton balls are a perfectly acceptable substitute.
  • Q-tips. These are indispensable for wiping out small spaces.
  • Cyber Clean. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a handy cleaning compound that you can squish into small spaces to grab stuff stuck between them. It works great for keyboards and comes in handy for plenty of other stuff too. You can grab some at Amazon for $5 next time you’re buying something.

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