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Cleaning Computers

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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If your computer keyboard no longer offers the same snappy performance it did when it was new ... or if your mouse pointer moves sporadically or tends to stick in one position ... or if the mouse itself is a little tacky to the touch, take it as a sign some cleaning is in order.

Gunk, grime and germs are the natural by-products of computer use. The American Cleaning Institute® has some tips for giving these gremlins a clean sweep. Before you begin, check the owner's manual for any cleaning instructions specific to your keyboard, mouse or monitor.

No matter what type of equipment you have to clean, the first step is to shut down your computer and unplug from the power source.

Cleaning the Keyboard

  • With your computer turned off and unplugged, disconnect the keyboard.
  • Use compressed air to clean between the keys. Hold the container so you are spraying at an angle – this will dislodge dust and grime more efficiently.
  • Turn the keyboard over and shake it gently to dislodge crumbs and loose dust. It's best to do this over a trash can. Repeat spraying and gently shaking until there's no more particle fall out.
  • Spray a small amount of all-purpose cleaner on a soft, clean rag and wipe the keyboard, including the chassis and the keys.
  • Be sure the keyboard is completely dry before reconnecting it to the computer.

Cleaning the Computer Mouse

Most of us use our computers every day, so we're constantly handling the mouse, which means the surface is a breeding ground for all sorts of germs. A good habit, particularly in cold and flu season, is to give the mouse's surface a daily cleaning. Turn off the computer, then disconnect the mouse and spray a bit of antibacterial cleaner on a soft cloth or use an antibacterial wipe and gently clean the surface of the mouse. If you turn off your home or work computer overnight, make it a habit to clean the mouse before powering up in the morning.

Debris on the underside of the mouse can affect its performance. How you clean the mouse depends on whether you have an optical mouse or a ball mouse. An optical mouse utilizes a beam of light to track movement, while a ball (or mechanical) mouse has rollers inside, each set at a different angle to its counterparts. As the rollers are turned, signals are sent to the computer. Although an optical mouse usually requires less maintenance than a ball mouse, both need an occasional cleaning.

No matter which type of mouse you have, shut off and unplug the computer, then disconnect the mouse.

For an optical mouse:

  • Dampen a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol, use your fingertips to remove any excess moisture from the bud, and then gently clean the area where the LED and the lens are located. Be very careful not to put any pressure on the LED or lens, and also, ensure no excess fluid gets squeezed out of the cotton swab into the mouse.
  • Using a dry cotton swab, gently wipe over the area to make sure it's dry.
  • Turn the mouse right side up and let it continue to dry for a few minutes before plugging it back in.

For a ball mouse:

  • Cleaning the tracking area requires some disassembling. Following the manufacturer's instructions, release the removable cover on the bottom of the mouse and take out the ball.
  • Using a soft cloth or a microfiber cleaning cloth, clean the ball, removing all dust, hair and other debris. If necessary, dampen the cloth with water.
  • Now take a look at the rollers inside the mouse. Carefully remove any lint and debris with the tweezers. If necessary, use a few shots of compressed air to remove stubborn lint from the inside of the mouse. Be sure to keep the can upright so you don’t spray moisture into your mouse.
  • Next, put a drop of rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, squeeze the swab with your fingertips to remove excess moisture, and gently clean the rollers and the inside compartment.
  • Let the mouse air-dry thoroughly before reassembling it and reconnecting it to your computer.

Cleaning the Mouse Pad

What's the point of cleaning the mouse if it's still picking up debris from a dirty mouse pad? Gently clean the pad, using a cloth dampened with an antibacterial spray cleaner. Let it dry thoroughly before setting the mouse back down on the pad.

Cleaning the Monitor

How you clean your laptop or desktop monitor depends on what type of screen you have. Check the manufacturer recommendations. Note: alcohol- or ammonia-based cleaners can damage antiglare coatings.

  • For a glass screen, spray glass cleaner onto a soft cloth rather than directly onto the monitor to help prevent fluid leaking into the electrical components inside the monitor. Rub gently.
  • For an LCD screen, rub gently, using a dry microfiber cloth or a soft cotton cloth. If the dry cloth doesn't completely clean the screen, dampen the cloth with plain water.

Now on to the next item on the “To Do” list and work on another New Year’s Resolution.



Ask Lorene

(This resource was added January 2012 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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