How to Clean Your Computer

This discussion has a more recent version.
edited September 2021 in Computer Hardware

Every machine needs regular care and maintenance for sustained use, and computers are no exception - negligence is a computer's worst enemy. Whether you have the average computer or the high-end gamer computer, keeping the inside of your desktop computer clean is an absolute must. Dust buildup is unavoidable and can do serious damage to a PC if left unchecked. If a computer is not cleaned regularly, its performance and functionality can start deteriorating. Despite this, most users rarely, if ever, clean their computers. So, let's walk through how to give your computer a good cleaning.

Words of Caution Before Starting

Before we dive into the actual cleaning, we should take a moment to go over the risks that come with cleaning, and a few tips for minimizing them.

  1. Do not directly pour a liquid or use a spray on any of your components. Always apply to a cloth first and then gently use it to clean the surface of your device.
  2.  Always turn off your computer and detach the peripheral before you start cleaning it. Otherwise, you might end up short-circuiting your computer!
  3. Be careful in using any solvent directly on your peripherals as some of them have the potential to damage it. Always read the instructions to ensure that you’re using the right product to clean the right device.


How To Clean Your Motherboard

Motherboards are a crucial part of any computer. If the motherboard is not maintained well, it will most definitely impact the performance of the computer. With the passage of time, dirt and dust particles along with other grime accumulate on the motherboard. If not removed periodically, they can result in overheating or malfunctioning of the PC. A motherboard should ideally be cleaned with either of the two items; by compressed air or by isopropyl alcohol.

  •  Compressed Air

The quickest way of cleaning a motherboard is by using compressed air. It is also the easiest, quickest, and safest way to clean it, although not necessarily the most thorough. You can use a computer duster, an air blower, or a can filled with compressed air to clean your motherboard. After switching off the PC, pull out the motherboard and remove dust by blowing compressed air on it. Be sure to blow the air while maintaining distance from the motherboard. If you are struggling to remove some dust particles, don’t worry! They can be easily cleaned with a small brush. Use the brush gently around the area with the dust and then use compressed air to blow it away from a safe distance.

  • Isopropyl Alcohol

Although compressed air may be the quickest way to clean the motherboard, it will not be very effective to tackle sticky substances. To clean these stubborn stains, it is recommended that you use isopropyl alcohol. Here you must exercise caution while using it because the motherboard is very delicate, and a small mistake can render it useless. Be sure to use pure isopropyl alcohol (with at least 90 percent strength) for effective results. Since it dries very quickly, you don’t need to wait for a long time before you can put it back.

Experts disagree on the best way to clean the motherboard using isopropyl alcohol. Some say that the liquid must be applied directly on the motherboard’s surface, essentially giving it an alcohol bath, while others recommend using a soft, lint-free cloth to spread the liquid. The correct procedure for you, however, will vary depending on how dirty your motherboard is and the type of dirt and stains it has. If your motherboard has sticky or stubborn stains, it is best to use a cotton swab to apply alcohol to clean them. If you only need to clean the dust particles, it is better to give it an alcohol bath. A word of caution with regards to what we call an alcohol bath – DO NOT fully immerse your motherboard in isopropyl alcohol, as this can permanently damage it!

How to Clean Your Computer's Fans

As case fans draw in air to keep your computer cool, they also draw in a lot of dust and can end up coated in dust themselves. This can restrict airflow, increasing temps and potentially leading to damages for both the fans and your internal components. So how do you keep them clean? Of course, prevention is the best option and cases like the Lancool 205 come with dust filters to limit the amount of dust your fans will draw in. But if you don't have dust filters and end up with wildly dusty fans, it's time to break out the reliable compressed air can.

If you've got just a light dusting of, well, dust, compressed air should be more than enough to clean them off. But be sure to aim the air away from your internal components - you don't want to blow the dust off your fans onto your motherboard! If you've got a heavier dust buildup, you might need to break out some tougher cleaning equipment and potentially even remove the fan from your case. Luckily, by tougher cleaning equipment, we mean things you probably already have around the house: microfiber cloths. If you don't have one, they're fantastic for pretty much everything you want to clean: screens, glass, you name it. Even fans - just firmly but gently rub the cloth along the blades of the fan (being careful - some fan blades can be sharp enough to cut!) until the dust buildup is cleared.

How to Clean Everything Else in Your Computer Case

Of course, even after cleaning your fans and motherboard, you'll still have a lot of components left to clean in your computer case, including the case itself! Thankfully, you can use most of the techniques we've talked about on your heatsink, graphics card, hard drive, and pretty much anything else, so we'll burn through the rest in a speed round:

  • The Graphics Card: Canned air is your best choice here. Like the motherboard, however, make sure you don't hold it too close for too long - the chemicals can start to freeze and damage your parts. If the GPU fans are particularly dusty, you can use a microfiber cloth to clean them up. But be gentle!
  • Heatsinks: If you have a heatsink with removable fans, it's worth it to clean the radiator on its own. Once again, canned air and a clean cloth is the way to go. If you need something firmer to get between the fins, an unused toothbrush or cleaning brush can do wonders.
  • 2.5"/3.5" Hard drives: be careful with hard drives, as rough handling can cause irreparable damage and data loss. Thankfully, for most hard drives, most of their components are inside a hard shell. If you do want to clean up the shell, a gentle wipe down with a microfiber cloth will be plenty.
  • The Computer Case: To do a truly deep clean of the case, you'll want to remove all components. Once everything has been removed, you can begin cleaning. While the canned air and a microfiber cloth will work once again, cases are far sturdier than most components and, if you want to scrub it well, a damp cloth can be used. Be aware, though, even with all extra components out, there may still be electronics inside of your case, such as RGB lights and power buttons. Make sure these don't get wet, as liquids can damage them and cause catastrophic errors.

How To Clean Your Keyboard

Whether you're gaming or working, you're probably using a keyboard. And you've probably gotten so engrossed in what you're doing that you've eaten over your keyboard. Maybe just a snack, maybe a full meal. Either way, the results are the same: grease on your keys and crumbs in the cracks. Over time, the dirt and grime will keep piling up, not only making your keyboard gross but potentially damaging it. Ever try to press a key with a potato chip crumb in it? It's a lot harder and can cause you to miss that game-winning shot in Warzone. Thankfully, it is possible to properly clean your keyboard in 30 minutes or less with a few easy tips shared below:

  •  Keyboard Brushes

One of the main challenges in effectively cleaning a keyboard is to remove the stubborn dirt particles lodged in the keyboard. In this case, keyboard brushes are a time saver. You can use it to sweep crumbs, dirt particles and clean the dirty buttons all in few minutes! Use the brush to first remove the particles stuck between the keys followed by gentle brushing of the keys to remove any dirt stuck on their surface.

  • Wash The Keycaps

If you own a keyboard with detachable keycaps, the cleaning process will be much simpler for you! The easiest way to clean detachable keycaps is to fill a container with water and add some dish soap to it. Soak the keycaps for a little while, then scrub them with a damp, soft cloth or small brush. Finally, dry the keycaps before fixing them back on the keyboard. It is critical to ensure that your keycaps are properly dried, so you don’t accidentally short-circuit your keyboard! And don't forget to take a picture of the keyboard before you remove the keys - this will help you remember how to put the keys back in the correct order without having to undo any mistakes.

  • Use Compressed Air

A compressed air can is perhaps the quickest way to remove dust from your keyboard. To clean with a compressed air can, you only need to aim the air at the dust and grime. One thing that must be kept in mind is that canned air will not clean the mud inside the keys, only blow away the grime visible on the surface outside. Remove the keycaps, if possible, to make the process more effective. It is also recommended to be careful while blowing compressed air as canned air is likely to produce condensation while cleaning and leave some moisture behind.

How to Clean Your Mouse

Much like your keyboard, your mouse is bound to get dirty from daily use. Use a cleaning brush or toothpick to remove the dirt and grime in the tiny corners of the mouse’s surface (being careful not to use it directly on the sensor!). Then, use canned air to remove any dust particles loosened. Lastly, use cleaning wipes to kill all bacteria and germs on its surface.

How to Clean Your Monitor

A PC or laptop screen will, almost inevitably, eventually have annoying smudges that sometimes distort the words or photos on your screen. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning your monitor with a dry, soft, clean cloth - we recommend a micro-fiber cloth in particular. If the smudges persist, there are special screen-cleaning solutions available that work fantastically, but those come with a few caveats: 1) do not use while your monitor is on - you should let your monitor cool off after usage, otherwise, smudges may persist and 2) do not spray directly on the monitor. Always spray the cleaning solution on your microfiber cloth.

As a final screen cleaning tip, never try to use a fingernail or a sharp object to remove anything stuck to the surface of your screen!


How to Clean Your Mousepad

Perhaps the most overlooked of all peripherals, the mousepad is likely to be as filthy, if not more, than everything else on your desk. If you do not clean it regularly, it has the potential of becoming a carrier of a contagious disease. Thankfully, mousepads are exceptionally easy to clean with things you probably already have at home:

1.   Get a bowl and fill it with water. Add some hand soap or dish soap to it and stir.

2.  Add the mousepad to the bowl, making sure that it is fully submerged. Leave it for five minutes to ensure that any absorbed dirt or grease is dissolved.

3.   For best results, scrub the mousepad gently using only your hands. Be gentle, as it is possible to damage the mouse pad if you are too rough.

4.   Rinse your mousepad with hot water until all the soap has been cleaned off.

5.   After washing, dry the mousepad in direct sunlight. You can also use a hairdryer for faster drying, but only use the lowest setting and make sure to keep some distance from the mousepad, as extreme, close heat can damage the mousepad.


Cleaning Tools You Should Have on Hand

There are some tools that you should always have on hand, whether you're deep cleaning a PC or brushing off your laptop. All can be easily found at your local Micro Center!

A microfiber cloth is the simplest tool needed to clean your peripherals and has almost endless uses beyond PC cleaning as well. They're fantastic for cleaning all electronics and stellar for dusting - just don't use your dusting cloth on your electronics!

Like the microfiber cloth, cleaning wipes are the jack-of-all-cleaning trades. However, be sure to check what type of cleaning wipes they are. Some are safe for use on screens, others can potentially damage unprotected electronics.

Canned air has been a long-time staple of computer cleaning for a reason. It's effective, easy to use, and cheap!

There will always be gunk in places fingers can't reach and canned air can't knock loose. That's where a cleaning brush comes in handy. Make sure its got firm, fine brushes, and no dust or grime will stand against it.

Electric hand vacuums are, essentially, fancy canned air. But they do offer something that canned air doesn't: a place for the dust to go. Rather than scatter the dust around your office, a hand vacuum sucks it into one location, limiting the spread. And most also have a blow function, turning them into a never-ending can of air!

With that, you have all the tools and know-how to get your computer looking brand new! Remember to perform routine cleaning to prevent build-up and damages and keep it running smoothly!

If you have any questions about cleaning, leave them in the comments below, and we'll be happy to help!


  • ronwoodson
    ronwoodson Store Associate
    First Anniversary 5 Awesomes First Answer 5 Likes

    This is a very useful post Sean. Well done.

  • JohnDaBeardWilliford

    Overall a great guide!

    Two things to consider: If you are blowing out the fans, do your best to make sure that they do not rotate. Some fans can send electricity back to the system and cause issues (if you blow out your RGB fans and the LEDS start to glow you will see what I'm talking about). Either remove the fans completely and blow them out or hold the fan blades (CAREFULLY) so they can not rotate.

    If you want to use your air compressor to blow everything out make sure you have a condenser in the line so built up moisture won't get sprayed on the system and lead to other issues.

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