5 Tips for Cleaning Your Laptop, Both Inside and Out

iStock
iStock

While you may occasionally clear off your desk and take a Lysol wipe to it, chances are you don't often do the same for your laptop. One 2016 swab-test by an IT training website found that its computer keyboards were home to as many germs as a toilet seat, and its laptop track pads were home to as many as paper money. So yeah, your computer could probably use a wipe down. And while you're at it, clean up a few files, too, as WIRED recommends.

First, before you do anything, make sure to turn your computer off and unplug any external keyboards or computer mice you intend to clean.

THE LAPTOP CASE

Once everything is powered down, you can take a damp cloth or sponge to the exteriors. Don't use anything stronger than a diluted soap, and make sure that you're using as little liquid as possible on a wrung-out microfiber cloth or a sponge. Dummies recommends five parts water, one part mild dish detergent for the job, while Apple cautions against using window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide to clean a display screen, as well as spraying anything directly onto your device. After you clean the outside of the laptop case with a damp cloth, wipe everything down again with a dry one to make sure you get rid of any excess liquid.

THE SCREEN

You want to be extra-careful while cleaning your screen, ensuring that you neither scratch it nor damage it with liquid. To do so, you’ll want to start out with just a dry, microfiber cloth before moving on to anything damp. If that doesn't do the trick, try a microfiber cloth dampened with just water. If all else fails, you can buy specific screen-cleaning wipes designed for the task, or use that same diluted soap mixture as CNET recommends. Again, if you're going to use water, make sure to wring out as much liquid as you can from the sponge or towel so that you don't get your screen all wet. (This will work for your TV screen as well.)

THE KEYBOARD

When it comes to cleaning your keyboard, you need to be very cautious about not letting water get in under the keys. Use a can of compressed air or a small vacuum to get rid of any crumbs that might have gotten in between the keys. Hold your keyboard up at a 75° angle while you spray the compressed air inside, rotating the keyboard as you go, to get the most crumbs to fall out. (It should be not-quite vertical, Apple says.) Then, break out a bottle of rubbing alcohol, which evaporates faster than water and won't leave any traces of oil. Use an alcohol-dampened cloth to clean the grease from your keyboard keys, then use Q-tips to clean the areas between the keys. Again, you want to keep things pretty dry, so don't overdo it with the liquid, and don't stick the Q-tip inside the keys—just scrub in the areas between them.

THE TRACKPAD AND MOUSE

Next, you should tackle the trackpad with another damp, lint-free cloth, cleaning off the oils that have accumulated there with alcohol or water. If you're using a mouse with a sensor (rather than a ball), you can use compressed air to clean out any debris. Then, just wipe the exterior down as you did the rest of your devices.

CLUTTERED FILES

Once your laptop's outsides are squeaky clean, you may want to clean up some digital junk to keep your computer running smoothly. Delete all the useless screenshots from your desktop, clear out your downloads folder, and empty your trash can. Take a look in your applications, and delete programs that you never use. If you have Mac's latest OS, High Sierra, your laptop will actually do some of this cleanup for you—there is a "reduce clutter" option if you go to About This Mac > Storage. As a last step, you may want to update your operating system and applications.

10 Items Under $25 That Will Keep You Warm This Winter

KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon
KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon

If you're someone who finds the freezing temperatures of winter unbearable, even the shortest stints outside can seem like pure torture. But you don't need to spend the next few months dreading every moment you're in your drafty office or outdoors. We looked through Amazon and found plenty of products, ranging from heated scarves to insulated coffee mugs, that will keep you warm without breaking the bank. Check out some of our favorite finds for under $25.

1. Refillable Zippo Hand Warmers; $20

A refillable zippo hand warmer
Zippo/Amazon

There is a long list of unpleasantries that comes along with winter, and being unable to keep your hands warm is definitely near the top of that list. But thankfully, there are these refillable, flameless Zippo hand warmers, which can last for up to 12 hours. All you need to do is remove the burner, add the lighter fluid (which is available on Amazon for $10), place the burner back on, apply a flame, and enjoy the comfort of having warm hands again.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Heated Scarf; $18

A heated scarf
PerfectPrime/Amazon

We have heated gloves, hand warmers, and even heated socks. But what about when your neck gets cold? Enter PerfectPrime’s electric scarf, which comes with two heaters that allow you to swap between low or high heat. All you need to do is hook one of the heaters up to the included USB cord; place both in the inset of the scarf; attach the cord to the power pack, which sits in a small pouch; and enjoy the added warmth. (The power pack isn't included but you can pick one up on Amazon for $27). And when it comes time, the heaters can be removed and the scarf can be thrown in the washer for an easy clean.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mug Warmer; $23

Mug warmer
Vobaga/Amazon

It's hard to stay warm in your home or office when that perfect cup of coffee you just poured yourself goes cold after just a few minutes on your desk. This mug warmer can help prevent that by keeping your drink nice and hot, even if you're away from it for over an hour. Simply hit the “tempering” button to choose your ideal temperature of 104℉, 131℉, or 149℉, and rest your mug on top. And if your distractions take you away for too long, there’s no need to worry as the warmer will shut off after four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

4. USB Hand warmers; $20

hand warmers
Eaterhom/Amazon

If you work in a cold office, forcing yourself to type with freezing hands can seem nearly impossible. But now, you can ensure your hands stay nice and toasty with these super adorable toast hand warmers. Fingerless and with adjustable wrist straps, these plush gloves are one size fits all and perfectly whimsical. All you need to do is slip them on, hook them up to the USB drive on your computer, and enjoy the extra dexterity.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Viking Horns and Beard Beanie; $19

A viking hat
Kafeimali/Amazon

If you're going to be out in the cold, this hand-knit Acrylic beanie, complete with Viking horns and beard, is perfect for bringing a little levity to the bitterness outside. Not only will this winter accessory be a great conversation starter, but the beard and cap will ensure your face and head stay plenty warm. If you aren’t quite feeling the beard—though we really have no idea why you wouldn’t—it’s removable. You can find this beanie in brown, black, and two shades of gray.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Heated mouse; $23

A heated mouse from ValueRays at Amazon.
ValueRays/Amazon

If you don't want to completely cover your hands while working in a chilly office, this heated mouse may be your best bet. It plugs right into your computer through a USB cord and will heat up to 99°F-120°F, allowing you to choose the right level of warmth while avoiding the inevitable sweaty palms that come with wearing gloves indoors. Just remember, this is a mouse designed for work or school—basically anything more casual. If you’re looking to keep warm while doing more precise work (like design work or gaming), check out this heated mouse pad for $33.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Yeti Insulated Mug; $25

An insulated coffee mug from Yeti.
Yeti/Amazon

Pouring yourself a warm drink is the easy part—it’s keeping it warm that gets tricky. And no one wants to rush through their hot coffee or tea just so it doesn’t cool down too fast (think about your poor tongue!). With this insulated mug from Yeti, you can keep your drink warmer for longer, allowing you to sip at your own speed. Yeti is a company known for durability, so this 14-ounce mug is perfect whether you're taking it to the office or on a long hike or camping trip. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hogwarts Scarf; $20

A Hogwarts Harry Potter scarf from Cinereplicas.
Cinereplicas/Amazon

This officially licensed Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf from Cinereplicas is about as authentic to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as you’ll get without an owl delivering you an acceptance letter. The scarf is so faithful to the color scheme from the films that it even uses the same Pantone shades as seen on the screen. The comfy knit feel will keep you warm in the winter, and the movie-accurate design will help it double as part of a costume come Halloween time. For a few dollars more, you can buy scarves based on Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. These Incredibly Warm Socks; $13

Vintage socks from KEAZA sold on Amazon.
KEAZA/Amazon

If you’re working from home—or just taking part in some world-class hygge—you need these incredibly cozy, incredibly versatile socks. You can wear them to sleep on a cold night, keep them on all day like slippers, or wear them with shoes during those early-morning commutes as the thermometers plummet. Best of all, while they’re warm, they’re not suffocating. They’re soft, with enough breathability to prevent your feet from overheating.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Touchscreen gloves; $7-$12

Touchscreen gloves from Amazon.
Achiou/Amazon

Not even the bitter cold should keep you from your Instagram scrolling, and with these touchscreen gloves, you can keep your digits warm without having to sacrifice your social media time. These gloves were made specifically with phones and other gadgets in mind, so while they’re ready to keep you comfortable in winter weather, the material allows you to use your device without worrying that your fingers won’t register on the screen. Plus, the silicone on the gloves will help prevent your phone from slipping from your grip.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Scam Alert: A FedEx Tracking Notification Text Wants to Steal Your Credit Card Number

interstid/iStock via Getty Images
interstid/iStock via Getty Images

Thanks to moment-by-moment tracking software offered by delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office, consumers can keep tabs on their packages before they're even delivered. We’ve grown so accustomed to getting notification texts that it might be easy to let a bogus one slip by.

According to How-To Geek, that could prove to be an expensive mistake. The site is reporting that a scam currently making the rounds involves a fraudulent text notification of an impending FedEx package. The message is prompting recipients to “set delivery preferences” for the delivery. When smartphone users click on the link in the message, they’re directed to what looks like an Amazon satisfaction survey. After completing the survey, users are offered a free gift and then asked to remit their credit card information to pay $6.99 for shipping. This also triggers a monthly subscription charge of $98.95.

Due to the deluge of solicitations for customer surveys prompted by businesses, this is a clever bit of misdirection. Needless to say, it’s also not a legitimate offer. Amazon is unlikely to ever route you to a new URL for a “free gift.” If you’re unsure whether you have a package on the way, it’s a good idea to navigate directly to the FedEx or shipper website to check. It’s also best to block the incoming number to opt out of any future texts offering to separate you from your money.

[h/t How-To Geek]

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