How to Clean Your Germy Laptop in 4 Easy Steps

As long as you're careful, cleaning your laptop can be an easy DIY project.
As long as you're careful, cleaning your laptop can be an easy DIY project.
AndreyPopov/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’ve mastered the art of diligently washing your hands to the tune of your favorite song refrain, there’s still a chance that germs are hanging out on your laptop. And while you can’t exactly toss it in the washing machine with some bleach and let the spin cycle do the dirty work, you can definitely clean all its surfaces without breaking a sweat. Here are four steps for easily disinfecting your laptop, while also ridding it of all the crumbs of lunches past.

1. Use a can of compressed air to get rid of crumbs, dust, and other buildup.

Just like you might sweep your floors before mopping them, you want to blow any dust and other buildup out of your laptop before you wipe it down; a can of compressed air ($8 on Amazon) does the trick nicely. Once you’ve turned your laptop off, spray the can away from it first to empty any condensation, and then aim the air into all the cracks of your keyboard, your USB ports, and any other crevices or holes in your laptop. According to The New York Times, you should use short, quick bursts of air, since long ones may cause moisture to collect inside your computer.

2. Wipe down your laptop surface with a microfiber cloth and rubbing alcohol.

“The most critical thing when cleaning a laptop or desktop computer is to apply the cleaning product to the tool you’re using to clean, never ever directly onto the computer,” Jolie Kerr, cleaning expert and host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person, told The New York Times.

Kerr recommends using a microfiber cloth ($9 on Amazon) and rubbing alcohol that contains at least 90 percent isopropyl alcohol ($3 at Walmart). Pour a few drops of the alcohol onto the microfiber cloth, wring it out so it’s just damp, and then carefully wipe down the exterior of your laptop (in other words, everywhere but the screen and keyboard). Cotton swabs work well for the ridges of your keyboard keys and the spaces between them, as long as you make sure the swab isn’t too wet. You can find out more about cleaning your keyboards and trackpads here.

3. Clean your screen with a dry microfiber cloth (and maybe a smidge of liquid).

You should be able to gently rub most fingerprints off your laptop screen with a completely dry microfiber cloth, but you can also use a little liquid if necessary. While a few drops of plain old water on your cloth might be all you need, some companies—Dell and Lenovo, for example—say it’s safe to use a 50:50 mixture of water and isopropyl alcohol. Check with your manufacturer for confirmation before you try it—and again, make sure you’re putting the solution on the cloth, rather than directly on the screen.

4. Let your laptop dry before using it.

Since you didn’t exactly dunk your laptop in a vat of liquid, it should only take a few minutes at most for it to fully dry—but it’s still a really important step. As CNET explains, even a little dampness can damage a computer if it’s powered on. While you’re waiting for it to dry, how about washing your hands one more time? That way, you won’t be bringing any new germs onto your newly disinfected device.

And, while we’re on the subject of disinfecting devices, you might want to wipe down your phone, too—find out how to tackle that here.

[h/t The New York Times]

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

During this weekend's three-day sale on the Mental Floss Shop, you'll find deep discounts on products like AirPods, Martha Stewart’s bestselling pressure cooker, and more. Check out the best deals below.

1. Apple AirPods Pro; $219

Apple

You may not know it by looking at them, but these tiny earbuds by Apple offer HDR sound, 30 hours of noise cancellation, and powerful bass, all through Bluetooth connectivity. These trendy, sleek AirPods will even read your messages and allow you to share your audio with another set of AirPods nearby.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

2. Sony Zx220bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones (Open Box - Like New); $35

Sony

For the listener who likes a traditional over-the-ear headphone, this set by Sony will give you all the same hands-free calling, extended battery power, and Bluetooth connectivity as their tiny earbud counterparts. They have a swivel folding design to make stashing them easy, a built-in microphone for voice commands and calls, and quality 1.18-inch dome drivers for dynamic sound quality.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

3. Sony Xb650bt Wireless On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones; $46

Sony

This Sony headphone model stands out for its extra bass and the 30 hours of battery life you get with each charge. And in between your favorite tracks, you can take hands-free calls and go seamlessly back into the music.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

4. Martha Stewart 8-quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker; $65

Martha Stewart

If you’re thinking of taking the plunge and buying a new pressure cooker, this 8-quart model from Martha Stewart comes with 14 presets, a wire rack, a spoon, and a rice measuring cup to make delicious dinners using just one appliance.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

5. Jashen V18 350w Cordless Vacuum Cleaner; $180

Jashen

If you're obsessive about cleanliness, it's time to lose the vacuum cord and opt for this untethered model from JASHEN. Touting a 4.3-star rating from Amazon, the JASHEN cordless vacuum features a brushless motor with strong suction, noise optimization, and a convenient wall mount for charging and storage.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

6. Evachill Ev-500 Personal Air Conditioner; $65

Evachill

This EvaChill personal air conditioner is an eco-friendly way to cool yourself down in any room of the house. You can set it up at your work desk at home, and in just a few minutes, this portable cooling unit can drop the temperature by 59º. All you need to do is fill the water tank and plug in the USB cord.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

7. Gourmia Gcm7800 Brewdini 5-Cup Cold Brew Coffee Maker; $120

Gourmia

The perfect cup of cold brew can take up to 12 hours to prepare, but this Gourmia Cold Brew Coffee Maker can do the job in just a couple of minutes. It has a strong suction that speeds up brew time while preserving flavor in up to five cups of delicious cold brew at a time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

8. Townew: The World's First Self-Sealing Trash Can; $90

Townew

Never deal with handling gross garbage again when you have this smart bin helping you in the kitchen. With one touch, the Townew will seal the full bag for easy removal. Once you grab the neatly sealed bag, the Townew will load in a new clean one on its own.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

9. Light Smart Solar Powered Parking Sensor (Two-Pack); $155

FenSens

Parking sensors are amazing, but a lot of cars require a high trim to access them. You can easily upgrade your car—and parking skills—with this solar-powered parking sensor. It will give you audio and visual alerts through your phone for the perfect parking job every time.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

10. Liz: The Smart Self-Cleaning Bottle With UV Sterilization; $46

Noerden

Reusable water bottles are convenient and eco-friendly, but they’re super inconvenient to get inside to clean. This smart water bottle will clean itself with UV sterilization to eliminate 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria. That’s what makes it clean, but the single-tap lid for temperature, hydration reminders, and an anti-leak functionality are what make it smart.

Buy it: The Mental Floss Shop

Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

What the Color Codes on Toothpaste Tubes Really Mean

PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images
PeopleImages/iStock via Getty Images

Packaging details—like the circles on chip bags and the symbols on cosmetics labels—can be mystifying to the average consumer. For years, a graphic has circulated the internet claiming to explain the hidden meaning behind the colored markings on the bottom of toothpaste tubes. While it's true that those color codes are there for a reason, the reason is much less interesting than the online rumors suggest.

According to Snopes, a widely-shared image on social media alleges that the colors on the seams of toothpaste tubes correlate to certain types of ingredients. The picture shows four different colored markings, with green meaning natural, blue indicating natural and medicine, red meaning natural and chemical composition, and black signifying pure chemical.

This "decoding" isn't based in truth, however. The markings on toothpaste packaging have nothing to do with the ingredients inside the tube—and even if they did, classifications like natural and chemical are too vague to mean anything. The real reason the colors are there is to aid the machinery responsible for putting the packaging together. The tiny colored rectangles are actually called eye marks or color marks, and they tell light beam sensors where a tube needs to be cut or folded. Once the toothpaste reaches the store, the markings no longer serve a purpose.

If you do want to know more about the ingredients in your toothpaste, it's not as hard as deciphering a mysterious code. "Oral care companies don’t mark their toothpastes with colored squares to try to trick consumers and hide ingredients from them," Colgate writes on its website. "If you want to know what kind of ingredients your toothpaste has, don’t look for a colored block at the end of the tube. Instead, take a look at the packaging for a comprehensive list of ingredients."

You can find the ingredients in your toothpaste listed on the outer box and/or the tube itself—and you don't need to know any secret codes to read them.

[h/t Snopes]