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]

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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]