Over time, the grime of everyday life takes a toll on a laptop. It goes from that shiny new gizmo to a gadget with odd smudges and a buildup of dust. Let’s get precious looking good again, shall we?

This guide will be especially useful if you are in the market for a used laptop or looking to sell one. You’ll be able to drive the price up if the notebook looks like it’s well taken care of, so give it a good cleaning outside when you also format the hard drive.

What You Will Need

The items you need to clean a laptop are easy to find and cost very little. Chances are, you probably already have them.


  • Microfiber cloths — I used 3M’s Scotch Brite mirror cleaning cloth, but other users on the internet have had success with spectacles-cleaning microfiber cloths as well as soft towel-like microfiber cloths. Get as large a pack as you can, we’ll go through at least 10 of them in this guide. Yes, it’s a bit overkill, but these microfiber cloths are cheap.
  • Distilled/filtered water — No, you don’t need any fancy cleaning solutions. Filtered water will usually get the job done. Even Apple recommends using clean, dirt-free water.
  • Spray bottle — That water needs to go into a spray bottle. Any standard bottle with a spray will do. You could even repurpose an old cleaning bottle.
  • Disinfecting wipes — Any standard set of disinfecting wipes will do, as long as they don’t contain bleach, says Orange County Public Schools [PDF]. Get scented ones if you want your Macbook to smell lemony fresh.
  • Cotton swabs — You can use a standard pack of Q-tips, even the ones that you already have.
  • Squeeze blower — These hand-squeezed blowers are mostly used for cameras. Again, go with any brand you like. Just don’t use a hair dryer, electric air blower, or anything that is going to blow hot air or air at high speed.
  • Compressed air can — You’ll need a can of compressed air to blow off all the dirt. Remember, compressed air only!
  • (Optional) Rubbing alcohol — Get a standard bottle of isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. You probably won’t need it, but in case your screen has some serious gunk, this will help you clean it.

What You Will Not Need

You’ll find plenty of guides online talking about disinfectant sprays, aerosol cans, and specialized cleaning solutions. Disregard everything.

In cleaning guides, HP and Apple both recommend only using compressed air and no aerosol sprays. In fact, Apple explicitly states, “Don’t use aerosol sprays, solvents, abrasives, or cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide that might damage the finish.”

More importantly, as this guide will show, it’s just a waste of your money. You don’t need any of those elements.

Switch It Off!

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