Cleaning a laptop keyboard – and there’s really no other way to say this – is a serious pain in the ass. You can’t pop off the keys like you can with a normal PC keyboard because of the way they’re designed, and it’s usually ridiculously difficult to get to that one spot where all the crud seems to crop up – the edges (under the spacebar, left side of caps lock, right side of enter key, etc.)
Here are 5 tips to make your laptop keyboard cleaning adventures go a little easier.
1. Place a polish cloth over the keyboard whenever closing the lid.
This is a preventative maintenance measure. Polish cloths don’t scratch screens, and when placed over the keyboard before you close the lid, little to no dirt or whatever else is flying in air won’t get into the keyboard while you’re away from it (dirt can enter from the sides even with the lid closed). Granted, it isn’t the most stylish thing seeing a polish cloth draping out over the sides, but it does keep things cleaner.
Important note: You must lay the polish cloth absolutely flat when you close the lid. If you do the fold-over thing, this can cause undue pressure on the screen and damage it.
2. Remove the keyboard before blasting it with compressed air.
Yes, I know, removing a laptop keyboard is scary. The two hardest parts are are getting the tiny latches/clips to release, and then carefully disconnecting the tiny ribbon connector (or possibly two of them) from under the keyboard so you can safely remove the board. Once the keyboard is out however, cleaning it is very easy because you can actually get your compressed air where it’s supposed to go and get the crud *out* rather than blast it further under the keys.
If you’re too afraid to remove your keyboard (and I wouldn’t blame you), try tip #3 below instead.
3. Blast the keyboard with compressed air with the laptop upside down.
You can do this the sort-of-good-way or the good way.
The sort-of-good way is to take your laptop, open it so it makes a “V” shape and place on your desk upside-down-V style. When you start blasting your keyboard with compressed air, most dust particles and other debris will fall out and on to the desk instead of being pushed further inside the laptop.
The good way, while a bit of a production, does work better. Take two stacks of books (or old software boxes or whatever you have that’s book-like; old phone books work really good here) that equal the same or roughly the same height when stacked on the desk. The height of the stacks should be 8 to 12 inches. Spread the stacks apart so the total space between them is 1 to 2 inches less than your laptop’s overall width. Open the laptop and place it keyboard-down on top of the stacks, with the lid in the rear. Then start blasting air to clean your keyboard as you normally would. Dust and other debris has no choice but to fall down.
Important note 1: Watch your angle when you do this. If you notice your compressed air is liquifying because of the angle of your spray, stop and adjust because you don’t want to shoot condensation into your laptop keyboard.
Important note 2: Obviously, have the laptop unlplugged and battery out when you clean like this.
Important note 3: It is very likely that if you haven’t cleaned the keyboard in a while (if ever), dust and other crud that falls out may get carried by your compressed air and mash itself on the screen. You’ll probably have to do a screen cleaning once you’re done with your keyboard cleaning.
4. Do not use solvents that would otherwise “eat away” the lettering on your laptop keyboard keys.
This one is easy.
First, don’t use any cleaner with ammonia in it. Many glass cleaners contain it, so avoid that.
Second, for the solvent you use, you only need a tiny amount for keyboard keys. It’s probably true you’re going to use cotton swabs to clean the keys with. Grab an 8 oz. glass, fill with water, add 1 tablespoon glass cleaner with no ammonia, mix. This sounds like a recipe but this really does work. Dip the cotton swabs you use to clean with in the mix, squeeze the tip to get rid of excess water out of the tip (this prevents water from running off a key and into the board), then clean as you normally would. Remember, all you need is “just enough” solvent for keyboard keys. Anything more will cause your keyboard lettering to be eaten away prematurely.
5. If you have blanks for your open ports, use them.
This is another preventative maintenance measure, and an easy one.
Most new laptops will come with one or more plastic blanks (such as the one for your card reader slot). What most people do is take the blank and discard it. Well, you shouldn’t do that because it leaves a rather large opening for dust and debris to get inside that can even make its way to collecting under your keyboard keys.
“I’ll just leave my flash memory card in the laptop all the time then!”
You can do that, but that might present a heat problem. My suggestion here is to go ahead and plug the card in, and if you notice any noticeable heat after the card has been in there for a while, consider using the blank instead.
If you lost your blank, you’re better off just leaving the port open even if it does prove to be a dust collector. And no, do not spray compressed air in there. Just check the port every so often, and if you notice some dust build-up (which will happen), wipe as much as you can get to with a dry polish cloth. Don’t stick a cotton swab in there because the cotton fibers can get caught on the connectors and actually get burnt (you insert a card, the connectors touch with the cotton fibers sandwiched between and burn up from heat). Cotton fibers in there won’t cause a fire, but it can eventually render your card slot unsuable if enough fibers get burnt in there.
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