A greasy, dusty laptop or phone isn’t just annoying. Greasy gadgets are easier to drop. Blocked air vents can cause tech to overheat, or can wear down the insides. And anything stuck underneath your keys could mean a trip to the Genius Bar, or some risky at-home surgery. But it’s all preventable. For your phone, laptop, whatever you use, here’s how to clean it up quickly, and without voiding your warranty.
Gather your supplies
Paper towels or even that tiny piece of cloth that came with your sunglasses are going to leave more streaks on your screen than they take away. Spend and leave them around the house. Keep one by your desk, for sure.
Also to get dust out of vents and ports in a computer or phone. Just don’t shake it before you use it and make sure you hold it right-side up so you don't hit your gadget's innards with a blast of cold.
Turn it off and wipe it down
Whatever you're cleaning, it'll be safest if you turn it off before you get any liquids involved. You may wind up futzing with sensitive bits, so you don’t want to have any electricity running through the machine. If you can, remove the battery as well.
For any computer cleaning, manufacturers and writers will caution you against using anything beside a little water since anything harsher might damage the finish on the device. My go-to from years of testing, owning, and cleaning hundreds of phones and computers is rubbing alcohol, dabbed lightly on the aforementioned cloth. Alcohol cleans, and evaporates quickly, so it won’t leave splotches. I’ve also used heavily diluted dish soap in a pinch, as well. Just don’t bother with plain water, and whatever liquid you use, don’t put it directly on the device.
For laptop track pads, the alcohol rag is good, but a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is even better at getting rid of finger grease. For the edge of the pad, stick a notecard part way in, and drag it between the pad and the edge if it feels like there's something stuck under the track pad when you click. When you finish, turn the laptop upside down and shake out anything you might’ve dislodged.
Do some dust extraction
Every couple of weeks, someone in the office will come to me complaining that their phone won’t charge when it’s plugged in. The solution has always been the same: tweezers to the charge port, and remove the gross ball of pocket lint that’s no doubt been lodged in there, blocking the connection to the charging cable. You've got to be gentle doing this though, since tweezers can scratch and damage those connection points if you’re too aggressive.
For computers, inspect all openings for dust. Laptops can get buildup in the exhaust vents, which can cause the device to overheat and slow down. Give them a gentle sweep with the tweezers to spot any big clumps, then hit it them all with the compressed air can — if you have an open PC with visible cooling fans, hold them in place while you spray them. If they’re spinning without using their own power, they can damage the components to which they’re connected. One thing about those cans: Shoot in short bursts, don’t hold them open for too long. It works better when warm, so if the can is getting cold to the touch, wait a minute before using it again.
If you’ve got an old tower computer, or any electronic device that’s so filthy you want to take a vacuum to it, don’t. Doing that can cause static build up, which can kill the vital components. Also, don’t blow on them. Your saliva can get in there, and moisture is always bad around anything with a circuit board.