How to Physically Clean Your PC and More

Kevin Lee

It’s time for some hardware spring cleaning!

Spring is in the air and it’s time to do some spring cleaning. This means cleaning your house, room, and most importantly, your PC! Of course, keeping your PC clean isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it also helps keep your system from overheating.

As a computer runs, it generates static electricity, which attracts dust and hairs. These nasty bits clump together and gunk up the heatsink, case fans, and other computer components. It’s not only gross but also ends up blocking airflow, which causes overheating. So beyond annual spring-cleanings, it’s important to routinely clear out any messy buildups in your rig. Without further ado, let’s start scrubbing down our PCs!

PC cleaning tools

Tools of the trade

Compressed air can

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol or Vodka in a pinch

White vinegar

Distilled water

Microfiber cloths

Q-tips

Scotch tape

PC cases

We’ll go ahead and start with the biggest and most important item that needs cleaning, your gaming rig. If your PC has been sitting around all winter, it’s probably packed with dust even with filters in front of every intake fan.

PC Outside

1) Take it outside

The first step will be to take it outside because it’s a bit pointless to blow out all that dust indoors just to have it all settle back down in the same room. But before we do that, disconnect the computer entirely. This includes Power cable, USB peripherals, and whatever audio equipment you have hooked up. Don’t forget to discharge the remaining power in the computer by grounding yourself while touching the power supply and pressing the power button.

Wipe it down

2) Wipe it down

The next step is giving the outside of the case a good once over, wiping down the entire exterior and even cleaning its dirty feet.

Clean those dust filters

3) Clean those dust filters

Next up detach any dust filters on the case and wipe off the accumulated dust bunnies. Doing this by hand is fine but give it a quick blast of compressed air can for good measure. Meanwhile, for foam filters give them a quick rinse under the sink. In both cases make sure to clear the dust out so that it blows out away from the clean side, otherwise you’ll end up dirtying both sides.

Prepping the patient

4) Prepping the patient

Before you go dual wielding air cans on the inside of your case, you should know that will just cause a big mess. So it’s important to first wipe down the inside manually—yes, by hand. It’s an opportune time to disconnect big components like the graphics card, RAM modules, and even the heatsink if you have some replacement thermal paste lying around.

Clean the graphics card

There’s always bound to be dust hidden between the cracks and removing these components will make it easier to clean off the motherboard. Before you go blowing off the GPU and other case fans, use a pen to hold the fan in place as it prevents it from spinning too fast and potentially damaging the motor.

Cleaning

5) Cleaning

Additionally, if there are any big clumps of dust it would be best to grab them up and wipe them away with a damp (not wet!) isopropyl rubbing alcohol-laden cloth first. After that, go ahead and pull the air can trigger on any nooks and crannies you might have missed as well as the motherboard itself. For any truly stubborn dust particles hanging around the case’s expansion slots, dampen some Q-tips with alcohol to rub it out.

Packing it up

6) Packing it all up

Once you’re all done inside, put everything back where it belongs. You might also want to check over your wiring. Just in case you’re still using the old pack-your-wires-at-the-bottom-of-the-case strategy, check out our guide on how to wire like a pro .

Click the next page to get tips on how to clean up accessories like keyboards, mice, and more!

Keyboards and Mice

Dirty Mouse

After you’re all done with cleaning out your tower you should polish up your peripherals too. These can be especially gross since you end up touching them all the time. Plus there are so many tiny spaces for dust, Cheetos cheese, and other gunk to get into.

Cleaning the Keyboard

First we’ll start with wiping the keyboard down with a damp cloth. Since regular old plastic is a less sensitive than microchips we can use anything from a micro fiber cloth, to a rag, and even a (clean) old sock. After you’ve wiped all the greased and dust off the top, flip the keyboard over and give it a good shake to get rid of any loose bits of material in between the keys. Follow up with a blast of air to clear out hair, dust, and food particles.

Removing the keys

This should take care of at least 80-percent of the problems but for a truly deep clean, you can also pop off the keys to get to the keyboard's backboard. Most mechanical keyboards come with a key puller. If you lost it or are using a membrane switch keyboard, gently wedging a flathead screwdriver or letter opener underneath the keys works in a pinch. Just remember to take a picture of the keyboard beforehand for reference when putting it back together.

Cleaning the Mouse

Cleaning your mouse is largely the same as a keyboard in that the whole thing needs a good wipe down. Pay particular attention to the non-stick pads on the bottom as a lot of gunk can accumulate on and around the edge of the mouse’s feet.

Cleaning the sensor

If there’s anything caught in the scroll wheel, simply turn the whole clicker over and turn the wheel or hit it with a blast of air to dislodge anything caught inside. Finally for the optical sensor, we suggest wiping the area with a damp cloth and a Q-tip to finely remove any leftover crud.

Monitor

Monitor

Cleaning monitors, and screens in general, are extremely sensitive and require some of the gentlest cleaning methods. Windex is completely NOT okay to use. Ammonia- or alcohol-based cleaners should also be avoided because they can strip the anti-reflective coating applied to screens, cause clouding, and otherwise damage the display.

While it may seem like there are but a few solutions worth wiping your screen with, it’s actually easier to just make your own cleaning solution. All it requires is equal parts white vinegar and distilled water.

cleaning solution

But before we start damping anything, we’re going to wipe down the surface to get rid of any dust or grit that might scratch the screen later on. Another ground rule is to never pour or spray liquid directly onto the screen because drops can seep into the panel through gaps around the bezel. Instead drip a little bit of the solution into the cloth and then wipe the display in a circular motion to prevent streaks.

Headsets

wipe headset

Moving onto potentially the grossest part of our gadget cleanup, headsets. Mmmm sweat and earwax. One good general rule about cleaning headsets is liquid cleansers are a big no-no. Instead, for leather, pleather, and vinyl cups, use a simple microfiber cloth.

Tape headset

Alternatively, for headset with cloth and foam ear cups scotch tape works wonders on pulling off dust and lint without tearing fabric.

Smartphones and tablets

Dirty Smartphone

Tablets, and especially smartphones, can be a complete biohazard nightmare of bacteria and germs. All the loose food and dust that accumulates on your keyboard pales in comparison to the smartphone you touch with your hands all day. Given that this device also touches your face, it’s probably the most important thing you’ll want to sanitize.

Wipe Smartphone

While we wish we could use bleach or use acid to scour phones clean, touchscreens are the finickiest thing to clean because of their sensitive oleophobic (oil phobic) coating. These coatings can be easily damaged by alcohol and ammonia solutions. Instead just like your monitor, it’s best to clean it with distilled water and white vinegar. Although technically vinegar is still an acid that will degrade the oil repelling coating on smartphones, it’s much weaker than alcohol.

For a truly sanitizing clean, you can buy a cleanser like iKlear , which is actually recommended by Apple. Alternatively, for a completely liquid-free solution there are UV sterilizers specifically designed for smartphones—think of them as an UV-powered Easy Bake ovens for technology—that run around $40.

Done

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