Speed-Clean Your Computer Checklist

How to get your computer ten times cleaner in just five minutes.

  1. Check Minute 1:

    Turn off the computer and unplug electrical cords. (For a laptop, remove the battery.) Pour a little rubbing alcohol into a bowl, dip in a foam swab (foam won’t leave lint behind like a cotton swab can), and then very carefully run the swab over all speaker holes, cord inputs, vents and any other openings on the monitor; follow up with a dry swab. Barely dampen an eyeglass cloth (or any other soft, lint-free cloth) with water and give the rest of the exterior a once-over. (For stains, add a drop of dish soap to a fresh cloth and rub; use the damp cloth to wipe clean.)

  2. Check Minute 2:

    Wipe the screen from top to bottom with the barely damp cloth. Even if you don’t see crumbs, turn the keyboard upside down over a wastebasket and give it a few gentle shakes—particles may be hiding under the keys. Keep the keyboard upside down, hold a can of compressed air upright with your other hand, and shoot a few bursts in and around the gaps between the keys. This will whisk away dust. (A small paintbrush also does a decent job.)

  3. Check Minutes 3 and 4:

    With a new alcohol-dipped swab, trace the outside of each key. Then swipe the tops of the keys gently with a fresh cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol; there’s no need to press down.

  4. Check Minute 5:

    With the rubbing-alcohol cloth, tackle the mouse, including the bottom. If it has a red light underneath, shoot a puff of compressed air in there; if it has a trackball, spin the ball a few times with your cloth. Turn the computer back on and get going on that brilliant novel/to-do list/e-mail you’ve been putting off.