Praise be to the person who invented cleaning wipes, am I right? They're lifesavers when it comes to cleanup duty if you have mess-makers like small children, pets, or you know, hands. Hands, no matter who they belong to, spread a surprisingly icky amount of dirt and germs.
And since chances are you've got at least one tub of Clorox or Lysol wipes lying around at any given moment, it can be really tempting to whip one out when your laptop starts to get scuzzy (the culprit of which is mainly — you guessed it — your hands). Is it even safe to use a cleaning wipe on your laptop, though? Considering computers aren't exactly chump change, they're not an investment you want to ruin.
A cursory search of the internet will yield many answers on this subject. Even tech-giant Apple advocates the use of household cleaning wipes. "In order to properly disinfect these areas," Apple's support blog says of the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad, "you should use Lysol Wipes or Clorox Kitchen Disinfecting Wipes and follow the general rules below when disinfecting your Apple product." These rules include suggestions such as turning off devices prior to cleaning, wringing out excess liquid from wipes, and avoiding any product with bleach.
...But There Are Better Methods
In order to cut through the confusion, we reached out directly to a tech expert: Michael Russell, the director of digital marketing and information technology for RatchetStraps.com. Unlike Apple, Russell does not recommend using standard household cleaning wipes like Clorox and Lysol on your laptop. Rather, he suggests a more thorough method using a different cleaning product.
"The best way to fight against germs — and how to clean a laptop or keyboard properly — would be to purchase a keyboard key remover. It's a simple pull-up of every key. Then, use a clean alcohol wipe for each key," Russell shared. (A small phillips screwdriver works just as well as a dedicated key remover, as seen in this how-to video from Snazzy Labs on YouTube.)
Does removing the keys on your laptop void the warranty? Maybe, maybe not. Many policies (like AppleCare) include language that voids the warranty if there is damage caused by "misuse." But as long as you're careful, snapping the keyboard keys on and off your laptop should leave no trace at all.
CNET bolsters Russell's suggestion, outlining a cleaning process that entails using a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water for the laptop screen and a wipe or lint-free cloth of isopropyl rubbing alcohol to gently clean your laptop's keyboard.
As for why rubbing alcohol is such a solid choice for keyboard cleaning, CNET elaborates, "For one, it evaporates almost immediately, which greatly reduces the risk of liquid getting inside your laptop. Secondly, it's effective in removing the oily residue left behind by your fingertips."