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How to Disinfect Your Mouse and Keyboard

A hand wiping a mouse with a wipe.
goffkein.pro/Shutterstock

You probably don’t clean your mouse and keyboard very often, but you should. It’s especially important if you share a computer with others. Right now, it could also prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Cleaning your computer peripherals takes virtually no time at all, and it can prevent you and others from getting sick. You can even use the same cleaning tools you use to disinfect your smartphone.

RELATED: How to Disinfect Your Smartphone

What You’ll Need

Cleaning and disinfecting aren’t the same thing. To lightly clean a peripheral, you might only need some canned air and a damp cloth. Disinfecting, though, is a far more thorough process. You need a disinfectant to kill any microbes that might make you sick.

To disinfect your desktop, you need an alcohol-based disinfectant that contains at least 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. You can buy aerosols, pump sprays, or wipes that will do the job, just make sure they contain the necessary amount of ethanol or isopropanol.

A bottle of 70 percent Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol.
Tim Brookes

Whenever possible, use wipes or paper towels you can dispose of when you’re finished. Because alcohol evaporates quickly, you can spray your gadgets and let them air-dry. This is easy to do regularly, and it’s especially ideal if you share equipment with others.

You might also want to get a can of compressed air to blow the dust out of your keyboard. However, keep in mind that pressurized cleaners can damage laptops and other all-in-one devices.

Lastly, if any of your devices have hard-to-reach crevices or nooks and crannies, you can use a sharp object, like a wooden toothpick, to dislodge grime without damaging the device.

Cleaning Your Mouse

There are many different types of mice, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cleaning option for all of them. If you have a small, ergonomic mouse, you’ll likely find it easier to clean than an angular “gamer” mouse covered with additional buttons and grips.

First, just use a damp, lint-free cloth to clean your mouse the best you can and dislodge any obvious dirt or grime.

Next, use an alcohol spray or wipe to thoroughly disinfect the whole mouse. If you’re using a spray, let the alcohol work its magic for a few minutes, and then wipe off any remaining grime with a clean paper towel or cloth.

A hand wiping a computer mouse with a cloth.
Maridav/Shutterstock

Inspect your mouse for any further signs of dirt. If you didn’t get it all the first time, disinfect it again. Harmful microbes cling to dirt, so the cleaner your device looks, the cleaner it really is. Use a toothpick on any seams, grips, or other areas where grime can build up, and then disinfect those areas again.

If your mouse is discolored due to years of use, alcohol won’t restore it to its former glory. If you’ve cleaned it a few times and it isn’t getting any whiter, know when to quit.

If your mouse is wired, you can also clean the length of the cord and USB connector with a bit of alcohol.

Cleaning Your Trackpad

If you have a laptop or an Apple Magic Trackpad, you’ll want to clean it thoroughly on a regular basis. This is especially true if you work on your laptop at school, in cafes, or on a train while you commute. If you touch a handrail, and then touch your trackpad, you could get ill.

Before you clean it, make sure your laptop is completely powered off and unplugged to avoid any disastrous consequences. Using alcohol spray or wipes, thoroughly disinfect the surface of the trackpad.

If your laptop keyboard has separate buttons for right and left click, make sure you use a toothpick to clean any grooves or gaps between the chassis and touch surface.

Most trackpads are recessed, which means there’s a lip around the edge that can trap all sorts of grime. Use your toothpick to remove any dirt lodged in there, and then disinfect the area again with alcohol.

This might also be a good time to disinfect the area to the left and right of the trackpad, where your hands normally rest. Remove any obvious grime with a soft cloth, and then disinfect it properly with alcohol spray or wipes.

Cleaning a Laptop Keyboard

Laptop keyboards require a more sensitive approach than desktop models because the computer’s primary components are housed beneath them. Before you begin, completely power down and unplug your laptop.

Use a soft, damp cloth to clean any obvious grime or stuck-on dirt from the keys. Pay particular attention to keys you rarely use. Use a little elbow grease to remove as much dirt as possible.

A hand wiping a detached keyboard.
Maridav/Shutterstock

Now, use your alcohol wipe or solution to disinfect the surface of your laptop. Don’t saturate it too much. Use a paper towel or wipe on the keys to unsettle or remove any stubborn grime. Inspect your keyboard thoroughly, and if you find any more obvious grime, clean it again.

Most laptops have a chiclet-style keyboard with small gaps between the keys to prevent dirt and dust from getting in there. However, these small gaps still collect dirt from your fingers, so pay close attention to them while you’re cleaning.

Let your laptop air-dry for a few minutes so the alcohol has time to evaporate before you turn it on again.

You can also clean the dust out of your laptop to improve its cooling capabilities.

Deep-Cleaning a Desktop Keyboard

The kind of desktop keyboard you have makes a big difference in how you clean it. For the best results, you’ll want to clean underneath the keys in addition to their surfaces. Always disconnect your keyboard (or remove the batteries from wireless models) before you clean it.

If you have a mechanical keyboard, it likely came with a keycap remover tool. You use this to remove the keycaps so you can get to the switches below. You can also remove the keycaps on most regular keyboards without damaging them. You should consult the manufacturer’s instructions before you do this, though.

A keycap remover tool getting ready to remove a key on a keyboard.
Jason Fitzpatrick

After the keycaps are removed, you should be able to blow out any dust or debris that was lurking underneath. You can also wipe down the inside of the keyboard with alcohol wipes or a spray and a paper towel. If you remove the keys, you can clean each of those individually in the same way.

If you can’t get underneath the keys, you can still remove a lot of dust and other debris with pressurized air. These products normally include a thin tube you can work between the keys and blow out anything that’s stuck beneath.

When your keyboard’s free of dust and debris, you can move on to cleaning the keys and surfaces. Remove as much grime as you can with a clean, damp cloth first. Then, clean any grooves and additional buttons you might have.

Next, disinfect the entire keyboard with your alcohol spray or wipes. Get between the keys and wipe them down with a paper towel or disinfectant wipe. If you have a wrist-rest, remove that, as well, and clean it thoroughly. Clean the sides of the keyboard, and its cable, too.

Make sure you allow the alcohol to evaporate before you plug your keyboard back in.

Is your keyboard disgusting and somewhat expendable? If you want a nuclear cleaning option, you can consider disassembling your keyboard and putting it in the dishwasher. Just be aware, your keyboard might not survive, but it will be clean.

RELATED: How to Thoroughly Clean Your Keyboard (Without Breaking Anything)

Keep Your Peripherals Clean

Make sure you regularly clean all your gadgets and peripherals.

The following guidelines will make it much easier to keep your computer and its accessories clean:

  • Don’t eat at your desk.
  • Avoid keeping drinks near your keyboard to prevent spills.
  • Wash your hands before you use peripherals.
  • Keep disinfecting wipes or alcohol spray near your devices, and use it often.

If you work in a particularly dusty or dirty environment, like a workshop or garage, consider investing in a keyboard cover. You can usually wash these with soap and warm water, making it much easier to keep your keyboard clean.

It’s also especially important to keep peripherals clean if you share a computer. That’s why we recommend keeping alcohol spray or wipes nearby to encourage others to use them. You can always just mist the keyboard with some alcohol spray and leave it to get to work.

As the world continues to battle the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to remember how much of a role personal hygiene plays, as well. Always wash your hands before and after you use shared equipment to protect yourself and others.

RELATED: How to Clean and Disinfect All Your Gadgets

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