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How to Clean Your Dirty MacBook

dirty MacBook

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If you have a relatively old MacBook, the chances are that you’ve been typing away at the keys, smudging the screen and gliding over the trackpad with some pretty disgusting things on the tips of your fingers. But how do you clean your dirty MacBook?

(I’ll admit that there are probably those among us who keep their MacBook in a sleeve everywhere it goes, have a cover over their keyboard, regularly use a can of compressed air to remove dust and dirt from around the individual keys and always wash their hands before touching their prized possession. But I doubt that most of us live that way. (As a matter of fact, I’m typing this on a relatively dirty MacBook Air.)

Just think about it: how many times have you broken bread over your MacBook’s keyboard? How many times have you went straight from your greasy slice of pizza to your trackpad? You might as well face it: your MacBook is disgusting. Cleaning it should be a priority, so we’ve compiled a few tips that you can use to clean your dirty MacBook.

The Fan

If you’re using a MacBook Pro, you’re probably used to hearing the laptop’s fans click on when you’re working on an intensive task that’s using a large portion of your available RAM, but if you’re using a MacBook Air, you may not even know that your computer has a fan. (The new MacBook actually doesn’t have a fan.)

Laptop fans are designed to help distribute the computer’s heat more efficiently, pushing the heat the computer produces out of air vents, but when dust starts to collect on the MacBook Pro and Air’s fans, dust begins to threaten the air’s ability to flow through your laptop, causing the laptop to retain heat and work harder to muscle through the tasks you’re doing on screen. And, obviously, all of this has a negative effect on your MacBook’s battery life.

To clean the fan, position a can of compressed air at the hinge of your computer and spray. Be careful that you don’t spray with too much pressure, though; you could knock one of the components inside of the machine loose.

If you want a more thorough cleaning, you can take the laptop apart and spray air on the fan more directly, but unless you know exactly what you’re doing, I wouldn’t recommend removing any screws.

Warning: taking your MacBook apart can void your AppleCare warranty.

For more information about the fan in your MacBook, check out Apple’s webpage on fans.

The Keyboard (And Trackpad)

The chances are that your keyboard is the most disgusting part of your entire dirty MacBook. When was the last time you wiped down those keys? How often do you use your keyboard?

See. Gross.

There are all sorts of viruses and bacteria living on your keyboard, and you’ve heard the stats before, but you still haven’t cleaned it. Well, here they are again: did you know that that the average keyboard has around 7,500 bacteria per swab? Compare that to how many bacteria are on a single swab of a toilet seat — just 5,400.

To clean your keyboard, turn off your MacBook and unplug the power cord. Apple recommends that you use a disinfectant wipe to gently dab each key. Then, use a damp, lint-free cloth to remove the cleaning agent. Finally, dab each key with a dry, lint-free cloth. Others have used put a bit of rubbing alcohol on the tip of a lint-free cloth and dabbed each individual key.

Whatever you do, do not put any kind of liquid directly on your MacBook. While your MacBook might be clean, it also may never work again.

Please, for your sake (and everyone else around you), clean your keyboard.

On second thought, maybe those keyboard protectors aren’t such a bad idea.

dirty MacBook

The Display

Your display is probably the cleanest part of your entire MacBook, right? I mean, that’s what you look at every single day, so there might be a smudge here and there, but it’s pretty clean, right? Well… not exactly.

You probably don’t touch your display as often as you touch your keys or trackpad, but bacteria can live on your display as well.

(If you have an iPad or iPhone — and, let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you probably do — the touchscreen is probably even more disgusting than your MacBook’s keyboard. Remember all those times you took your iPhone into the bathroom?)

dirty MacBook

Apple suggests that you use a damp, lint-free cloth (their solution for everything) to gently wipe away the smudges from your screen, but a damp cloth isn’t going to kill the bacteria that live on your screen — you need a real disinfectant. There are disinfectants that are designed specifically for screens. When you’ve wiped your screen with the disinfectant, go back over it with Apple’s damp, lint-free cloth and dry lint-free cloth.

How often do you clean your MacBook? How do you keep your MacBook clean? What tips have you heard about? Let us know in the comments below.

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

One thought on “How to Clean Your Dirty MacBook

  1. Those disinfectants for the screen/keyboard are rather expensive, though. I usually use a damp cloth, also with glass cleaner. Think that’s okay?

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