If you just got a loaner (borrowed) Chromebook for work or school, you probably want to disinfect and sanitize it.
Who knows how well it was cleaned- or whether it was cleaned at all?
What about the previous owner that used it before you?
Did they wash their hands after using the bathroom? Did they ever clean it? Or are you scared of touching it when you bring it out for work or school?
Yikes. Germaphobes like myself know exactly how it feels to touch a “dirty” Chromebook!
(Trust me, I know.)
In these times, people are practicing good hygiene habits more than ever.
So you should take some special precautions and sanitize it BEFORE you use it for the first time so you don’t get all the gunk on your fingers.
You should also clean it regularly when it gets dirty or after taking it out to school, work, or in the public.
This guide will cover some basics to keeping your Chromebook clean.
If you’re a germaphobe (like me), you’ll be able to use it without having to worry about every single key press.
And then having to wash your hands after.
So without any further blabbering, let’s get your laptop sanitized so it’s squeaky clean.
General sanitizing guidelines
Before you start cleaning it up, there are some things you should know to avoid damaging it.
- Some of them may be common sense, but you’d be surprised at the state of electronics some people bring in to the repair shop.
- (I’ve seen, heard, and read stories from friends who work in them.)
- Chromebooks are electronics. Electronics and water never mix. Never spray water on it directly and watch out for accidental spills. Some models are spill-resistant, but this is generally limited to just the keyboard and touchpad. If you get the screen wet, it can seep in through the bezels and destroy the display.
- Ensure that all peripherals, power adapters, etc. are disconnected. Remove all USB drives, external hard drives, SD cards, power cables, and any other devices you have connected to your Chromebook before you clean it. This will minimize damage from accidents.
- Power down your Chromebook completely. Don’t just shut the lid. Use the actual menu and shut it down completely. Trying to sanitize a Chromebook that’s powered on can lead to damage, shock, or possibly electrical fires.
- NEVER attempt to clean a laptop while connected to a power source or while it’s powered on. Use common sense. Exercise caution. If you don’t know what you’re doing or you have the slightest doubt, get in touch with your school or work’s IT team and have them clean it for you.
- Don’t use any harsh compounds, sprays, gels, or sponges. They can scratch your computer up. Avoid using vinegar, bleach, baking soda, or un-distilled water. These can leave stains, peel the paint, or permanently damage the materials on your Chromebook.
- The display is sensitive to pretty much all compounds, so avoid using anything but distilled water on it.
- Only clean with a microfiber cloth made for electronics or lenses.
- Don’t use a paper napkin, toilet paper, tissue paper, towel, clothes, or other similar materials. These are harsh and they probably have dirt, debris, and other nasties from previous cleanings. You’re basically sandpapering your Chromebook.
- Use new microfiber cloths when possible. Or at least one that’s not terribly dirty.
- Don’t put books, notebooks, folders, and other objects on top of your Chromebook.
- Don’t let friends or workmates borrow your device! They may or may not care as much as you do.
- Don’t eat or drink near your device. Yes, this is hard when you’re trying to enjoy watching your favorite Twitch stream. But it can prevent accidents.
- Don’t carry it with one hand.
- Keep the lid shut when not in use. This helps eliminate dust and prevents accidents.
- Don’t walk around with the display out.
- Watch out for pens, erasers, pencils, on your keyboard before you shut the lid.
- Don’t move it when you don’t have to.
- Keep the power unplugged when you’re stationary. This will eliminate tripping and also help save the battery.
- The only liquids that you should ever use are rubbing alcohol and distilled water. Some products advertised as “screen cleaners” are OK, but you should do your research and read reviews first. Some of them out there are pretty deceptive. My go-to cleaner is any old generic brand you see at the store. They’re usually just white label products. Check the ingredients of the cleaner and if it matches the more expensive brand, it should work the same. They’re mainly just repackaged rubbing alcohol which you can get at the pharmacy for $2 a bottle. If you’re unsure, don’t risk it. You could seriously damage the screen using a cheapo product or the wrong type of agent.
- Don’t use magic erasers, Simple Green, Windex, or other sprays to clean it.
- Don’t use disinfectant wipes- some of these have solvents that can damage the film, key lettering, or finish of your Chromebook.
- There are cleaning solutions made specifically for laptops. If you use these, make sure your screen type (LCD, LED, etc.) is compatible with it. Some coatings manufacturers put on the screen may be removed accidentally by these wipes, which isn’t good. So you need to use a wipe that’s made for lenses or electronics. I keep a box of these “Care Touch” lens wipes (see on Amazon) for quick spit shines on my tablet, Chromebook, and desktop. They seem to work OK for my devices so far and are handy so you don’t need to bust out the cleaning crew (rubbing alcohol, microfiber cloth, pure water, vacuum, drying cloth, etc.). But they may or may not work for your devices, so do your own due diligence.
- Keyboard putty can work to remove debris lodged between your Chromebook’s keys, but a poor quality one can be relatively useless. If you decide to use a putty, get a reputable one!
- Distilled water can be an excellent cleaning agent, but make sure you don’t condemn it.
- For example, if you dip a cloth into it, it can contaminate the entire jug of water because all the sediments fall into it. Or if you pour some water onto a cloth, but the cloth is dirty, then what’s the point?
- There’s debris on the cloth and you’re sandpapering your Chromebook. The best way to do it is to get a CLEAN spray bottle and pour some distilled water into it. Then when it comes time to clean your Chromebook, spray some onto a CLEAN cloth, then use that to wipe it down.
- You can press firmly on the keys to remove the gunk. The screen should never be firmly pressed. It’s best to use more cleaner and rub gently in a circular motion until it removes the smudge, fingerprints, or spit.
- Pressing too hard will damage the display and you may end up with pixel damage, horizontal or vertical bars, or lighter/darker spots on the screen.
- Use only lint-free microfiber cloths to clean your Chromebook. Other lower quality cloths may scratch or damage the display or leave lint all over it. This can get in the keyboard and potentially damage it.
- If you don’t know what you’re doing, take it to a professional! They have all the tools and knowledge to clean it up like new.
How to sanitize your Chromebook
Here are detailed instructions for cleaning and sanitizing each major component of your Chromebook.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment and ask away at the end of this tutorial.
You should have a squeaky clean Chromebook that you can use without having to wash your hands after pushing a single key by the time you clean it up!
Cleaning the shell
The “shell” includes panels, bottom, edges, shell, lid, and bezels.
The shell of your Chromebook can be easily cleaned with some rubbing alcohol and a soft microfiber cloth. Spritz a few rounds onto the cloth and then scrub in a circular motion.
You can use this procedure to clean the bottom, lid, and edges of your laptop. Be careful not to get any into the keyboard, USB ports, SD card ports, or vents.
Rubbing alcohol is OK to use on electronics as it doesn’t conduct, but it needs to be 100% pure for this to work. Most people can’t keep it pure as once they pop the bottle open, it’s contaminated from repeated use.
Debris and dirt get inside it so it’s not clean anymore.
This can sandpaper your display if you’re not careful, which can wreck it with small scratches that only show up in certain lighting situations. This is what bugs people a lot.
Ask any power user and they’ll tell you all about it. So keep it clean by pouring the rubbing alcohol without contaminating it.
Sanitizing the keyboard
Ah, the keyboard. The dirtiest part of any laptop. The germ city of the keys. The mold, dust, food, drink, grime, and sweat harbor.
Whatever you wanna call it, it’s the nastiest part of your Chromebook and will need careful cleaning!
Did you know that a public keyboard contains more germs than a public toilet? Over 400 times the amount!
Start off by using a basic microfiber cloth. Wipe it down to remove the largest bits of debris right away. You can press down firmly on gunk that’s stuck to your keys. Use your fingernails to push the cloth into it and it should scrape off.
Next, spritz the microfiber with a few squirts of rubbing alcohol. Any percentage should work, but 70% is the sweet spot. It’s cheap but effective.
Don’t spray it on your keyboard directly. This can get the isopropyl alcohol dripping down into your keyboard. While pure alcohol is safe for electronics, it’ll likely break down some debris and then “carry” it into your keyboard’s internals. Not good.
This is why you spray it on your cloth, THEN you wipe your keyboard. It should remove even the toughest gunk stuck to your keys.
If the junk still doesn’t come off, it may need a bath. You can pry the keys off and then soak it overnight in a bath of alcohol.
This should remove everything and completely sanitize it. It doesn’t get any cleaner, friend.
For a quick clean, you can use compressed air to blow out dust stuck inside the keyboard. It also works well for ports where you connect your USB drives, SD cards, etc.
Some people argue that blowing air may make the debris go farther into your device. So that’s always something to consider. Use the air as directed.
Never spray the can lopsided or upside down.
Generally, you’ll tilt the Chromebook upside down so the debris can fall out between the cracks when you give short bursts of the pressurized product. The point is to get the debris out of the keyboard.
Keep the can upright- don’t tilt it. Cleaning out the debris inside your Chromebook can help improve passive heat dissipation, improve battery performance, and keep it running cool.
The original way to tell if you needed to clean out the dust inside is if the fans started spinning all the time, even if you’re not doing anything resource intensive. But this is limited to just traditional laptops that use fans.
Chromebooks don’t have fans.
So if you notice that it’s running hotter than usual, slower, or the battery runs out quickly, it may be due for a cleaning. Or you need to clean up your junk files and free up storage space.
Here’s a quick video that shows how to do it:
Cleaning the peripheral ports
The ports on the sides of your laptop can be cleaned using compressed air, a cotton swab, or by bunching the microfiber cloth into a small makeshift swab and cleaning it out.
The fibers will pick up the debris stuck in your USB ports, SD ports, power plug, audio jack, and other ports.
If you rarely use any of your peripheral ports, consider plugging them up with a specialized piece of rubber or plastic.
Yes, these exist (see on Amazon). I was just as dumbfounded when I first saw them. There’s something for everything, right? And I still couldn’t believe it.
Tip: Some laptop protectors will come with the plugs in a kit when you buy the shell. So if you plan to get one anyway, you may as well find a kit so you save money over buying each part individually, which would cost you more overall.
Cleaning the screen
The screen is the trickiest part. It collects fingerprints, oils, grease, spit, dust, debris, hair, and everything else that was once stuck on the keycaps of your keyboard.
When the screen is shut, it can touch the keys.
So whatever debris was on the tips of the keys may transfer to the screen. This is why sometimes when you pop the lid open the next day, it’s full of disgusting filth all over your screen.
Thankfully, the majority of screens are easy to clean.
Get a clean microfiber cloth and some rubbing alcohol.
Spray the cloth and then gently wipe the screen in a circular motion. You don’t need to press down because this may damage the LED components on it.
Gently glide the cloth over the display. The microfibers magically pull off any debris caught on it. You may need to concentrate on stubborn stains to remove them for your Chroembok’s display.
If that doesn’t work, use a cotton swab dipped in some isopropyl alcohol to swab the debris. This has a bit more cleaning power and should remove it when you swab long enough.
Rubbing alcohol should not damage the screen if used properly. A lot of computers use some kind of protective film which defends against basic cleaning agents.
But if you scrub too hard, or use the wrong cleaning agents, it can tear this film. The liquid gets behind it and you’ll have a shiny spot on the screen with trapped liquid.
You’ll want to do some research on your particular Chromebook and see what kind of display it has. Check if it’s safe to clean by researching the screen type and proper cleaning routine. If you really don’t know, contact the manufacturer directly.
Don’t let it build up over time.
Some liquid residues like soda from your spit, finger grease, or other sticky compounds will harden on the display. This makes them even harder to clean without damaging your display later on.
Clean it regularly to dissolve and remove gunk buildup.
The power adapter is easy to clean. Just use a regular cloth and wipe it down. You don’t have to use a microfiber cloth since it’s not sensitive to scratches.
Give it a good clean. Use a bit of water for stubborn stains. Since it drags everywhere you go, it can pick up some dirt.
Never attempt to clean the power cable or adapter when connected to power outlets! Use common sense!
The integrated camera on your Chromebook should be only cleaned with a lens microfiber cloth. It’s already blurry enough at 720P so don’t scratch it and make it worse.
Use a cloth and gently scrub it with a dab of rubbing alcohol in a circular motion. Since it makes up such a small part of the lid, you can easily avoid touching it at all times.
Tips on keeping it clean
Here are some handy tricks to keep your Chromebook clean so you don’t have to clean it as often, which means less headache over sanitizing it.
Don’t use your Chromebook near pets. While Fido may be your best friend, it’s probably your Chromebook’s enemy.
Dog hair, cat fur, and everything in between will get into your keyboard, stick to your screen, and possibly get pet dander all over it which can be bad for others who have allergies.
As usual, avoid eating or drinking when using your Chromebook. If you absolutely need to snack, sit back so you don’t get any of those Cheez-It crumbs into the cracks.
Put your drinks an arm’s distance away from your laptop. This way, you can still reach it. And minimize spill damage.
Use your Chromebook on a smooth surface. This will minimize weird positioning and damage.
Put the power cord away when you’re not charging it. This will eliminate dragging it all over the place.
Clean it regularly. This will help keep grime and gunk from building up on it, which will just make it harder to clean later on. If you notice a smudge or streak, clean it up when you’re done using it.
For debris on the keyboard (sweat, oil, grease, food, tears?) clean it up immediately before you continue using it. This is the gunk that leaves behind stains and residues. It also may get into the keyboard or inside the touchpad.
Clean the screen after you use any online conferencing. The saliva will leave behind streaks when you rub against them or will make certain areas of your display show “rainbow” pixels.
It’s also extremely annoying to use when the screen is dark because it magnifies all of them and you can see the sheer amount of spit on your Chromebook.
Protecting your Chromebook from damage
With the daily grind, it’s very easy to damage your Chromebook if you’re not super careful.
But that comes at a cost- being practical or being safe? It’s probably annoying to remove it from a sleeve or case every time you want to quickly look something up.
Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of carrying your Chromebook around with you?
Thankfully, there ARE solutions!
If you’re rockin’ it EDC style (everyday carry), you’ll need some protection for it.
The many thumps and bumps are enough to give it a good beating. Let’s not even talk about the horrors of dropping it!
The basic rite of passage is to get a screen protector. This is good for cleaning up spit, fingerprints, oils, and other nasty things that get on your display.
You can wipe with fewer worries because the film will defend against some harsher compounds or scrubbing, depending on which protector you get.
There’s everything from the basic film that’s just a few millimeters in length which makes it easy to clean up smudges (it’s useful if you’re using a convertible or touchscreen).
Or you can go fancy and get a thicker screen film that offers extra protection (smudge, glare, and even protection from other people’s curious eyes by using a special one-way privacy filter)!
Whatever you choose to get, make sure that it’s compatible with your screen size, easy to remove, and highly rated. If you’re using a touchscreen, it should be compatible with touchscreens.
This can make it safer to use with stylus pens or other input devices if you’re worried about scratching the display.
Next comes protecting the actual clamshell of your Chromebook. You can use a sleeve for easy removal and lightweight portability.
Or you can get a fitted rubber or plastic shell. The choice is yours and there are thousands of choices, designs, features, etc.
Personally, I think protective shells are more reliable for everyday protection. But it comes at a cost- they’re pricier IMO and they block passive heat dissipation from your Chromebook.
Excess heat can wear down the battery, which is an indirect cost of blocking up all the panels of your laptop. If you use it a lot for extended periods of time, this damage can add up.
Consider using a sleeve instead if you’re in one location for most of your day and only need to protect it when you’re on the go.
If you’re prone to being clumsy with your electronics, there are some MIL-SPEC Chromebooks that are certified to be spill-resistant, drop-resistant, and even equipped with rubber bumpers on the edges.
This can save you money if you constantly damage it while you’re on the go or travel a lot.
Or you can just invest in a third-party warranty plan that’s commonly sold at retailers. They go beyond the manufacturer’s warranty and will save you money overall if you think it’ll get heavily used.
Keeping it running smoothly
The last thing you’ll definitely want to consider is keeping it running well.
After you clean the outer shell of your laptop, what about keeping the inside clean as well?
Basic practices can help keep it running smoothly and preserve the battery.
You may find these articles helpful:
- How to preserve your Chromebook’s battery
- Tips and tricks to keep your Chromebook fast
- Keeping your Chromebook cool if it gets too hot
- List of Chromebook keyboard shortcuts in PDF
- Storing Chromebooks over the summer for teachers
Now you can use it- germ free!
(It’s likely never possible to be completely germ free.)
At this very moment, there are over 2 million germs on your fingers. Even undiscovered species.
With these handy tips and tricks, you should be able to handle your Chromebook and clean it regularly without any fear.
Scared of touching the touchpad after it being out all day?
Don’t want to type on the keyboard because you touched it with “dirty” hands at school or work? Now you don’t need to worry.
If you have any questions, drop a comment and let me know. Or if you found this guide helpful, please let me know as well =]!
Please consider telling a friend.