Tech Spring Cleaning Part 3: Actually Literally Cleaning Your Tech

Welcome to the twenty-eighth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy new tech column. Not everything we cover will be queer per se, but it will be about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology.

Header by Rory Midhani



Hooray! You’ve got a super lovely file structure! Congrats! And you’ve put a new picture on your desktop! Much Congrats to you! What’s that you say? You can’t see the new picture on your desktop because of the oily fingerprints and sneeze spray that glints in the afternoon sunlight and makes you feel like you’re typing on a petri dish? I feel you. This week, we’re going to actually clean your tech. The reason people put this off is because sometimes it actually means obtaining things you don’t already have in your house. The good news is that it doesn’t take as much thought or time as dealing with your software or creating a folder system that allows you to find things. In fact, there are so few steps that this week we’re not breaking it down into days of the week. There are only two steps, to be completed on days of your choosing: 1. obtain the following materials and 2. use them on your technology. Ready. Set. Go.

 For Your Display

There are about a billion things you shouldn’t do to clean your display, but that people do anyway. For instance, using abrasive cleaning towels (paper towels!) will deteriorate the protective coatings on computer/tablet/phone displays over time. Stick with a microfiber cloth, the same kind of cloth you’d use to clean your glasses. I’ve found a pack of six for you for $8.

You also want to steer clear of all-purpose household cleaners and anything with ammonia or alcohol for the same reason – the chemicals will strip the protective coatings on your display. The cool part is, most of the time you only need to use the microfiber cloth by itself. A dry dust really goes a long way. But supposing there are just too many gross spots on your display, you want to grab an alcohol free screen cleaner, something made for tech. This is super cool because you can also use it to clean your TV if you have one. I recommend iKlear. Or iClean, actually. I have personally used both. Don’t use water – it just pushes the oils on your display around and leaves streaks, making your display even more infuriating to look at than it was before.

If you need to use cleaner, make sure to power your computer off if you’re using a laptop/portable computer. If you are using a desktop machine where the display and the tower are separate, you can just power down the display. Disconnect it from all cables (power cables etc) and then spray one spritz on the microfiber cloth. Never spray cleaner directly on the computer. You can damage your computer with screen cleaner just the same as you can with water – if moisture gets into any of the ports, for instance.

You can also use this very same cleaner to clean the outsides of your computer. Again, just remember never to spray the computer itself and you’re golden.

For Your Keyboard, Mouse and Other Peripherals

Keyboards, trackpads and mice are tricky because you want to disinfect them. That is, after all, where your hands go. And hands can sometimes be germy. And sometimes you’re sharing this equipment with other humans whose hands are also germy. You can use an alcohol-based cleaner on your keyboard, just not on your screen. I recommend Lymsat, but you can also use Lysol Kitchen Wipes. The thing is, you don’t want to put a saturated wipe on your keyboard, especially if you’re using a portable computer and your keyboard is the gateway to your computer’s internals. So, while everything is turned off and disconnected, wring the wipe out over a sink. Then you can use the Lymsat or Lysol wipe on the keyboard and dry it with a microfiber cloth (not the same ones you use for the screen). If this cleaning method makes you a bit uncomfy, you can always use a keyboard cover and then disinfect that. With you mouse, you can be a little less careful with the Lymsat/Lysol.

If you’re anything like me, you also probably have some toast crumbs lurking in the recesses of your keyboard. Compressed air is wonderful for getting dust and little debris flecks out of your keys. Make sure to use the little straw that comes with the can, hold it at least 4 inches away from your computer, and always hold the can upright. If you do anything other than that, fluid may leak from the can. This does not feel good on your skin and certainly does not feel good for the computer. But if you hold it upright and use that silly little straw, you’re pretty safe and this method of cleaning is super gentle. This also works for crevices/fans/ports in desktop machines that seem to attract dust like no one’s business.

If you’ve got a particularly tricky port or crevice in your tech that is just not happening with the compressed air (the charging port on most smartphones comes to mind), an ESD-safe brush can also be used. ESD stands for electrostatic discharge and it’s not a thing you want to happen when you’re getting dust out of your technology. Static can shock your equipment and diminish its capacity to function or make your device no longer work at all, so don’t stick anything other than ESD-safe brushes into the ports on your machine.

It’s an easy week, but next week won’t be – next week is cable management, also known as the thing everyone wishes the fairies would do for them. So relax and enjoy your clean computer!

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. This post also taught me that I have been cleaning my glasses wrong for all these years, so A++, would read again.

  2. I’m loving this spring cleaning series! I will say that I just recently purchased a keyboard cover for my mac and I love it. I have a nasty habit of eating while I use my computer and the cover prevents any wayward crumbs from getting stuck in my keys for all eternity.

  3. I used to clean my screen with the microfiber cloth I use to clean my glasses, dampened with the cleaning fluid I use on my glasses. It worked okay, until I finally bought some iKlear wipes. LOTS better.

    • That is my name too and I still clean my screen the way I clean my glasses. But if another Annie has moved on …

  4. This series has been amazing and SO helpful!
    Could you / would you be willing to make a guide like this for bedroom cleaning?

    • oh this. i need this. at current my system is ‘throw all crap on bed, remove in slightly more organized fashion, vaccuum, nap.’

  5. THANK YOU FOR THIS I am forever wondering what’s the best way to clean my keys/ports (especially the magnetised charging port on Macs) so now I will try these tips!

  6. The things cleaned out of my keyboard I dare not repeat here, guess that’s what happens when I take a free keyboard from work. It was epic nasty.

  7. I popped the keys off my keyboard to clean it (so much dirt and HAIR) and um, now a lot of them won’t go back on. I guess it’s a new laptop keyboard for me. I’m a dumb.

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