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Your MacBook Is Probably Pretty Gross. Here's How to Properly Clean It

Cleaning your MacBook isn't as simple as cleaning your iPhone. Here's what to know.

Mary-Elisabeth Combs Associate Writer
Mary-Elisabeth is an associate writer on CNET's How-To team. She's a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's English Department, and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the How-To team, she covers a little bit of everything. When she's not writing, she's catching up on Formula 1 or reading.
Mary-Elisabeth Combs
3 min read
hand holding a microfiber cloth cleaning a MacBook keyboard.

If you're anything like me, your MacBook is probably pretty gross.

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I have to be completely honest -- my MacBook Air is pretty gross. The screen has fingerprints all over it, and there are way too many crumbs to count in and around the keyboard buttons. And let's not even talk about the dust hiding in the crevices. 

One of my worst tech habits is not consistently cleaning my devices. I'm bad about regularly wiping down my iPhone, as well as dusting my TV and other large screens in my house. My MacBook is no exception to this neglect. 

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As a part of my annual spring cleaning regimen, I have decided to make sure my devices get clean and stay that way, starting with my MacBook. If you want to join me, read on to find out how to safely clean your MacBook, too. 

For more, here's how to really clean your Keurig and our ultimate guide to cleaning your stove. 

How to wipe down your screen 

According to Apple, you'll want to wipe down your screen with a damp, lint-free cloth. It is crucial that you only use water when you are broadly wiping down your screen. To tackle smaller, hard to remove smudges, it's recommended that you use 70% isopropyl alcohol on a lint-free cloth

Prior to wiping down your screen, shut off your computer and unplug it from any charging cables. 

In my experience, I have used a small glasses cleaning cloths to take care of some of the harder to remove fingerprints or smudges. With some vigorous yet gentle wiping, you can make a dent (not literally) in the worst smudges without having to use any water or isopropyl alcohol. 

If you have a MacBook with a Touch Bar, clean it the same way that you clean your screen. 

How to clean the outside of your MacBook 

Cleaning the outside of your MacBook is very similar to cleaning your screen: just grab a damp, lint-free cloth to do the job. Just be sure to keep any water or moisture from dripping into the brains of your computer. 

Apple suggests avoiding aerosol sprays (think Lysol), solvents, abrasives or anything containing hydrogen peroxide. When I've cleaned the outside of my computer, I've stuck with the slightly damp cloth or paper towel that Apple recommends. Again, make sure your computer is turned off for this task. 

How to clean your MacBook keyboard

Cleaning your keyboard is a bit trickier than cleaning your screen or the outside of your computer. Luckily, Apple has some guidance on how to use compressed air to clean your keyboard. 

First, hold your Macbook at a 75-degree angle, with the keyboard pointing down. Then, with the nozzle about a half of an inch away, use the compressed air to spray the keyboard in a back and forth motion, not focusing directly on one area for too long. 

Rotate your MacBook and repeat, continuing to spray the keyboard in a back-and-forth motion. 

When I've left big crumbs or other debris on my keyboard, I typically have good luck by blowing the detritus out from under the keys using this technique. 

How to clean your MacBook charger 

My MacBook chargers are probably just as filthy as my computer. Apple suggests using the same damp, lint-free cloth to do the job here. Before getting started, make sure your charging cable is unplugged from both the charging block and your device before cleaning. 

Clean your charger cable by running the damp cloth up and down the cord until all the grime and dust are gone. Be careful not to get any moisture into the charging elements, and make sure your cable is fully dried before using it again.

You can clean the block in the same way you would clean the outside of your MacBook. Again, make sure that you allow the block to dry fully before using it, and avoid getting water inside the charging elements. 

For more, here's how to really clean your iPhone and how to clean your AirPods.