Let’s start talking about one of the most common maintenance that every person (tech or non tech) should perform at least once in a lifetime: cleaning!
Here’s what I usually do to clean my plastic-cheap and toy-like laptop that I’m currently using.
First, some gentle rubbing on all the surfaces (except the area around the keyboard) with a soft cloth and a very small amount of an anctibacterial spray, mildly diluted in water; most importantly, I don’t soak the cloth: I just spray a small amount of product on it, keeping it slightly “moisty”, almost dry to touch. Then, with a lense cleaning spray I clean the screen, again a very gentle rubbing with a soft cloth (and, again, I avoid spraying directly on the surface!). Finally, I use one of those “slimy” things to clean-up the keyboard: it doesn’t seem to do any harm to the electronics beneath, it cleans the keyboard reasonably well, and it leaves a smell that I find pleasant.
Not sure if my way is the proper way to do it, especially because it requires almost an half-hour of careful work and I usually do it every other week (I prefer to keep my laptop clean in the first place, rather than dealing with extensive cleaning all the times…), but I’ve never had any issue and, most importantly, I’ve never broken a keyboard while cleaning. Furthermore: I do it like this only because I’ve always feared that Isopropyl alcohol might be a tad too aggressive on plastic (especially the cheap plastic used in this Lenovo I’m using now), but I may be overly cautious.
I’d be interested to knowing what all of you do to clean your devices (not necessarily laptops)
IPA and paper towel or kimwipes.
99.9% alcohol and a suitable cloth, and/or a vacuum cleaner where appropriate and safe for the equipment.
Isopropyl alcohol is safe for use on plastics. But make sure to use 99% so you’re not using too much water - it’s available in 70% and 91% strengths too. It’ll break down oils and loosen anything mixed with the oils. Do be careful on printed lettering though - isopropyl alcohol can attack this, particularly combined with scrubbing/force. It will discover poor printing!
Other light alcohols like methyl or ethyl alcohol in pure form will work too, but these are generally harder to find.
Stronger solvents like acetone, toluene, xylene, benzene, gasoline, kerosene, diesel, WD-40, paint thinner (methyl chloride, turpentine, “white spirit”, “mineral spirits”), lacquer thinner and paint strippers will attack and dissolve (“craze”) plastic.
Use a cloth or “shop towel” (hydroentangled or spunlace non-paper) to avoid leaving paper fibers. Mist the cloth and wipe. If you spray directly you risk putting too much liquid on the surface, which can drip into electronics. Suitable liquids are non-conductive, but they may wash away conductive dust particles which can deposit onto electronics and may short them.
Good to know: I was just too afraid to try it on cheap plastic laptop shells! I use 99% IPA to clean out flux residues after soldering, and also to wipe clean the thermo compound when removing heatsinks / heatspreaders; Also, when removing glue residues from stickers or rubber feet. I’ve just never tried it on plastic, and I was too scared to use it on my own laptop because its silver finish already wears out easily when (occasionally) my palms sweat. But I surely wouldn’t be afraid to use it (gently) on an aluminium surface. Thanks for the pointers!
There are two different processes here.
Sweaty palms carry water, skin oils, minerals (you’ve seen sweat stains on clothing) and dirt. When this mixture is rubbed into plastic or metal by your hands it’s abrasive. Even if the effect is weak, it’s done constantly and repeatedly over years and these residues might not get cleaned off or may get rubbed into pores in plastic or metal. This polishes and smooths plastic, breaks down printing on plastic or protective coatings on metal and will even smooth metal over time.
Isopropyl alcohol works quite differently. It breaks down oils and allows the oil residues and debris to be wiped away. It’s not strong enough to dissolve plastic. No solvent can dissolve metal, not even the strong ones I mentioned earlier. But those strong solvents can dissolve the protective coatings used on metals (like a clearcoat on your car paint) - you might not even know they’re there.
This suggests me that I shouldn’t have skipped Chemistry classes at school … Thanks!
Not at all: I use the very same product that you mentioned for cleaning the display (and my camera lense too…), except that it comes in spray instead of wipes.