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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

How To Clean A Chromebook

School devices that are issued out to individuals—like Chromebooks—will get very, very dirty throughout the school year. You know it, and we know it.

Providing Chromebook cases for school devices is a good first step for keeping them clean. But beyond that, giving them a proper cleaning will enhance device performance and utility simply by removing accumulated debris. And, of course, Chromebooks should also be disinfected before assigning them to a new user.

The primary challenge of cleaning Chromebooks is doing so without damaging them, which requires you to select the right cleaning solution. This decision is highly dependent upon whether you’re cleaning the entire Chromebook or just part of the device. This guide shows you how to clean each part of a Chromebook.

Importance and Benefits of Cleaning School Devices

The regular clean-up of school devices is particularly important in a K-12 school. The need to prevent the transmission of influenza and other communicable diseases has risen greatly since 2020, with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Routine cleaning is also part of routine maintenance, which can extend the standard lifespan of a Chromebook beyond its Auto Update Expiration (AUE) term of eight years. These devices should normally be cleaned when they come out of storage and during flu seasons.

Selecting Safe Cleaning Products

The selection of safe products to clean up Chromebooks is crucial because many liquid solutions contain harsh solvents that will damage these devices. For example, you need to use bleach-free disinfectant wipes or microfiber cloth with a safe cleaning solution based on distilled water for the disinfecting process. Avoid abrasive cleaning pads that can scratch plastic surfaces, especially the screen monitor.

Safe Chromebook Cleaning Products

  • Bleach-free disinfectant wipes
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Paper towels (though they do leave lint on the screen)
  • Compressed air cans remove dust (but do not disinfect)

You can also make your own cleaning solution that’s safe for Chromebooks. Prepare a solution of 40 percent rubbing alcohol and 60 percent distilled water, as pure rubbing alcohol can damage the coating on monitor screens that helps them resist smudging. You can then fill an empty spray bottle with this alcohol solution, and follow storage temperature instructions as described on the pure alcohol bottle.

Unsafe Chromebook Cleaning Products

You should never use the following harsh cleaning supplies because they will remove the coating that prevents oil from accumulating:

  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Normal soap
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Bleach
  • Abrasive cleaning brushes or pads
  • Magic Erasers

In addition, be sure never to spray any cleaning solution directly onto any electronic device. Instead, apply the solution to the cloth, then apply the cloth to the device. This method will minimize the possibility of pushing liquid deep into the device.

Steps for Successful Device Cleaning

The first step in preparing a Chromebook for cleaning is to completely power it down, as opposed to merely placing it in sleep or hibernate mode. Ensure the power actually is off before proceeding. Disconnect all peripherals from the Chromebook, including the mouse, keyboard, USB devices, and power cable. 

Take out your Chromebook’s battery, if it’s removable. Most models don’t have a removable battery, but those that do have specific processes for removing them. They generally involve unlocking the bottom panel and disconnecting the battery from its cable. The main reason for carefully following the procedure for your model is to avoid exposing internal parts to static electricity or liquids, which applies to all electronic devices.

The steps for cleaning a Chromebook are specific to each part, which include the following:

  • Keyboard
  • Trackpad
  • Screen
  • Body
  • Ports

Cleaning the Keyboard

You’ll need the following items:

  • Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Can of compressed air
  • 70 percent solution of rubbing alcohol
  • Microfiber cloth

The isopropyl alcohol solution you use on the keyboard needs to be considerably stronger than that used on the screen because it needs to remove stubborn debris. Also, the keyboard isn’t nearly as delicate as the screen. In addition, you may need a semi-abrasive cloth rather than microfiber if your keys are particularly dirty. However, this type of cloth is more likely to rub the paint off the keys. Steps one through three in this process are for cleaning under the keys, while steps four through six are for cleaning the surface of the keyboard. Cleaning under the keys is risky because you could easily damage the keyboard, so you should only do it if this area has a lot of dirt.

Step 1: Remove a key

This step can vary greatly because each manufacturer has its own procedure that you should follow carefully. It generally involves placing a blunt screwdriver blade under the side of the key with a retainer clip, usually at the bottom. Gently push the blade forward until you meet slight resistance and slowly lift the blade upwards, using extreme caution not to damage the key, its retainer, or rubber spring.

The key should pop out easily if you do this correctly, so you don’t need to use much force. You may also want to remove the retainer and spring, depending on the nature of the debris you need to remove.

Step 2: Remove debris below the key

This may require a combination of tools like the screwdriver and tweezers to remove most of the dirt. Use canned air and a cloth to finish cleaning the area under the key.

Step 3: Replace the key

Snap the key back into place, which it should do easily if you’ve positioned it properly. You may need to make some slight adjustments to the position and angle of the key if you can’t install it using only minimal force.

Repeat steps one through three above for each key. You can also remove all the keys before cleaning the entire keyboard in a single operation. However, this method requires you to carefully note the position of each key before removing it. Once you’ve cleaned under the keys, you can proceed to step four.

Step 4: Remove dust and micro-particles

Use compressed, or canned, air to blow out debris from between the keys. Ensure that you never turn the can upside down, as this could cause it to spray out liquid instead of air.

Step 5: Clean the keys

Dab the cloth in the rubbing alcohol solution and wipe down each key separately to remove debris. Use a circular motion with slow, deliberate strokes to avoid allowing excess liquid to drop between the keys. Pure rubbing alcohol won’t harm electronics because it doesn’t conduct electricity, but a solution with calcium and other minerals will—that’s why it’s so important to dilute the rubbing alcohol with distilled water.

Step 6: Allow the keyboard to air dry

Once you clean all the keys, allow the keyboard to completely dry. Rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly at room temperature, so this should only take a few minutes.

Cleaning the Trackpad

You’ll need the following items:

  • 70 percent solution of rubbing alcohol
  • Dry microfiber cloth
Step 1: Wipe the trackpad

Dab the cloth into the solution of rubbing alcohol. Like the keyboard, you may need to use a more abrasive cloth like terrycloth or a bath towel if the trackpad has stubborn debris on it. Don’t use anything more abrasive than that, as it could scratch the trackpad. Use bright lighting to ensure you remove all scuffs and smudges. Wipe along the surface of the trackpad using gentle, but firm strokes in a circular motion. You should be clicking the trackpad if your strokes are firm enough. Use more rubbing alcohol as needed.

Step 2: Allow the trackpad to air-dry

Let the trackpad air dry without wiping further, allowing the solution to dry by itself. It shouldn’t leave any residue unless the trackpad was unusually dirty. If it was, you may need to repeat steps 1 and 2 to get the trackpad completely clean.

Cleaning the Screen

You’ll need the following items:

  • Bleach-free disinfectant wipes
  • Dry microfiber cloths
  • Canned air
Step 1: Wipe the screen

Use the disinfectant wipes or a small amount of rubbing alcohol solution on the cleaning cloth to completely wipe down the Chromebook’s screen (this is also safe for touch screens). You can substitute any linen-free cleaning cloths for microfiber cloths, as long as they’re non-abrasive. Wipes specifically designed for LCD and laptop screens are also commercially available.

Step 2: Remove smudges

Exert only slight pressure to remove fingerprints and other types of smudges from the screen, as stronger pressure could damage it. Don’t neglect the edges and corners next to the bezel, which is the plastic frame surrounding the screen. Dust can easily collect in these areas when you’re wiping the screen.

Step 3: Air dry and buff the screen

Buff the screen with a dry microfiber cloth once the screen dries. Be sure to remove any haze remaining on the display from the disinfection process.

Cleaning the Body

You’ll need the following items:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Soft cloth
Step 1: Prepare the cloth

Opt for a microfiber cloth if available, but any soft cloth should work. Dab the cloth into the alcohol solution, using only a moderate amount. If the cloth is dripping, wait until it stops before beginning your cleaning. Rubbing alcohol can damage the body of your Chromebook if it gets inside the frame.

Step 2: Wipe the Chromebook’s exterior

Using a damp cloth, wipe in circular motions, including the bezel, body, and lid. Rubbing alcohol won’t damage the finish on these parts, so you can clean them without concern.

Step 3: Allow the Chromebook to air-dry

It isn’t necessary to dry your device by wiping it down, since the solution should evaporate quickly with no residue if the body is clean. If the body is unusually dirty, wiping may just spread dirt around. In this case, repeat the cleaning process with a clean part of the cloth and more alcohol solution.

Cleaning the Ports

Things you’ll need:

  • Compressed air
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol

Microfiber is best for cleaning a Chromebook’s ports, although any non-abrasive cloth will do. The rubbing alcohol solution should be at 70 percent strength since these components aren’t particularly sensitive to alcohol. The primary goal of the cleaning techniques for ports is to remove all debris from inside the ports without actually putting anything inside them.

Step 1: Remove dust and debris

Spray the ports with the canned air to clean out as much particulate matter as possible. The larger pieces will simply fly out of the port, while fine particles are more likely to stick to the port’s surface or some other part of the Chromebook or surface of the port.

Step 2: Wipe the ports

Dab the solution with the cloth so that it’s damp without dripping. Wipe the ports to pick up any loose particles on the edge of the port. Don’t try to insert the cloth into the port, as moisture inside the port can damage it.

Step 3: Allow the ports to air dry

Be sure ports are completely dried before reconnecting them. You shouldn’t need to wipe them dry, since the solution will evaporate by itself. A hairdryer can speed this process, although it shouldn’t be necessary unless you used too much solution. Store the isopropyl alcohol and canned air as directed by the manufacturer.

Conclusion

Cleaning school devices like Chromebooks is important from both a health and usability perspective. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more important than ever to limit the spread of communicable diseases through an established disinfecting process. 

These cleaning techniques also ensure Chromebooks are as useful as they can be, given how often they’re used in environments that aren’t pristine. These devices should therefore receive a major cleaning at least once per year, including peripherals. However, they may need to be cleaned more often, based on circumstances such as an outbreak.

Incident IQ makes it easier to manage all of the assets in your K-12 school. Our asset management solution helps with deployment, auditing, reporting, and much more. See how Incident IQ can help you easily manage district devices by scheduling a demo today.