How Often should you Clean your Computer?

Cleaning the computer does not only mean cleaning it internally of unwanted files and viruses. Computers also need to be cleaned externally of dust, dirt, and other residues.

Does cleaning your computer only make it look shiny and new? Not! The dusty and dirty computer can harm the computer in the long run.

Dust accumulation in computers can cause them to overheat, slow down and even increase fire risks.

So, if you want your computer to operate smoothly for years then cleaning them frequently is essential.

As a general rule, Computers need to be cleaned at least every eight to ten months. Meanwhile, laptops should be cleaned every three to six months. The frequency of cleaning needs might increase depending on the computer placement, user habits like smoking, keeping pets near to the computer, the number of users, etc.

A dusty Pc and a Keyboard
A dusty Pc and a Keyboard (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This article will guide you on the cleaning frequency needs of computers depending on various factors as well as the cleaning needs of computer parts separately.

Signs your Computer Needs Cleaning

The primary sign that your computer needs cleaning is a dusty-looking computer.

However, multiple signs indicate the need for cleaning that might as easily catch your attention.

1. Loud or Fast fan

If your computer fan is too loud or is running at high speed, there is a high chance of dust accumulation near the fan.

Because of the airflow limits caused by the dust, fans must run at a higher speed to sufficiently cool the system.

The heat isn’t being released effectively because there’s a coating of dust on the components, so the fans are working harder than they would if the system was clean.

2. Dust Outside of the Computer

If there is dust accumulation outside the computer, then the dust might be accumulated inside the computer.

You may clean it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

Dusty Computer
Dusty Computer (Source: Unsplash)

3. Overheated Computer

If your computer feels hot to touch, then the computer might be overheated, and one of the main reasons for overheating is dust accumulation.

Dust accumulation in fans and vents stops the fan from circulating air which traps the heat inside the computer’s components, causing it to overheat.

Can Dust Harm your Computer?

Dust accumulation can harm your computer by lowering its cooling capacity.

In addition, the dust accumulated in fans and vents disturbs the air circulation and overheats the computer.

According to research, dust may get into electrical connectors and cause them to overheat. This process can eventually reduce the lifespan of the computer’s components.

Dust can also slow down the computer’s working efficiency.

The intake fans draw the dirt and dust, which settles around the vents and on the motherboard.

Dust may cause your computer to overheat and malfunction if it is not removed regularly. It can also cause a short circuit, causing your motherboard to fail.

The dusty computer is also a high fire risk. The dust can cause overheating, which increases the risk of explosion.

Dirty PC Components
Dirty PC Components (Source: Wikimedia)

Factors that Determine Frequency of Computer Cleaning

How often you clean your computer depends on a few factors like Placement, habits, Pets, etc.

1. Placement of the Computer

The frequency of cleaning a computer is also determined by the environment in which the computer is placed.

For instance, a computer placed in an industrial cleanroom will not get dusty easily.

However, computers used in CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines in a cabinet shop would certainly require more frequent clean-up.

Another important factor is where the computer is exactly placed as computers placed on the floor need more cleaning.

Computer in office
Computer in office (Source: Unsplash)

The need for more frequent cleaning is due to higher chances of dust from the floor being swept inside the computer.

In comparison to floor placement, computers placed on shelves or desks would require a lot less cleaning.

In addition, if you place the computer on the carpeted floor, there are high chances of blockage of the power supply’s intake fan leading to more dust accumulation.

Refer to the table below for detailed information on the frequency of cleaning a computer based on its placement.

Computer PlacementFrequency of Cleaning
Home environment 10 months
Clean office environment 10 months
Construction Industry9 months
School8 months
Floor10 months
Carpeted Room Floor10 months

Related Article: Should you put your PC on Carpet?

2. Pets Near the Computer

Pets are a great addition to your home but certainly harmful for your computers.

If you have any pets like dogs, cats, or hair shedding pets, it’s wise to keep them away from your computer and the room it is kept in.

Pets shed tons of hair every day, which ultimately gets trapped inside the computer through vents and openings.

Firstly, it can get stuck on fans and stop them from operating, which will heat your computer quite easily and can even permanently damage the components.

Pets and computer
Pets and computer (Source: Unsplash)

Secondly, they act as natural insulators to keep pets warm.

So, the hair trapped inside the computer would be a heat blanket for all the heat generated quickly overheating the computer system.

It is recommended that you vacuum your room every day if you have pets. You should also clean your computer every nine months.

3. Habits of the User

Habits of users seem far-fetched in correlation with computer cleaning. Nevertheless, the user’s habit strongly determines the need for cleaning the computer.

People who have a habit of smoking next to the computer need to clean their computer at least once in nine months.

The main reason for this is that smoking causes tar and dust to combine to form a sticky substance deposited inside the computer.

The deposition interferes with the computer’s cooling system by blocking the fans.

If you have a habit of eating or drinking by the computer, there are high chances of liquid spillage or food crumbs landing on the computer.

So, you will need to clean the computer more frequently.

Eating while working
Eating while working (Source: Unsplash)

The keyboard would particularly look dirty more quickly due to food stains, and the crumbs can accumulate underneath the keys making the keys harder to press.

So, you will need to clean the computer at least once every ten months if you have such a habit.

For your reference, a survey conducted in Nigeria showed that only 13.5 % of respondents maintained a proper handwashing routine while using the computers, and 52.1 % had a habit of eating next to the computer.

These habits can cause the transfer of microbe to keyboard and mouse, which can be transmitted to other users.

Therefore, completely disinfect the computer’s exterior at least once every month if you have such habits.

4. Number of Users

The more the number of users for a computer, the more frequent cleaning it requires.

When more people use a single computer, the possibility of the transfer of germs and microbes is higher. The germs could also spread to different users.

To reduce the health hazard to users, you should clean the computer more than once in 11 months if the user is more than two.

How Often should you Clean your Computer?

The computer fans pull air from outside through its vents to keep the computer cool.

Unfortunately, this also brings in hair, dust, and lint along with.

Build up of such substances inside the computer must be cleaned up periodically for the smooth operation of the computer.

It would help if you cleaned the computer’s interior at least once every six to twelve months, and the exterior must be dusted once a week or twice, depending on the exterior environment.

So it’s better if you clean it once every three months.

Every component of a computer has its own cleaning frequency needs. For instance, the keyboard that we touch every day needs more frequent clean-up.

The table below will give you a quick overview.

Computer PartsFrequency of cleaning
KeyboardAt least once every week
Computer FanAt least once a month
Case At least once a week.
CPU heatsinkEvery three to six months
The motherboard of the CPURoutine cleaning: Every six months
Deep cleaning: When the motherboard has been exposed to a filthy environment or has had anything spilled on it.
Power supplyEvery two to three months
Computer VentsEvery 3 to 6 months
MouseWipe after every use
TowerOnce a Year
MonitorEvery three to six months
PortsAtleast once every three to six months

1. Cleaning the Keyboard

We are in constant contact with the computer’s keyboard, so it is the part of the computer that gets dirty the most.

Dirt, dust, food, hair, etc., anything can get accumulated underneath the keys, blocking the keys from being pressed easily.

A British study shows that swabs taken from Keyboards in London contain more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat.

Infrequent cleaning of the keyboard was found to be the primary reason behind this.

You should clean the Keyboards at least once every week.

Not only does dirt and dust slow down your average words per minute, but it also increases the likelihood of hardware failure and the accumulation of germs.

Mechanical keyboards require more maintenance than regular keyboards since dirt may fall into the bigger gaps between the keys.

However, cleaning it every week will keep it as good as new.

Dirty Keyboard
Dirty Keyboard (Source: Unsplash)

2. Cleaning the Computer Fan

The computer fans get dirty faster as air from outside is filled with dust, dust, and hair get sept inside the vents towards the fan.

The accumulation can slow down the fan and even stop it from moving.

Compressed Air PC Cleaning (Source: Pixabay.com)

You should clean computer fans at least once a month to keep them moving without disruption.

3. Case cleaning

Dusty CPU case is easily noticeable as the exterior of the CPU easily forms a film of dust.

You must clean your computer case at least once a week. However, the cleaning frequency of the CPU case depends on the environment.

For example, dusty areas and rooms close to the street can accumulate dust quickly on your computer.

Quick Tip: Run your fingers through the CPU case and if you can see your fingermark, it’s time to wipe it down.

4. CPU Heatsinks Cleaning

CPU heatsink should be cleaned at least once every three to six months.

The fan blows a lot of dust across the tightly spaced heatsink, so the heatsink/fan region collects a lot of dust.

As dust builds up on the heatsink blades, it insulates them and reduces their capacity to vent the heat generated by the processor.

As a result, the CPU cooling fan spins faster to pull sufficient air through the heatsink to cool the processor.

Unfortunately, the heatsink’s air channels ultimately get entirely clogged, and the heatsink’s capacity to cool the CPU is lost.

The CPU becomes extremely heated, resulting in losing data, system lock-ups, and even processor destruction.

CPU heatsink with cooling fan (Source: Wikimedia)

5. The Motherboard of the CPU

Dust and dirt can obstruct connections to the motherboard and even cause your computer to shut down, mostly because they raise the board’s temperature.

A motherboard may be cleaned in two ways: routine cleaning and deep cleaning.

Cleaning should be done regularly as part of your computer maintenance program, which should be done every six months.

Deep cleaning involves the use of alcohol and extreme caution.

However, this form of cleaning is required when the motherboard has been exposed to a filthy environment or has had anything spilled on it.

Cleaning equipment like Compressed Air is used to clean the inside of a computer.

However, it is also possible to clean the computer without the use of compressed air.

Read the article, How to Clean PC and Laptop Without Compressed Air?

6. Cleaning Power Supply

It’s essential to clean your power supply regularly if you want it to last as long as possible.

Generally, you should clean your power supply every two to three months.

If your computer produces a grinding noise when it starts up or shuts down, it’s a strong indication that your power supply needs to be serviced.

7. Computer Vents Cleaning

Computer vents allow air from the external environment to enter your computer system. So, it gets much dirtier than the internal spaces.

Depending on the environment’s dusty, you should clean the computer vents every 3-6 months.

8. Mouse Cleaning

Mouse with dust and dirt accumulation will lose its speed and ease of movement.

The cleaning needs for equipment like mouse and keyboards have increased since the start of the pandemic.

According to research, the coronavirus can survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours.

Mouse use
Mouse use (Source: Unsplash)

Out of Swabs taken from 200 mouse used in Sudanese universities in Khartoum, 61.5% yielded bacterial growth. 

To keep yourself and other users safe, you need to wipe it down and disinfect the mouse and keyboard exterior after every use.

9. Cleaning the PC Tower

The regularity with which you should clean your computer depends entirely on the environment in which it is kept.

Towers placed on the floor are more exposed to dust, pet hair, and carpet particles, but towers placed on top of a desk are less exposed.

You should clean your computer tower at least once a year.

However, if the tower is placed on the floor then cleaning is required every six months.

10. Cleaning the Monitor

Monitors can form a film of dust and stains from coughing or sneezing.

Even though dust and dirt do not cause long-term harm to the monitor, they can strain your eyes as stains and dust can make it very hard to see the screen.

The monitor should be cleaned every three to six months, while the monitor screen can be wiped as frequently as daily depending upon the external environment.

11. Cleaning the Ports

While cleaning computers, the dirt on ports often goes unnoticed.

However, the ports in frequent use are likely to be filled with dust since they receive more input actions than other ports.

You should clean the ports at least once every three to six months.

How Often should you Clean your Laptop?

Adopt a good maintenance and cleaning schedule every three to six months to maintain your computer clean and free of germs.

If there is a lot of dust after cleaning, you may increase the cleaning frequency to decrease the dust and debris accumulation.

What Happens If you Don’t Clean your Computer?

The computer should be cleaned frequently else there could be problems like overheating, health issues and even fire.

1. Health Hazards

Dust and dirt are easily noticed on computers. However, germs and bacteria can accumulate even when the computer is seemingly clean.

If you have a habit of eating and using the computer simultaneously, there might be even more chances of germs accumulation on your keyboard and mouse.

The bacteria, mold, dust accumulated over time can cause health hazards like allergies and even trigger asthma.

According to research, Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)  can live up to a day on keyboard surfaces.

Skin infections are caused by MRSA in otherwise healthy individuals. MRSA is resistant to antibiotics and can cause skin boils and blood poisoning.

Asthma
A Person Suffering from Asthma (Source: Unsplash)

Users might also have a habit of sneezing without coving their mouth or touching the keyboard or other parts without sanitizing their hands.

Such habits can easily spread transmitted surface diseases like Rhinovirus, Influenza, and even coronavirus.

According to research, covid-19 can spread via surface transmission through the shared use of equipment.

Therefore, computers used by multiple users have a high chance of spreading diseases to other users.

2. Shorter Lifespan of the Computer

The computer requires ventilation and circulation to prevent overheating internal components such as the CPU and hard drive.

Fans ensure that your computer receives sufficient airflow and thus remains cool.

In addition to the cool external air, fans help transport dust particles throughout your computer.

Dust from flowing through your computer can accumulate on the fan and other interior parts if left unattended for a long time.

As a result, the dust serves as an insulator, causing the components to operate hotter than they would otherwise.

And allowing your computer components to overheat is one of the most harmful things you can do because it drastically reduces the lifespan of your computer if not addressed.

Fans, motherboards, and other internal parts can get damaged if overheating continues.

4. Quick Battery Drain

Your laptop works harder to perform efficiently when the system overheats, which causes the fans to run at full speed to keep the computer cool.

The maximum speed of the fan causes your laptop battery to drain quickly.

5. Computer Performance might Get Slower

Dust accumulation also decreases your computer’s speed.

When dust is accumulated in fans or heatsinks, it cannot work efficiently to circulate air inside the computer, which causes heat retention. This causes the computer efficiency to decrease.

When the computer overheats, reaching 100 or 105 degrees Celsius, the processor starts throttling to avoid overheating.

The throttling process slows down the computer to draw less power and dissipate less heat.

6. It might Cause Fire Hazards

Dust can accumulate in the vents and fans, which disrupts the airflow inside the computer system. This causes the system to heat up.

The risk of fire is higher when the computer reaches over 100 degrees Celcius.

Laptop Catching on Fire
Laptop Catching on Fire (Wikimedia Commons)

For more details on the risk of a Laptop catching on fire, read the article; What are the Chances of Laptop Catching on a Fire?

7. Bad Appearance of the Computer

The dusty computer gives the impression of an unprofessional workstation.

The appearance of computers and workstations influences the overall image of any company or professional.

Related article; 16 Ways to Enhance Your Home Office Desk’s Aesthetic

Things to Consider Before Cleaning your Computer

Your computer requires frequent cleaning. However, you should use the correct cleaning methods to cause no harm during the cleaning process.

In addition, you should also pay attention to some things before cleaning your computer, which is discussed below.

  • Make sure the computer is turned off before cleaning it and remove all the cables.
  • Do not spray any liquid into the computer components.
  • While cleaning fans, hold the blades in place to prevent them from spinning.
  • Paper towels and other abrasive items should not be used.
  • Keep in mind that cleaning supplies and techniques for PCs and Macs may differ significantly.

Final Verdict

The computer should be cleaned both externally and internally for maintenance.

The motherboard, fan, case, and accessory equipment like keyboard and mouse all have to be cleaned timely for proper functioning.

Although dust in computers might seem like an insignificant problem, it can cause component failure in the long run.

The placement, habits, users can influence the need for cleaning of computers.

So, you should place your computers in clean areas and avoid eating or drinking near it.

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