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What Is the Best Way To Disinfect Your Laptop? 545

akutz writes "I've had the flu since Tuesday afternoon. My wife picked me up from work with a temperature of 103.6 and it finally broke at 98.7 around 3am this morning. Yay. The problem is that I used my laptop during my periods of feverish deliriousness, contaminating my shiny 15" MacBook Pro with the icky influenza virus. I am asking my fellow Slashdotters if they have ever sought out a good way of disinfecting their lucky laptops after an illness. Do you use soap? A light acid bath? Just get the family dog to lick it until it looks clean?"
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What Is the Best Way To Disinfect Your Laptop?

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  • by xstonedogx ( 814876 ) <> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:53PM (#24052823)

    Then you won't have to worry about it.

  • by NoobixCube ( 1133473 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:55PM (#24052841) Journal
    for the crippling virus infecting their machines.
  • Lysol (Score:5, Informative)

    by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:55PM (#24052845)

    Just spray some Lysol on a rag and wipe it down. If you are really worried, you could spray the machine directly, but I'd be concerned of damage.

    • Re:Lysol (Score:5, Informative)

      by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:16PM (#24053669) Journal

      Well, the good news is influenza and norovirus are both weak, short living virus strains easily killed by detergents. so no matter what you got sick with, basic soap will kill it.

      there are some spore based viruses and even, organisms that are virtually impossible to destroy.

      but you didn't get sick with any of those, so you don't have to worry about really decontaminating it.

      • Re:Lysol (Score:4, Funny)

        by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @01:42AM (#24055453)

        there are some spore based viruses and even, organisms that are virtually impossible to destroy.

        Hello, my name is Muhammad. I am a student in the tribal areas of Pakistan, majoring in Shariah Law and Biological Warfare. Could you please mail me some samples of the spore based viruses? My boss has asked to give a presentation on them in New York.

        I will tell my boss to mail US$1million to you in used notes if you can help me. We will pack it in a lead box to make sure that it is not confiscated by customs.

    • Re:Lysol (Score:5, Informative)

      by crasher35 ( 787091 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:40PM (#24053861) Homepage
      A good ol' alcohol wipe will do the trick! You know, like the alcohol prep pads doctors use to disinfect your skin before sticking you with a needle. We use them all of the time at work to disinfect our cameras after daily use.
      • Re:Lysol (Score:5, Funny)

        by Darkk ( 1296127 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @10:40PM (#24054335)

        A good ol' alcohol wipe will do the trick! You know, like the alcohol prep pads doctors use to disinfect your skin before sticking you with a needle. We use them all of the time at work to disinfect our cameras after daily use.

        Disinfect your cameras after daily use? Do I wanna know?

      • Re:Lysol (Score:4, Informative)

        by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:04AM (#24055861) Homepage Journal

        As good as this sounds at first, I don't think it's a good idea for regular usage as not all plastics respond well. You could end up eating away at the keys or the surface of the laptop with too aggressive chemicals.

        I think that's the thing to remember here: the question really is about achieving the golden balance between hygienic cleaning and maintaining the equipment. The best solution would be one that doesn't harm the case or the keys, but disinfects the machine. Also consider that a truly thorough cleaning means cleaning the ports and ventilation openings.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by badasscat ( 563442 )

      Or use disinfecting wipes, which are made specifically for this purpose.

      Doesn't anybody watch TV ads anymore??

      Seriously, though, this is like asking "my windows are really dirty, is there any product out there that can clean them??"

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tacocat ( 527354 )

      Virii can't exist outside of the body. Just leave it for a day and it will be fine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )

      For influenza (or most viruses for that matter) you do not need even that. They live for half an hour/hour tops outside the human body. Usually even less.

      Now bacteria is a completely different ball game. Some of them (the ones that can produce spores) can survive even boiling the laptop and dipping it into bleach.

      So frankly, the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.

  • UV light (Score:5, Informative)

    by chocho99 ( 552877 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:56PM (#24052849)
    Keyboard + Mouse + Sunlight. 30 minutes later it's clean.
  • Germs on plastic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:56PM (#24052855)
    I could be wrong, but I doubt that germs live very long on plastic.
    • by sessamoid ( 165542 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:57PM (#24052873)
      Yes, you could be wrong.
    • Re:Germs on plastic? (Score:5, Informative)

      by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:35PM (#24053311) Homepage Journal

      Viruses don't "live", as such. Some of them can persist for a very long time, and the influenza virus is one of them. The opening of some old graves from the Great Flu on Spitzbergen a couple of years ago was considered risky, because the virus would likely have survived.

      However, you also become immune to a strain of the influenza virus once you've had it. So there will normally be no dangers in using a computer that has traces of influenza virus from when you yourself were ill.

      That said, it's not really certain that the OP really had influenza. People tend to throw the word influenza around a lot, for all kinds of infections with flu-like symptoms, whether it's really the flu or not. If a bacterial infection, chances are greater that the bacteria will die, but there's also a greater risk of re-catching the same disease. If a virus, but not an influenza, the longevity of the virus might be way different.

  • by fishyfool ( 854019 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:57PM (#24052871) Homepage Journal
    Set it out in the sunshine for about ten minutes. Sunlight is a great disinfectant
    • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:16PM (#24053093) Homepage
      I'd think twice about doing this. You will end up killing 99% of the bugs, but the 1% that survive will be sunlight resistant! You'll kill us all!
    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:36PM (#24053317) Homepage
      This is Slashdot. I think you need to go into more explanation about this whole sunlight thing.
  • a gentle cleaning (Score:4, Informative)

    by verin ( 74429 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:58PM (#24052879)

    Use the gentlest cleanser you can (the cleaner they sell for lcd televisions works pretty well), a microfiber cloth (not wet, just damp), and go over it once, let it dry, go over it again, let it dry, then a little bit of sunshine really does help kill germs.

  • by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:58PM (#24052883) Homepage

    Sounds like you might have been exposed to hypochondria as well. You should go to a specialist and have that checked out right away.

  • by Maestro485 ( 1166937 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:59PM (#24052905)
    Use a condom?

    I kid, I kid.
    Bye bye karma ;)
  • Use rubbing alcohol (Score:4, Informative)

    by Armon ( 932023 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @07:59PM (#24052911)
    Get some cotton balls wet with rubbing alcohol, something with a high concentration (e.g. > 70%). Rub it all over your laptop. Wait about 2 minutes and all of it will evaporate, and your laptop will be clean. I use this on my keyboard/mice/macbook all the time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by exploder ( 196936 )

      CAREFUL with this! I was cleaning my laptop keyboard with isopropyl alcohol, and it worked great. So I started to clean the palm rest area, and it instantly marred the finish. (It's a Dell XPS m1210.)

      I don't really care that my lappy doesn't look new anymore, but the other guy might.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Taibhsear ( 1286214 )

      Why exactly was this modded funny? I used to work for a biological media company making agars and broths for microbiological testing. We used isopropyl to disinfect the surfaces of our kettles, autoclaves, and counter tops every day. IIRC 15-30 seconds will destroy most microorganisms.

  • by isomeme ( 177414 ) <> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:02PM (#24052941) Homepage Journal
    If you've already had a given strain of the flu, you generally won't catch it again; your immune system is primed against that virus. So the laptop is little danger to you. Your immediate family probably got exposed through a thousand other shared items, so the laptop isn't making things noticeably worse for them, either. In short, I wouldn't worry about it.
  • Easy. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gothic_Walrus ( 692125 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:02PM (#24052943) Journal

    Just wait a day or two. The germs will die, you shouldn't get sick again since you just got done fighting it, and if your wife's going to get sick, I don't think the MacBook is going to be the reason why.

  • by JustCallMeRich ( 1185429 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:04PM (#24052959) Homepage

    Now that you have survived, and, correct me if I am wrong - but aren't you immune now to that virus?

    That said, I'd say damp (as in no drips possible) cloth made damp by some soapy water to wipe it down ought to do the trick. The mantra in my EMT class (and a number of test questions) was "The best way to avoid spreading disease is to wash your hands often".

  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:07PM (#24052993)

    I'm no biologist but, casting my mind back to riveting documentaries on the BBC...

    Your body comes in contact with a new strain of a virus that it has no defense against. The virus moves in. The virus multiplies. Your body figures out how to fight it. Much of your feeling like crap is the process of your body fighting it.

    If you get re-exposed in any kind of a short time frame, your body already knows how to produce the antibodies and doesn't get reinfected.

    The reason you'll pick up multiple colds during a winter is because you're getting hit by multiple strains.

    If re-exposure to the exact same strain was an issue, you'd have to burn your house down every time you got sick. Instead, the things you've come in to contact with are no risk to you, just to others who may not have immunity to that strain yet.

    That being the case... Get over yourself, stop being a germophobe, use your laptop just fine.

    If other people are using your laptop, they may have something to worry about. You're totally fine.

    As for you using other people's stuff and being a raging germophobe, you can use sterilizing hand lotions after every usage... and you too can become one of the idiotic generation that try so hard to avoid any exposure that all they really achieve is having no built up immunity when things do get through.

    Man up, get over your phobia, accept that getting sick is a normal part of building a tougher immune system, and get on with living.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:07PM (#24052999) Homepage Journal

    Felix Unger posts on slashdot.

  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:10PM (#24053027) Homepage
    If you're the only one using it, why disinfect it? You did say you're over the cold, right? It isn't going absorb EM fields from the laptop and mutate there by making it immune to your immune system. Maybe less disinfectants would actually be a good idea in your case. Aside from what you get from your mother, your body needs to learn itself.
  • by suss ( 158993 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:10PM (#24053029)

    It's the only way to be sure.

  • About 2 days (Score:3, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) * on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:13PM (#24053055)

    If you can wait about 2 days you are pretty safe.

    Clorox (Sodium Hypochlorite) is a pretty good general disinfectant. About 3/4 cup in a gallon of water makes a good antiviral wash solution.

    Isopropanol works fairly well too.

  • by srjh ( 1316705 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:13PM (#24053065)
    Updating your virus definitions?
  • Water. (Score:5, Informative)

    by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:13PM (#24053067)

    First, turn off the laptop. The aluminum casing of the MacBook Pro can withstand wiping with Lysol, the active ingredient of which is benzalkonium chloride in a low concentration. Do not saturate the surface, but do leave it damp for a few minutes--then go back and wipe down with water. For the screen, simply wipe with distilled water. Use the black cleaning cloth that came with your computer--it is included in the same package as the installation disks.

    Under no circumstances should you use anything other than water to clean the display.

    If you are *really* paranoid, leave the computer out in bright sun for 30 minutes. While this is not really an "official" way of disinfecting things, the UVB rays could have enough energy to disrupt the activity of bacteria and viruses. If you were really serious about this approach, you'd get a dedicated UVC disinfection unit which would irradiate your laptop. But I don't know what that might do to the hardware. *shrug*

    The point is, if you've been coughing as a result of your illness, you've already spread live viral particles all over the place. It's not all that useful to think about sterilization when your living environment is teeming with all kind of infectious organisms--not just viruses, but bacteria and fungi.

  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:15PM (#24053079)
    You really don't want to give your nasties to anyone, so I would recommend this: []
  • by NewbieV ( 568310 ) <victor.abrahamse ... g m a i l . com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:16PM (#24053091)

    ...would be a UV-C Light Wand from this company [].

  • by dlakelan ( 43245 ) <dlakelan @ s t r e e t - a> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:16PM (#24053097) Homepage

    Let's assume you share this laptop with coworkers or some friends are coming over, or there's some other reason why people who might not have been exposed while you were sick will be exposed to virus particles protected by little blobs of snot on your laptop.

    Take a cotton ball, soak it in isopropyl rubbing alcohol 70% concentration (commonly available at drugstore), squeeze some of the alcohol out so you aren't just dribbling it all over, and then rub down the keyboard, mousepad, screen, case etc with the cotton ball.

    let it dry for a minute or two. Repeat.
    Wipe off the excess with a dry cotton ball.

    You're good to go. Do the same to your phone and any other gadget you might share with a friend or coworker.

    It also does a good job of getting grime off your keyboard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KokorHekkus ( 986906 )
      Isopropanol would also be my choice of cleaning agent.

      Not only is it a disinfectant but it's regularly used as a cleaing agent for electronics ( []

      The isopropanol I have at home isn't labeled as rubbing alcohol but as electronic cleaing spray because it disolves oily substances but doesn't readily interact easily with electronic equipment.
  • by DanWS6 ( 1248650 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:17PM (#24053117)
    I heard that's fairly immune to virus's.
  • by mkettler ( 6309 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:19PM (#24053147)

    Assuming it's really influenza, and not some other virus, time will kill it. Influenza can't survive for extended periods of time on dry surfaces. Most influenza viruses only last a several hours on a hard dry surface. Under the right conditions they may last up to 72 hours, but they'll still die off over time. []

    Of course, 3 days is a long time to not have a laptop, but you can safely handle it. You won't get re-infected now that your body is surging with antibodies targeting that specific strain. Just wash your hands afterward so you don't spread it to the non-immune.

    If that's not good enough, you could try wiping the case with a cloth *very* lightly dampened with some kind of benzalkonium chloride based disinfectant (i.e.: well squeezed out lysol wipes or something similar). I don't know if that will damage the plastics or not (ie: the screen), it shouldn't but I've never tried it, so be careful here. And of course you have to be careful not to get any liquid into any of the vents.

  • duh (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:19PM (#24053153)

    Just sell it on eBay. Problem solved.

  • by waa ( 159514 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:19PM (#24053155) Homepage

    No offence to people who are actually retarded, but;

    Are you retarded?

    and as a follow up question to slashdot editors:

    Are YOU retarded?

    Worst. "Ask Slashdot." EVAR...


    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, this is relevant. The article deals with a serious problem: a mania for disinfection in the USA.

      After years of expensive advertising by many companies, for many products, in many media, after many years, finally S. C. Johnson & Co. have convinced a substantial number of people that the terrorists, oops, sorry, I mean germs are a huge threat -- HUGE! -- and they are just about to overwhelm us; that we desperately need the help of sophisticated surveillance, oops, sorry, I mean, chemicals to stave o

  • Simple.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by brunokummel ( 664267 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:28PM (#24053241) Journal
    Install an Antivirus... []
  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:29PM (#24053253)'ll come back cleaner than it was when you bought it.


  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:39PM (#24053343) Homepage Journal

    Please take a look []

    The primary issue is that of the severity of the virus or bacteria, not keeping it clean. At best, you can disinfect the surfaces, not the interior. And although it sounds gross, you probably sneezed on, or near, the unit. Perhaps there was some moisture on your fingers when you touched the drive bay, or maybe you got your sickly hands on a CD before you inserted it, spraying fine droplets of moisture through out the unit.

    As long as it is something normalish like the Flu, Cold, Chicken Pox, etc . . . just give it time. Most of that stuff dies in 24-36 hours without a host.

    If its something horrifying, like Ebola? Stick your electronic item in the oven, put it on "Self-Clean", and get a new one. Discard the ash in a biohazard box ;-)

    You'll never, ever, ever, ever succeed at "disinfecting" consumer electronics, because they are never sealed well enough. About the best you can do is those Virtually Indestructible Keyboard&Mice. Anything else just isn't cleanable, and you should do your best to maintain good hygiene (wipe the keyboard and unit every now and then with a good alcohol wipe (or spray alcohol on a paper towel)), and get over the "scariness" of illness.

    Furthermore, if its your family your worried about, you've already given them ample opportunity to get infected, if you shared utensils, a bed, skin contact (Hugs and Kisses, anyone?) or even an indoor environment.

    Disease isn't that scary unless you or someone you know immune system's compromised, and in that case you should turn to a health care professional to figure out how to make your environment safe. Otherwise, get over it ;-)

  • Acetone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:47PM (#24053427) Homepage Journal

    Spray atomized acetone on the thing, with the power off and battery out, no mains power, 15 minutes for caps to discharge (should be much faster). Avoid the screen (I'm not sure if the screen has a mylar coating, and the effect of acetone on that).

    Acetone evaporates in a few seconds.

  • OCD much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dieppe ( 668614 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:50PM (#24053455) Homepage

    I say get a freakin' life and don't worry about germs so much. If you've already had it, the germs on your laptop aren't going to re-infect you. (You're immune to that strain.) Also, germs only live so long on surfaces...

    For cripes sake you might want to look into getting your OCD and germ phobia looked into though. :)

  • Use Ethanol (Score:3, Informative)

    by BoldlyGo ( 1288070 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:55PM (#24053503)
    Use a little bit of Ethanol. I used to work in a lab where we had to handle Staphylococcus Aureus. We continously sprayed Ethanol on the counters and lab equipment. It kills the vast majority of bacteria, evaporates quickly, and leaves no residue. The more serious disinfecting required heating the equipment in an autoclave. But, we were dealing with large quantities of live, mutant strains. A little bit of Ethnol should be more than adequate.
  • Nothing is necessary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @08:58PM (#24053531)

    Your notebook is safe - influenza and common cold viruses die quickly when exposed to open air.

    It's not the case with bacteria, of course. Especially with sporulating bacteria. Endospores can survive almost anything.

  • Doctor's Advice (Score:3, Informative)

    by tortuga78 ( 1108571 ) on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:20PM (#24053717)

    I'm a doctor, and we use laptops in our office, instead of paper charts. So I carry a laptop around all day long while I see patients.

    Personally, I tend to wipe my laptop down every once in a while (maybe twice a week) with some disinfectant wipes, though I only do this when some sort of liquid gets on it.

    As for your question, onces your laptop has had a few hours to air out, it's probably safe. Most viruses don't live for very long out in the open, although live isn't really the right term. Once they are dry, they are pretty much going to be inactivated. They are usually spread through little droplets that get on your hands, objects, etc. Those droplets then have to get into you (your mouth, eyes, nose etc) in order to infect you. If there are little virus-containing droplets on your laptop, they will pretty quickly dry out and become inactive.

    Frequent handwashing is the best thing that you can do to avoid transmitting diseases. It reduces the chances that you will spread something from you to objects around you, and also reduce the chances that you will infect yourself after touching contaminated objects.

    Just to address a couple other issues in the replies to this post:

    A previous infetion usually protects you from a repeat infection. For instance, you are probably not going to get chicken pox twice. On the other hand, there are several strains of influenza, and those strains mutate each season. So you can get infected year after year, which is why there are annual flu shots. Or in the example of common colds, there are many different viruses which cause cold symptoms, and each of them may have several strains. So you can get lots of colds over the course of your life, even if you are immune to some of the viruses you have been exposed to in the past.

    And one last thing - I'm just going to repeat how important it is to wash your hands a lot if you don't want to get sick. In the winter, I might see 25-30 patients a day, most of whom have colds of some sort. I probably wash my hands 50 or so times a day (before and efter each patient) and I don't get sick any more than anyone else.

  • Disinfectant Wipes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pease1 ( 134187 ) <bbunge.ladyandtramp@com> on Thursday July 03, 2008 @09:27PM (#24053769)
    Gads you all over engineer this. Pick up some disinfectant "wipes" at a grocery store. They work great on keyboards and mice (door handles, steering wheels, TV remotes, gameboys, etc, as well). Cleans up dirt at the same time. When you grow up and have young kids, you'll want to wipe down the keyboard/mice of the family box all the time anyway, specially during flu season.
  • No need to worry (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @03:03AM (#24055849)

    You are now pretty much immune to that version of the flu (you got well so your immune system knows and can beat it).

    So your laptop is only dangerous to others.

    UV light is probably your best best. A day in direct sunlight would probably do it without hurting the laptop.

  • Install Linux on it (Score:3, Informative)

    by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @04:03AM (#24056183)
    Will get rid of all viruses, and makes it immune against new infections
  • Sorry. (Score:3, Funny)

    by erroneous ( 158367 ) on Friday July 04, 2008 @05:29AM (#24056625) Homepage

    All this talk of cleansing gels and sprays is pointless.

    No matter what you do it will still be a Mac.

    (-1 Flamebait, I know)

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears