Have you noticed the keys on your keyboard looking a little grimy or feeling a little reluctant to depress? Are those smudge marks on your monitor driving you to distraction?  

If you keyboard or screen could use a good, solid cleaning, don't just grab the Windex and tissues, which can do more harm than good. Here's what to do instead.

Related: What to Do If You Dump Coffee on Your Keyboard

Cleaning a dirty keyboard

Day after day, you scarf down lunch at your desk. Over time, sandwich crumbs and greasy fingers turn your keyboard grimy. Maybe some of the keys have started sticking or ceased working altogether.

Your first thought may be to throw away the keyboard. But following these steps can get your keyboard back to nearly new condition.

  1. Unplug the keyboard from the computer and disconnect any accessories.
  2. Dab rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and rub each key. Don’t worry about pressing down on the keys since the keyboard is turned off. You’ll need a bundle of cotton balls, but in the end, your keyboard will look better and most of the bacteria living on it will (temporarily) be gone.
  3. Once the keys are done, dab alcohol on another cotton ball and rub down the areas around the keys.
  4. This optional step may help especially with stuck keys: Grab a cotton swab and dip the end in alcohol. Use it to get into hard-to-reach areas, like under the keys. 

Related: 6 Cleaning Mistakes You’re Probably Making

What about a laptop?

Cleaning a laptop keyboard requires a bit more care. Here’s what to do:

  1. Shut down your computer and disconnect it from the power outlet.
  2. Using a canister of compressed air, spray around the keys to remove dust and dirt buildup.
  3. Put a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and wipe gently over the keys. Since the laptop’s components all live under the keyboard, it’s very important not to douse the keys in too much alcohol. If liquid gets under the keys, it could cause irreparable harm to the computer, turning your expensive notebook into a brick.

And that messy monitor

Whether it’s a smartphone, TV, or computer monitor, screens are prone to dust, grime buildup and fingerprint smudges. The trouble is that the technology they rely on to provide a picture — LCDs in the majority of cases — can be porous, allowing any cleaning chemicals you're tempted to use to get into and ruin your screen.

Start by turning off the monitor and disconnecting the power supply. For a dusty screen, simply wipe the screen with a dry, soft cotton rag. For smudges or sticky spots, apply a little water to the rag. If need be, scrub a little harder on things sticking to the display. When you’re done, take a dry rag and make sure every inch of your screen is dry before you plug the monitor in.

You can buy monitor cleansers at office supply stores. While most are fine for standard monitors, read the directions to make sure they’re safe for the kind of screen you have. A plasma screen is much different from an LCD, for example, and some cleansers may not safely clean all electronics' surfaces.

As for smartphones, the tried-and-true method of blowing hot air on the screen and quickly rubbing it with a soft cloth will remove smudges. Want to disinfect your phone screen? Here’s how.  

Related: Tips for Greener House Cleaning

Don Reisinger is a longtime technology journalist and product reviewer.