How to Sanitize a Chromebook
Defending your students and staff from Coronavirus and other illnesses starts with keeping the thing they use most–their technology–clean.
Updated: May 28, 2020
Coronavirus and Chromebooks
Unless you’ve been living under a rock all of 2020, you’re no stranger to how COVID-19–commonly known as Coronavirus–has turned into a pandemic like none we’ve ever seen. The entire world is scrambling to find ways to stop the spread of this respiratory virus, whose symptoms range from fever and coughing to pneumonia, liver failure, and even death. With cases in the United States well over 1.5 million, people are still adjusting to the “new normal” of life amid a major outbreak.
Perhaps better than anyone, schools know how the spread of germs can wreak havoc on student populations and send attendance numbers plummeting. Teachers and school staff became full-blown superheroes in the early stages of Coronavirus, shifting classes completely online within a matter of days! They put in some serious work to ensure that education doesn’t stop, even in the craziest of times.
With all classes now online, more students than ever are using Chromebooks and personal computers on a daily basis. Defending student health can be as simple as knowing how to properly sanitize those devices. So how do you properly sanitize a computer?
Why Clean Your Chromebooks
In the US, over half of all student mobile devices are Chromebooks. That’s well over 30 million devices touching the hands of students every day. Due to their prominence in the classroom, being able to sanitize Chromebooks properly is a critical skill, but most of us have never been taught how.
You can’t just drench a computer in Lysol® or scrub it down with cleansing wipes (well… I guess you could, but it probably wouldn’t work after that.) Cleaning your technology takes a little more finesse. You want to be thorough and effective, while avoiding any damage to the screen, keys, and internal components.
In this article, we’ll learn from our Trafera Chromebook repair experts how to properly clean and sanitize classroom computing devices. We’ll also give you some useful facts and information about Coronavirus as it relates to school technology.
5 Steps to Sanitizing a Chromebook
Step 1: Power off the device. You will be applying liquid solutions to your Chromebook, so powering it off is a must.
Step 2: Remove any accessories or plug-ins such as cases, USBs, and headphones. Once removed, cases can be separately disinfected with sanitizing wipes or spray.
Step 3: Clean the screen with an LCD-safe solution applied to a microfiber cloth. Strong alcohols can eat away the coating on LCD screens. However, LCD-safe solutions such as 50% isopropyl alcohol (diluted with distilled water) and dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride can be used to properly disinfect Chromebook screens. Never use Windex® or similar products, which contain ammonia, and never use any solutions containing acetone, ethyl alcohol (ethanol), ethyl acid, or methyl chloride. Also, while diluted vinegar may be safe for removing dirt and smudges from LCD screens, it’s not an effective disinfectant against many types of common germs, including those that cause colds, flus, and viruses.
Creating 50% alcohol solutions from 70% alcohol:To make a 50% alcohol solution from a 70% stock for use on LCD screens, dilute 2.5 parts of 70% alcohol with one part water. Alternatively, you can calculate the amount of 70% alcohol to add if you have a particular final volume in mind. First, divide the final volume in half, then divide that number by 0.7. For example, if you wanted to end up with 1000 mL of 50% alcohol, 1000/2 = 500 and 500/0.7 = 714.3. So in this case, you would add 714.3 mL of 70% alcohol to your container and then top it off with water until the total final volume is 1000 mL (which means you added 285.7 mL of water).
To clean, wet a microfiber cloth in LCD-safe solution so that it’s damp enough to feel wet, but not damp enough to create any drips (drips are bad. In extreme cases they can ruin the bottom edge of your screen if they get sucked between the layers of the LCD through capillary action). Rub the microfiber gently on the screen in a back-and-forth motion, using the broadest strokes you can. Avoid small circular motions, which can sometimes leave buffed-out spots or whorl marks on the screen.
Never use paper towels, kitchen rags, or any type of cloth other than microfiber. These could damage your screen.
Step 4: Use 70% isopropyl alcohol applied to a soft cotton rag to wipe down the keyboard and external chassis. DO NOT spray your device with disinfectant. It’s important that the solution is applied to a rag or cloth first so that liquid doesn’t seep into the keyboard. This can damage the keyboard itself or important components housed beneath. CAUTION–70% Isopropyl alcohol is highly flammable, so keep it and anything covered in it away from any sources of ignition.
Step 5: Wait for the alcohol solution to completely evaporate before turning your Chromebook back on.
The 70% isopropyl alcohol in the solution is non-conductive (meaning there’s no need to worry about that part affecting the electronic components of the device). It’s the other 30%, which consists mainly of water, that is conductive. Because of this, it’s important that you power down your device pre-cleaning and wait until the alcohol is completely evaporated before turning your Chromebook back on. If you’re like us, you may be thinking, “why don’t I just use a higher concentration of alcohol to speed the drying process?” Well, counterintuitively, the disinfectant properties of isopropyl alcohol drop off rapidly at concentrations higher than 70%³, so in this case, stronger isn’t better.
It’s Cleaning Time!
Disinfecting your technology is never a bad idea! However, in the middle of an outbreak as concerning as Coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to take extra steps to defend your school. By expertly sanitizing classroom Chromebooks, you can become a virus-fighting superhero and get closer to shutting down outbreaks that threaten your students and staff.
Additional Resources: HP Notebook and Tablet PC Cleaning Guidelines
¹ According to Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the NFID (Source)