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I've been hitchhiking around the world for over a year and the netbook that was almost new at the start of my trip is getting very grubby though it's still working OK.

Lately I've been camping on a beach for the past month, so there's lots of humidity and salt in the air, which are not the best things for electronics.

dirty netbook

So when I don't have access to a computer store to buy PC cleaning products, what low-tech methods, substances, and products should I use to clean my netbook, its keyboard, and its screen? Maybe some other bits need special attention? Should I take it apart to clean the keyboard?

I've been using bottled water with paper towels and avoiding household cleaners and detergents, but there's some dust and grease and possibly brine build-ups that seem to be too tough for just water.

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Sounds like a fun adventure. There are 3 different areas of concern, each with their own cleaning methods. Using a minimalism tool approach, it would seem:

1) Screen - Screens usually have some type of coating that doesn't do well with cleaners, so some type of eyeglass cleaning cloth or fleece material, is the first choice. If there are annoying stains that won't come off, a 50/50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water will make a major difference.

2) Keyboard - If its just the contact side where your fingers touch, its fine to aggressively scrub them with paper towels and any plastic/window cleaner available. Keyboards have a layer separately them from the motherboard beneath it, so nothing is going to leak underneath. This cleaning can be the most time consuming, because each corner of each little chicklet can hold a ugly hunk of grunge. Ideal solution is to remove the keyboard and really hose it down, but then that would require a day or more of drying time. If the underside of a key is sticking/non-functioning from dirt, you can pop off the problem key and clean under it. Because they are fragile and a pain to do, probably would only do as a last resort.

3) Outer case - Here's where getting funky might actually be a badge of honor during your adventure. I would clean off a section and cover it with stickers from where you're visiting like a vintage suitcase.

Enjoy the trip.

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I finally got to test your answer. I was given an isopropyl alcohol swab and it worked really well on the screen bezel and body generally. I didn't try it on the screen because I wasn't sure if that was safe and also saw it was when I came back to comment now. –  hippietrail Sep 23 '12 at 7:25
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