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18. Cleaning a mouse

By Mark Alberstat

A clean computer is a happy computer. This isn't some moral statement on what some might do on the internet for fun.

Dust, grime and food particles can seriously affect the functioning of your computer, and keeping it clean is one aspect of computer maintenance that many people overlook.

The piece of equipment that needs cleaning most often is your mouse, especially if it is a traditional ball-mouse. By moving the mouse around a mouse pad. The rubber ball will pick up all kinds of dirt and slowly coat the rollers that give the cursor direction on the screen. This dirt makes the rubber ball skip and the mouse pointer seem slow, unresponsive or move in a jerky fashion.

Cleaning a mouse, however, is easy and doesn't take any specialized tools.

First, shut off your computer and unplug the mouse. To take the mouse ball out, turn the mouse over and rotate the ball cover counter-clockwise. Most mice covers turn this way. Some will have to be slid horizontally to release the door that holds the ball inside.

Turn the mouse over, dropping the ball into the palm of your hand. Don't be surprised by its weight. Most balls have a steel ball bearing in the middle to give them some heft.

Gently rub the ball with a clean cloth to remove any grime or dirt marks. A bit of warm water on the cloth can help, but do not use any harsh chemicals that could react with the rubber or leave moisture in the mouse when you return the ball to its home. Some people will claim you should use some 80 per cent isopropyl alcohol on the cloth to aid in the cleaning. If you have some on hand, great. If not, don't worry, a bit of warm water will do just fine. Do not use cotton swabs to clean the mouse ball or the inside rollers. Bits of the cotton may come off and wrap around sensitive pieces, leaving you no further ahead for your efforts.

The next part of the mouse you have to clean is the inside. Looking inside where the ball was, typically, you will find two long rollers and one shorter one. There will often be a line of dirt built-up on these. Using your fingernail wrapped inside the cleaning cloth, but not much force, scrape off these lines of dirt and then give the rollers a short polish by spinning them around against a clean part of the cloth.

After this, wait a few minutes for everything to dry and then put the ball back in, close up the door and your mouse is happy again.

If you have an optical mouse, the cleaning procedure is much easier. Simply turn the mouse over and blow at the area where the light comes out. This should clear it of any dog or cat fur that may have collected there.

Don't forget to also clean the pads on the underside of the mouse. An accumulation of dirt here can actually lift the mouse off the mouse pad by a fraction of an inch which can be enough to affect its use.

While you are in the cleaning mood, your keyboard might need some attention. Dust and food bits accumulate between and under the keys and a good shaking will knock most of this out. A cotton swab between the keys will nicely finish off the job. If you have a can of compressed air, so much the better for this key job in cleaning your computer.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, e-mail If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 28 September 2003


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