Written by Lisa Truesdale. Reviewed by cleaning expert Sean Busch.
The mousepad next to your computer keyboard is like a magnet, attracting all of the dust, crumbs, hair, skin cells, oils, sweat, and bacteria that are present during a normal workday. When your mousepad gets dirty, it affects the way your mouse moves, and that in turn can affect the important work you’re doing on your computer. And who has time for that?
Luckily, mousepads are quick and easy to clean, no matter what type of pad you have. Read on for a little history of computer mice, an explanation of the different types of mousepads, and our easy steps for making sure your mousepad gets clean and stays that way.
Yes… and no.
It’s important to note that there are two basic types of computer mice. The old-style mouse, widely used in the 1980s and ’90s, had a rubber tracking ball on the bottom that gripped the surface underneath. This ball could easily become dirty -- and therefore stop rolling smoothly -- after coming into contact with crumbs, oils, and dirt. The use of a mousepad was always recommended, because it provided a smooth, consistent, durable surface for the mouse (although you did occasionally have to pop the rubber ball out of the bottom and clean it if it started sticking).
Then along came the optical mouse in the late 1990s. This style of mouse comes with all new computers today -- it uses a light source at the bottom of the mouse to track movement rather than a rubber ball. Since only the rubber or plastic feet of the mouse touch the surface, it can move on virtually any surface, like your desktop, a phone book, a piece of paper, even your pant leg. However, an optical mouse won’t work on a clear glass desk or table, because the light inside needs an opaque surface to bounce off of.
Unless you have a completely smooth, hard opaque surface to work on that you don’t mind scratching (and who has that?), we recommend always using a mousepad, as it offers smooth tracking and won’t disrupt your workflow. In case you’re not convinced, here are some other compelling reasons to use one:
This, of course, depends on how much use it gets, how dirty it becomes, and how often you wash your hands. If you notice that your mouse is moving sluggishly, the problem could be a dirty mousepad, even if you don’t see any dirt.
Sean Busch, Puracy’s co-founder and resident cleaning expert, suggests brushing crumbs and other debris off of your mousepad daily and giving it a thorough cleaning about every three months or so.
You wouldn’t wash a wool sweater in hot water with carpet cleaner, and you wouldn’t clean your countertops with shampoo. So, yes, Sean says, depending on what it’s made of, your mousepad will require a specific cleaning method. Most mousepads today are made of multiple materials, with a rubberized bottom, a cloth/fabric top, and an adhesive layer in between. Mousepads can also be made of hard plastic, aluminum, silicone, or leather.
Mousepads with a non-porous surface, like hard plastic or aluminum, are the easiest to clean. With a clean microfiber cloth, wipe the surface using tight, overlapping “Z” strokes. If there are sticky spots or other stubborn marks, spray the surface with one spray of Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner and then wipe with a clean microfiber cloth using tight, overlapping “Z” strokes. This cleaning method also works for gel-filled silicone mousepads.
To clean a leather mousepad, use the same method above for hard plastic or aluminum, EXCEPT don’t spray the mousepad surface directly. Spray Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner onto a clean microfiber cloth, then wipe down the mousepad.
Did you drip coffee onto your leather desk chair too? Check out How to Clean Coated Leather: Safely Spruce Up Your Leather Furniture with These 3 Tips.
Sean offers these easy steps to clean a mousepad that’s made of multiple materials, commonly with a fabric top and a rubberized bottom. Don’t use hot water, he cautions, because that could activate the adhesive between the layers, causing them to separate. He also suggests cleaning your mousepad at the end of the workday so that it’s dry and ready to go by the next morning.
Step #1 -- Rinse your mousepad under warm water. (If there are no spots or stains on your mousepad, then proceed to step 4.)
Step #2 -- If there are spots or stains, squirt a few drops of Puracy Natural Dish Soap into your hands, then massage the soap into the top (fabric) surface of the mousepad. There is no need to wash the rubber backing.
Step #3 -- Rinse thoroughly in warm water, making sure no soap remains.
Step #4 -- Air-dry your mousepad overnight by setting it on a clean microfiber towel.
With the easy washing instructions above, you shouldn’t need to use your washing machine to clean your mousepad. If you must wash yours in the machine, though, make sure your mousepad is the kind with the rubberized bottom and the fabric top, and don’t use hot water. Use cold or warm water on a gentle setting, and don’t toss it in the dryer. Let it air-dry on a microfiber cloth.
Machine-washing doesn’t work for aluminum, hard plastic, or leather mousepads.
Dirt and bacteria also lurk on your computer keyboard and on your mouse itself. To clean them, first turn your computer off. Spray a clean microfiber cloth with Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner, then wipe them both down. Wait until they’re completely dry before turning your computer back on.
If there are crumbs and other debris between or under the keys on your keyboard, try one of these methods:
For detailed instructions on how to clean your computer screen, see How to Clean a Computer Screen Without Leaving Smudges.
We know, because we’ve been there... when the afternoon rolls around, no one can resist a pick-me-up like a steaming latte or a crunchy snack like a bag of chips. But beverage spills and food crumbs are the main sources of dirt and debris that can get on your mousepad and hinder the movement of your mouse. Here are a few tips for preventing a dirty mousepad:
Now that you know how to easily wash your mousepad (and keep it clean!), you’ll have the spiffiest workspace in the office. Accidents happen, though, so keep a bottle of Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner handy, and store a few microfiber cloths in your desk drawer. You never know when a co-worker is going to stop by with a slice of birthday cake from the break room that you just can’t resist.