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Cleaning Your Mouse

Written By:
Date Posted: March 25, 2002

It amazes me how many people don't clean their mouse. I constantly get calls here in our office about mice not being responsive, or odd clicking sounds whenever they move the mouse. When asked if they've cleaned the mouse, I'm usually met with blank stares, or silence if on the phone.

For anyone who is still using a standard ball mouse, monthly cleaning can make a big difference in their mouse performance. It only takes a few minutes, and if you haven't done this before, I guarantee you'll notice a difference afterwards.

The Victim

I still use my Boomslang 2000 for the occasional game, and like any ball mouse, it does get dirty. The problem is actually compounded for the Boomslang, because, since the mouse has such a high sensitivity, the slightest amount of dirt can throw off your aim. The manufacturers claim the mouse keeps dirt off better than others, but I question that claim, as I seem to have to clean the mouse every 2 weeks.

Step 1: Clean the ball

Whenever I remove the mouse ball from the mouse, I'm always shocked at some of the stuff I find. Sure, dust and lint are present, but I've encountered grime, coffee stains (!), and just some weird stuff that I can't even describe. Thankfully, I keep my Boomslang clean, so all we have here is dust.

Depending on how dirty the mouse is, you may have to actually use soap and water. It's totally safe. Just make sure the ball is dry before reinserting it. I prefer dish soap in these cases, since they're designed to cut grease away, and this'll insure that nothing is left on the mouse. You can either let it air dry, or use a lint free cloth.

A simple can of compressed air is a must have in anyone's PC toolbox. Now, whether you've washed the mouse with soap and water, or simply just want to get the dust off, a can of air will be a lot easier, and cleaner, than simply taking deep breathes and blowing.

When using compressed air, you should actually hold it about 6 inches away, and not point downwards (as I've done in the picture, but this is just for demonstration purposes). You shouldn't depress the can's trigger, and hold it there, but rather, used short bursts instead. This will prevent spraying any residue, as well as help conserve air in the can.

Step 2: Mouse ball chamber

This is actually the most important area to clean. Inside the chamber, you'll likely have two rods, and a wheel. The middle of these parts is where your mouse ball makes direct contact. Chances are, if the mouse cursor skips a lot, or you hear noise from moving the mouse, these components are dirty.

Some people use their fingernails, but I prefer a clean toothpick. Sometimes it gets nasty in there, and it's not somewhere I want to put my hands in. What is that grime/dirt anyway? Mostly dust and lint, but also skin. Think about it, your hand is in the area, and we shed skin all day. Gross.

Anyhow, just scrape with the toothpick until all the grime comes off. I don't show it here, but depending on how dirty it is, I'll sometimes dip a Q-Tip into a little rubbing alcohol and give the 3 areas a bit of a scrub.

A couple more shots with the air gun will loosen any stubborn dust flakes that you may have missed.

After you reassemble everything, your mouse should be performing a lot better than before. You're not going to work faster, and be better at games, but your mouse will last longer, and be less annoying to use than it would be if you didn't clean it. Hope you find this guide useful. If not for you, pass it over to anyone whom you've had to clean their mouse.

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