By Dan Gookin

The mouse needs cleaning more than any other part of the computer. Optical mice especially seem to collect junk and hair on the desktop, which causes the mouse pointer to behave erratically on the screen. A good cleaning fixes the problem.

To clean an optical mouse, position the mouse pointer on the screen such that, if you accidentally click the mouse, nothing “bad” happens. Even better, disconnect the mouse. Then place the mouse upside down in one hand and use a pair of tweezers in the other hand to remove gunk from the mouse’s optical “eye.” You might also use a blast of air to finish the job.

Mechanical mice rely on a rolling ball to detect movement. To clean a mechanical mouse, follow these steps:

  1. Roll the mechanical mouse over on its back.

  2. Remove the base plate that holds in the mouse’s ball.

  3. Remove the mouse ball.

  4. Clean the mouse ball by wiping it with a damp cloth.

  5. Clean the sensors inside the mouse by using a pair of tweezers and an air can.

    Rolling sensors inside the mouse detect movement of the mouse ball. Often, crud wraps itself around the rollers, which you can remove by using tweezers. (Sometimes, an X-Acto knife may be needed to scrape off the gross filth encrusting the rollers.)

    You might also consider cleaning out the cavity that the mouse ball occupies, to remove bits of fingernail, potato chip, and hair.

  6. Replace the mouse ball.

You can now continue to use the mechanical mouse, which should be more responsive to your input.

  • Yes, a tiny hair can obscure the optical mouse’s ability to properly interpret movement.

  • There’s no way to avoid a dirty mouse. Because mice roll on the desktop, they collect crud as you work. Fortunately, a dirty mouse manifests itself by exhibiting unreliable mouse pointer behavior. So the mouse doesn’t stay dirty undetected.