Your tech devices get dirty and germy. How to clean them safely.
Maybe you’ve set aside your stash of pandemic disinfectant wipes, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your tech. Germs, dirt, grime, and dust settle into every nook and cranny. If you don’t do something about it, you’ll shorten your gadget’s useful life.
Before you turn to the outside, your tech could probably use a good internal cleanup. Tap or click for simple steps everyone should know to maintain a smartphone.
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Now, let’s grab some supplies and start cleaning.
You probably have at least a few smudged screens sitting around. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, TV, or monitor, use a microfiber cloth. They’re soft and won’t scratch your screens. Skip scratchy paper towels.
Most dirt and debris will wipe away easily with a dry cloth. For stubborn smudges and fingerprints, lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water. Never pour or spray water directly onto a screen, and stay away from glass cleaner, too. Many brands contain ammonia which can ruin the screen’s surface.
You can use a mixture of water in a 1-to-1 ratio with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for a deeper clean. Alternatively, you can buy a specialty electronics cleaner.
Pro Tip: I use premoistened electronics wipes. I buy a big pack from Care Touch. They’re great on smaller screens like phones, tablets, and laptops. For TVs and bigger monitors, these wipes from Weiman work like a charm.
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Your keyboard is a mess. It’s shocking how much junk settles in between the keys and on the keys.
To get started, disconnect your keyboard if it’s plugged into the computer. If it’s wireless, switch it off. For laptop keyboards, shut the device down and disconnect the power cord. If the battery is accessible and easy to remove, do that as well.
Grime buildup and loose dust particles go deeper than just the top of the keys. This is when a can of compressed air is handy. Try Blow-Off, which is a compressed air duster for keyboards. If you don’t have any, a piece of tape held tautly or the sticky side of a Post-it note works wonders for grabbing stuck-on dust.
Next, gently wipe the tops of the keys and the palm rest with a microfiber cloth or a disinfectant wipe. Skip wipes with bleach or any other harsh chemicals, as they can ruin the keys. Don’t plug your keyboard back in or power it up until it’s fully dry. A little dampness can cause big problems and permanently ruin electronic devices once power is flowing.
Pro Tip: If you have a standard computer plastic keyboard that’s not wireless, throw it in the dishwasher. Don’t use any soap or any heated setting. You want rinse only. Give it a few days to dry before using it.
Cleaning gel dust cleaner is a simple, easy way to get the junk out of your keyboard, car vents, printer, camera, or just about anything else with small openings that collect dust. It’s biodegradable, not sticky on your hands, and can be used many times.
To use it, take a piece of the cleaning gel and knead it into a ball. Press the gel slowly into your keyboard and pull it out. Dust is carried away with the cleaning gel. Easy peasy!
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You touch your computer’s mouse all day long, and it picks up grease, dirt, and grime from your fingers. You know things are bad if your scroll wheel doesn’t spin easily.
Like with your keyboard, disconnect it from your computer and take out the batteries. If it’s wireless, flip it over, turn it off and take out the batteries.
Turn the mouse upside down and continuously roll the wheel to loosen anything that may be stuck inside, then grab an alcohol wipe or microfiber cloth moistened with electronics cleaner.
Pro Tip: Toothpicks and cotton swabs are your friends. You can use a toothpick to scrape away the gunk and debris stuck to your mouse. Don’t forget about the bottom.
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Your computer, TV, and other gear have small ports that collect dust and dirt, too. You can try cotton scabs, but they may leave fuzz and lint. Your best bet is a phone cleaning kit. For less than $10, you get 40 anti-static foam swaps in different sizes, plus brushes, microfiber cloths and dust plugs.
If you have it around, compressed air works great here, too.
Pro Tip: Take extra care with ports. Metal knives or safety pins can leave scratches. Even toothpicks can snap off, so tread lightly. Stick with plastic (like dental floss picks) or foam. Take your time and work carefully, so you don’t inadvertently bend or snap any connections.
Wireless earbuds have a special kind of mess: Dirt, grease, and earwax. Gross, I know. Luckily, we can use some of the same tricks and materials. Wipe down the cord and body of each earbud with a slightly damp microfiber cloth or a wipe. Toothpicks are great for scraping away debris, but you need to steer clear of the speakers.
Pro Tip: Here’s a trick that went viral on TikTok. Remember BluTack? It’s reusable adhesive you probably used to hang up posters back in the day. Grab a little ball of it, and press that into your earbud speakers. Pull it away, and all the junk inside will come off with it.
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If you spent the last year working from home, you’ve likely used your printer more than ever. It shouldn’t be quite as grimy as gadgets you handle for hours each day, but it deserves a nice cleaning, too.
Unplug it, then wipe everything down with a microfiber cloth. Open any covers and wipe down there, too. Cotton swabs are good for getting into hard-to-reach corners. You can use an alcohol wipe to wipe down printer rollers.
Here’s a smart idea from Cash4Toners.com: Soak a piece of paper with rubbing alcohol (leaving the edges dry) and run that through the printer’s roller.
Pro Tip: Compressed air is great for a lot, but not printers. It can damage delicate parts, so skip it here.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.