Your technological devices get dirty and contain germs. How to safely clean them.

Maybe you’ve put aside your stash of pandemic disinfectant wipes, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your technology. Germs, dirt, grime and dust settle in every nook and cranny. If you do nothing about it, you will reduce the useful life of your gadget.

Before you turn to the outside, your technician could probably do a good internal cleaning. Tap or click to view simple steps everyone should know for maintaining a smartphone.

What about your computer? Tap or click for six smart ways to speed up your PC.

Now let’s grab some supplies and start cleaning up.

Screens

You probably have at least a few stained screens. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, TV or monitor, use a microfiber cloth. They are soft and will not scratch your screens. Avoid scuffed paper towels.

Most dirt and debris will be easily removed with a dry cloth. For stubborn stains and fingerprints, dampen the cloth lightly with distilled water. Never pour or spray water directly on a screen and also keep away from glass cleaner. Many brands contain ammonia which can damage the screen surface.

You can use a mixture of water in a 1 to 1 ratio with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for a thorough cleaning. You can also purchase a specialized electronic cleaner.

Pro tip: I use pre-moistened electronic wipes. I buy a big pack from Care Touch. They are great on small screens like phones, tablets, and laptops. For larger TVs and monitors, these Weiman wipes work like a charm.

PROTECT YOUR INVESTMENT: Your phone’s screen can easily be broken. Here are my recommendations for phone cases and screen protectors that work.

The sticky side of a Post-it note does wonders for grabbing crumbs and grime stuck between the keys on your keyboard.

Keyboard

Your keyboard is messy. It is shocking how much trash settles between the keys and on the keys.

To get started, disconnect your keyboard if it’s plugged into the computer. If it’s wireless, turn it off. For laptop keyboards, turn off the device and unplug the power cord. If the battery is accessible and easy to remove, do so too.

The build-up of dirt and loose dust particles go deeper than the top of the keys. This is when a can of compressed air is at hand. Try Blow-Off, which is a compressed air keyboard cloth. If you don’t have one, a tightly held piece of duct tape or the sticky side of a post-it works wonders to catch stuck-on dust.

Then, gently wipe the top of the keys and palm rest with a microfiber cloth or disinfectant wipe. Avoid wipes with bleach or any other harsh chemicals as they can damage the keys. Do not plug your keyboard back in or turn it back on until it is completely dry. A little humidity can cause big problems and permanently ruin electronic devices once the current is flowing.

Pro tip: If you have a standard plastic computer keyboard that isn’t wireless, throw it in the dishwasher. Do not use soap or heated setting. You want to rinse only. Let it dry for a few days before using it.

Cleaning Gel Dust Cleaner is a simple and easy way to remove trash from your keyboard, car vents, printer, camera, or anything else with small openings that collect the dust. It is biodegradable, non-sticky on your hands, and can be used multiple times.

To use it, take a piece of cleansing gel and knead it into a ball. Slowly press the gel into your keyboard and remove it. The dust is washed away with the cleaning gel. Easy peasy!

Against the myths: Is it better to restart or shut down your computer every day? Here is my last word.

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Mouse

You touch your computer mouse all day and it picks up grease, dirt, and grime from your fingers. You know things are bad if your scroll wheel doesn’t turn smoothly.

As with your keyboard, disconnect it from your computer and remove the batteries. If it’s wireless, turn it over, turn it off, and remove the batteries.

Turn the mouse over and continuously roll the wheel to loosen anything that may be stuck inside, then grab an alcohol wipe or a microfiber cloth soaked in electronic cleaner.

Pro tip: Toothpicks and cotton swabs are your friends. You can use a toothpick to scrape off the grime and debris stuck to your mouse. Don’t forget the background.

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The ports

Your computer, TV, and other equipment have small ports that also collect dust and dirt. You can try cotton scabs, but they can leave fluff and lint. Your best bet is a phone cleaning kit. For under $ 10, you get 40 anti-static foam swaps in various sizes, plus brushes, microfiber cloths, and dust caps.

If you have it, compressed air works great here too.

Pro tip: Be very careful with the ports. Metal knives or safety pins can leave scratches. Even toothpicks can break, so walk lightly. Stick with plastic (like dental floss picks) or foam. Take your time and work carefully, so as not to inadvertently bend or break the connections.

Earphones

Wireless headphones have a special kind of mess: dirt, grease, and earwax. Gross, I know. Fortunately, we can use some of the same tips and materials. Wipe the cord and body of each earbud with a slightly damp microfiber cloth or wipe. Toothpicks are great for scraping off debris, but you need to get away from the speakers.

Pro Tip: Here’s a tip that went viral on TikTok. Do you remember BluTack? It’s a reusable adhesive that you probably used to hang posters on back in the day. Take a small ball and insert it into the speakers of your headphones. Remove it, and all the trash inside will come off.

Old dog, new tips: Own a pair of Apple AirPods? I have nine smart tips you should try.

Printers

If you’ve spent the past year working from home, you’ve probably used your printer more than ever. It shouldn’t be as dirty as gadgets you handle for hours on end every day, but it deserves a good cleaning, too.

Unplug it, then wipe everything down with a microfiber cloth. Open the lids and wipe them clean as well. Cotton swabs are great for getting into hard-to-reach corners. You can use an alcohol wipe to wipe the printer rollers.

Here’s a smart idea from Cash4Toners.com: Dip a piece of paper with rubbing alcohol (leaving the edges dry) and run it through the printer roll.

Pro tip: Compressed air is great for many, but not for printers. It can damage delicate parts, so skip it here.

Need a helping hand with bad Wi-Fi, SEO, or what to buy? Post your technical questions to get concrete answers from me and other tech professionals. Visit my question and answer forum and get technical help now.

Discover all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and gives advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.

The opinions and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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About Anne Wurtsbach

Anne Wurtsbach

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