How to Spring Clean Your Gadgets
You probably don't want to know what lurks on your devices. Embrace your inner germaphobe and get scrubbing (without damaging your tech).
Spring is in the air but gunk is in your gadgets. There are the smudges and crumbs you can see and the creepy-crawly bacterium that you can't (and would rather not). Studies have shown that infection-causing E coli and Staphylococcus aureus, fecal matter (yep), and just plain dirt are hanging out on your tech.
That might make you want to dunk everything into a vat of bleach, but it wouldn't be the best thing for you or your devices. Instead, grab some microfiber cloths, Q-tips, distilled water, isopropyl alcohol and dish soap and read our guide to getting your gadgets gleaming.
Note: Before you clean anything, unplug it or turn it off.
Smartphone and tablet
Say what you will but you've probably taken your smartphone or tablet into less than sanitary conditions (we are talking about the bathroom). You wash your hands but then you pick up your phone or tablet -- and all the germs that have now attached themselves to it. It's a gross fact that phones tend to have 10 times the bacteria that toilet seats do.
To scrub a phone or tablet that does not have a screen protector, you have to take extra care since it might have an oleophobic (fingerprint-resistant) coating that could come off. The gentlest way to clean it is to take distilled water and a microfiber cloth to wipe down the phone. Use Q-tips to clean around crevices.
If your device has a screen protector on it, whether it's tempered glass or just thin plastic, get together some isopropyl alcohol, distilled water, a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth. Pour one part alcohol and one part water into the spray bottle and then spritz a lint-free cloth with the solution and wipe down the phone.
To keep your phone or tablet clean on a regular basis, keep some wipes, like Wireless Wipes, handy and swab it down daily. If you want to be fancy, then you can carry Well-Kept Screen-Cleansing Towelettes with you and use those. They come in small patterned packages that fit neatly into pants pockets or purses.
Because your laptop travels, it has plenty of opportunity to pick up unsavory characters. Turn your laptop upside down and (gently) shake out the keyboard to rid yourself of the biggest and most obvious invaders: dirt and crumbs. Then grab a can of compressed air duster and blast it.
Now make sure your laptop is not only unplugged but that the battery is removed. Lightly dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth and go over all the plastic or metal surfaces.
To clean an LCD screen, use a product tailor made for the job, like EcoMoist Natural Screen Cleaner, along with a lint-free cloth that will prevent those streaks that other cleaners can leave. For touch screens, use water or eyeglass cleaner.
Your computer monitor might be the window to your world, but it's not an actual window, so no Windex. Instead use a soft cloth dampened with distilled water or the same display cleaner you'd use on a laptop if you have an LCD screen. If you have a touch screen, clean it with a lint-free cloth; if there are smudges, use only water or eyeglass cleaner to remove them.
As for the plastic parts that surround the screen, you can go ahead and spritz some window cleaner on them or just use water. The same goes for your tower. Just go over all the surfaces with a cloth and either water, general-purpose cleaner or a mix that's half isopropyl alcohol and half water.
Chances are you've picked up the nasty habit of eating over your keyboard and in turn your keyboard has picked up some crumbs. Shake your keyboard out over a trash can and then grab a can of compressed air and get rid of the ones that lurk under the keys. Then get a damp cloth and go over the keys. Use a Q-tip to get inside the crevices. If your keyboard is particularly dirty, mix up a solution of one part isopropyl alcohol to one part water and use it on the cloth and Q-tips.
Your mouse spends the day skittering across your desk and it can track plenty of dirt. Use the same half-alcohol and half-water solution, dab it on a Q-tip and run it over the feet of the mouse and through any cracks and crevices. Then take a cloth dipped in the solution and go over the body of the mouse and the cord.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches
Your fitness tracker (and to some extent your smartwatch) is there to make to sweat, but that means it gets sweaty along with you. The good news is that both can stand up to a bit of moisture. Clean the face with a bit of water and a lint-free cloth.
Before you clean any band, remove it from your tracker or watch.
For bands made of rubber (silicone, elastomer, etc.), you can rinse with water or wipe them down with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. If you're wearing moisturizing or sunscreen lotion with your band, then use a gentle skin cleanser like Cetaphil on it. If marks remain, try erasing them with a rubber eraser like the Paper Mate White Pearl. Should that fail, mix one part baking soda to one part water to make a paste and then rub that into the band and wipe off with a wet cloth. If the band is still stained, you can try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But be warned: the "magic" in Magic Eraser is that it removes layers of the substance you're cleaning, so you're essentially sandpapering the band.
Metal bands should be wiped with a lint-free cloth and, if necessary, you can involve a small bit of water. If you have a stainless-steel band and it's gotten discolored, use a tiny bit of a stainless-steel polish like Bar Keeper's Friend, but make sure to thoroughly rinse it off so you don't transfer the chemicals to your skin when you put the band back on. For discolored, silver-plated bands, use a silver-cleaning cloth sparingly (plating flakes off easily).
Leather bands can be wiped down with water and a lint-free cloth. The same goes for nylon bands, but nylon bands can smell because they are especially prone to picking up sweat. If this happens or if the band is stained, mix a tiny bit of dish detergent and water to wipe them down, then follow with plain water.
Fitbit recommends cleaning the charging contacts on its line of trackers with a toothpick or a toothbrush dipped in rubbing alcohol. Dry the contacts with a lint-free cloth after.