Take a look at your computer, phone and tablet. The chances are they are encrusted with dirt, grease and are home to some germs that can be harmful to your health. Forget that old clichéd quote regarding our toilets being cleaner than our kitchens – nowadays, our smartphones contain ten times more bacteria than our toilet seats. This isn’t surprising, as our bathrooms are regularly cleaned, but when was the last time you even wiped a cloth over your tablet, laptop, keyboard, TV or games console?
Researchers have discovered a range of bacteria living in the tech we use on a daily basis. The habit of eating at our desks coupled with poor tech hygiene has meant bugs such as staphylococcus aureus have been found, which can cause upset stomachs, leading to the illness being dubbed ‘Qwerty tummy’.
And in an office environment, food crumbs can attract mice and other pests, which in turn leave droppings, which offer an even richer breeding ground for germs. In one reported case a keyboard was so badly infected, it was ordered quarantined, as it contained 150 times the acceptable levels of bacteria. You can take a test to see how many germs are potentially living on your keyboard right now at CyberClean.
Simple cloth and water
The approach you take to cleaning your devices will largely depend on how soiled they are and how much you want to spend on cleaning products. The Wall Street Journal for instance found that a microfiber cloth and plain tap water was the best for cleaning screens – no fancy solutions were used. However, it has been shown that a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar can be highly effective at cutting through grime and grease.
Care should be taken, however. There are rugged examples of technology, but most of the devices we all use on a daily basis need to be treated with care, especially when cleaning them. Pressing too hard on your LCD TV for instance could burn out a pixel. And think about the basic tools you will need. As already mentioned the microfiber cloth is vital. Don’t use cotton wool for instance. You might think it feels soft to the touch, but it’s abrasive to delicate screens.
Okay, let’s discuss in detail how to spring clean your various bits of hardware…
First off, check the manual for your tech before you begin scrubbing, as some cleaning products could damage your sensitive devices. And any special screen coating could be wiped away if the right cleaning product isn’t used. Most smartphones have what is called an oleophobic coating, which is designed to reduce fingerprints. Using the wrong cleaning products could damage this coating, and make your phone or tablet even more susceptible to dirt and grease.
Turn off your tech
Make sure your PCs, tablets and phones are off before you begin to clean them. This is especially important to avoid damaging your keyboard. Keyboards will often have to be dismantled before they can be cleaned properly.
Remove the debris
Target the loose dirt and other detritus that has accumulated on your keyboard or other peripherals first. Use canned air to remove any stubborn debris. Don’t blow on your keyboard (or other device) as your breath is moist and you just spray droplets of saliva onto your hardware. A product like Cyber Clean is ideal for this task. OXO also has a handy cleaning brush (see the above video) made from silicone that is retractable to protect it.
Don’t use household cleaning products as many contain bleach, which can damage sensitive equipment. The cleaning solutions from companies such as Muc-Off and iKlear have been specially formatted to effectively clean electronic devices. And don’t spray the cleaner directly onto your device. Spray onto a microfiber cloth and then apply to your tech. The Stylus Pro is a liquid spray, cleaning cloth and stylus all in one device, which is great for cleaning on the move.
If your tech is very soiled avoid the temptation to scrub too hard, as many screens now have anti-glare coatings. If you polish these coatings too much they can become shiny defeating the whole point of them. Use microfiber cloths at all times as their surface isn’t too abrasive. Be careful when using products like Mr Clean Erasers, as they are basically very fine glass paper. Moshi offers a Terahedron microfiber, TeraGlove, which is designed to fit over the hand for perfect cleaning.
Kill the bugs
One of the issues with a build-up of dirt is that this can become a breeding ground for all manner of nasties. One of the best ways to deal with this is to invest in a UV light box. These are used to sterilise toothbrushes, but larger ones can be used to sterilise smartphones, keyboards, mice and any other smaller devices. Search eBay (Germix brand name) for a range of UV sterilisers.
Prevention is better than cure
Stopping your tech from getting dirty in the first place is also an option. There are many keyboard protectors as well as screen shields for touch devices. Suppliers including Protect Computer Products and even sealed peripherals from Seal Shield stop any dirt or germs reaching your devices. It is also possible to buy keyboards and mouse pads coated with an anti-bacterial called Microban.
Of course you can cut down drastically on cleaning by not touching the screen of your devices at all. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone in 2007 he said that no one wants a stylus. Using a stylus, however, keeps fingerprints to a minimum.
Inside and out
Giving the outside of your tech a quick wipe down may be enough to make it cosmetically clean, but think about what could be lurking inside. Any device with a fan will inevitably let dust into the casing. Over time if this isn’t removed it can lead to serious faults and of course all this dirt is yet another breeding ground for bugs.
Carefully open your device and use a vacuum cleaner if it has a very narrow hose head to remove the majority of the dust. Then use a soft paintbrush for any crevices the vacuum can’t reach. And finally, canned air (available from Poundland) will blast away the remaining dust particles.
Cleaning your tech should become a habit you get into. Don’t leave it months or even years between cleans, as this can lead to a serious health hazard in some extreme cases. Invest in the right cleaning tools for the tech you have, and to ensure your devices stay as clean and shiny as the day you unboxed them.