Spring Clean Your Technology!

It’s April. In spite of the plethora of winter storms and beach erosion on the East End, spring has come! I enjoy a thorough spring cleaning as much as the next person, so I was happy when my editors sent an email wondering how to clean their tablets, phones and other gadgets. Time for a column!

Most people rarely clean their tech devices, but it’s actually a very important practice for several reasons. First, there’s the personal hygiene thing. Typing on keyboards and swiping touchscreens can leave behind some seriously gnarly germs, especially if you share the device with your kids. Don’t believe me? Search the term “keyboard germs” and see the results. One study found that computer keyboards contain five times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Yikes.

The health of your gadget is just as important. An accumulation of dust, loose particles and other garbage can slow down performance and damage the guts of your device. True, dirt probably won’t completely destroy your laptop, but why risk it when it’s so easy to just clean the thing every now and then?

Here are some suggested products and practices for germ-free gadgets.

1. Clean the Screen

Experts recommend wiping the touchscreen on your tablet or phone at least twice a week. There are lots of solvents and solutions on the market, but you don’t need them. In fact, Windex and other fancy chemicals can damage the CPU and circuitry if they seep inside the device.

You should also avoid abrasive cleaning materials such as paper towels, Kleenex and even linen napkins; they can create tiny scratches that get larger over time.

Some people purchase expensive screen protectors that cover the touchscreen, but I think this is overkill. All you really need is a simple microfiber eyeglass or lens cleaner. They go for $3–$10 online, depending on size and quality. Slightly dampen the cloth for more cleaning power, but be very careful as water and electronics don’t mix. Also, don’t press too hard, as that can damage the screen pixels.

And remember, always power down the device when cleaning it. This will reduce the chance of water damage.

2. Air It Out

Your keyboard and mouse are also huge dirt and dust collectors. As with touchscreens, it’s best to keep it simple.

There’s no need to spend $200 on a toner vacuum or $75 on a custom screwdriver that lets you remove and scrape every crevice under dirty keys. A $3 can of Air Duster will get the job done. You just attach the thin straw to the nozzle, shake well, and then spray into all the nooks and crannies on the computer. This will remove about 90% of the dirt and dust before problems even start, which is more than
enough precaution.

You can also use Air Duster on the bottom of your mouse to make sure the light diode is free of dirt. For deeper cleaning, gently brush the light with a Q-Tip.

If you have a desktop PC, I also recommend cleaning the fan that’s typically found in the back of the PC tower. Only do this if the fan is readily accessible; you can do more harm than good trying to open your computer and remove its guts.

3. Wash It Up

If you’re an OCD type, or related to Howard Hughes, there’s another product to consider: a washable keyboard. That’s not a typo; they really make
these things.

The Logitech K310 sells for about $40 online. It connects with your computer via USB, but that’s not why you should buy it. You should buy it because you can dump the entire keyboard, intact, in the kitchen sink for a thorough scrubbing.

How is this possible? The Logitech comes with drainage holes that let water escape the inside. Its keys are laser-printed and specially coated to make sure soap and water won’t erase the letters. Sounds like a great solution for kids who are prone to spills and intense stains.

Reviews seem positive, though it’s hard to tell how long it takes for the keyboard to dry before you can use it again. I suspect a few hours will suffice.

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