Keeping Your Devices Clean

When I was asked to write this blog post I was at a loss for a topic. So I did a quick search for “tech tips” and found a number of posts filled with interesting ideas and hacks to better use your device or software. However, there was one post that caught my eyeits headline told me that I needed to clean my earbuds ASAP and now I am eyeing my lime green earbuds suspiciously. So I clicked the headline and saw that these little guys can carry a lot of bacteria and even cause ear infections. Yup, these things are going home with me to get clean!

Besides earbuds, there is a lot of technology that we touch on a daily basis that we do not clean as regularly as we should. A number of us spend all day with fingers tapping away at keyboards, clicking mice, and swiping around on smart devices. What germs are lurking on these devices? Let us not worry too much about that, because all these items are easy to clean. I am going to share with you how we clean these things in the Information Technology Department of the Mercer County Library System. When we bring technology back from the branches we always give it a cleaning before it gets reused.

My first suggestion is to pick a place to clean your devices that you can easily clean afterwards. You would be surprised to find what comes out from underneath those keys on a keyboard. Make sure all your devices are turned off and unplugged. Then gather your supplies.
  • Gentle cleaner of soap and warm water
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Toothbrush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Distilled water
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • Piece of paper
  • Dental pick
We throw our earbuds into our bags, shove them into pockets and push them into drawers, and then we put them into our ears. They can get dirty relatively quickly and, when we place them in our ears, we are introducing all that into our ears and it can cause ear infections. Cleaning your earbuds is as easy as wiping them down with a gentle cleaner of soap and warm water on a damp cloth. If your earbuds have rubber nubs you should pull those off and wipe them down separately. Use a toothbrush to clean the small metal grate (and then throw the toothbrush away or put it aside to use again to clean something).

Devices (smartphones, tablets, eReaders)
Make sure your device is turned off, is unplugged and is taken out of its protective case. Dampen your microfiber cloth with the distilled water. A number of websites recommend distilled water because it will not leave a film on your device that regular tap water can leave. With your dampened cloth, wipe down your phone. Wipe from the earpiece to the microphone or bottom of the screen. Use a dry cloth to wipe any wetness from your device. Check the ports and, if you see anything stuck inside, use the toothbrush to clear the area. If your device has a key pad, mix a bit of rubbing alcohol in with the distilled water, dip a cotton swap into the mixture and, using a little bit of pressure, clean around the keys.
Keyboard cleaning
We here in the IT department like a good can of compressed air, but not for cleaning keyboards. We would rather turn the keyboard upside down and give it a few good shakes (do not bang it on anything) to get rid of any debris that is floating around inside. If something does not shake loose, the dentist pick comes in handy to pull those things out. Dip the cotton swab into some rubbing alcohol, just enough to get it damp. Now run the cotton swab in between each of the keys. You want to make sure to get all sides of the keys. Spray some all-purpose cleaner onto a paper towel and wipe the front and back of the keyboard. For good measure, I like to wipe the cord, too.
Mouse Cleaning
You never realize how dirty a computer mouse is until you go to clean one! We like to start with the scroll wheel. Dampen part of a paper towel with rubbing alcohol. Holding the scroll wheel as still as possible with one hand, start to wipe it. Make your way around the whole scroll wheel, making sure to get the sides.

Next we clean the sides of the mouse. Using a small piece of paper, we clean out those tight areas. Again you may need the dental pick if the gunk is stuck. Then we use the paper to clean in between and around the mouse buttons.

Spray the all-purpose cleaner onto a paper towel and wipe down the mouse. Make sure you get the dust away from the feet of the mouse; this will help it move easier. Again, I like to wipe the cord.

Computer Monitor
There are two things to keep in mind when cleaning a monitor. One, you really should not have to clean the monitor because you should not be touching the screen. Two, only use a dry microfiber cloth to wipe the screen. Wipe lightly from top to bottom or side to side, not in circles. If you have a touchscreen monitor, clean its screen as you would a tablet—dampen a microfiber cloth with distilled water, wipe the screen from top to bottom, and remove any residual wetness with a dry cloth.

—Amelia R.


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