How to Clean Your Keyboard, Cell Phone, Tablet, and Other Electronics
Oh no: The touch screen works like a magnet for germs and dirt, conveniently delivered by fingers. Those germs can make you sick. According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, 23 percent of viruses will transfer between your tablet and your hands.
What to do: Disinfect by wiping with a specialized screen cleaner, such as AM Get Clean spray ($20, getclean.am). The bottle has microfiber sides, so you don't need to carry a cloth. Or wipe the screen with a slightly damp soft cloth. "Don't use glass cleaner on your tablet or any touch screen," says digital-lifestyle expert Carley Knobloch. "It can destroy the protective coating."
How often: Once a week.
Oh no: Brace yourself for this one. A 2011 study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that one in six cell phones is tainted with fecal matter. How can this be?! People talk on the phone while using the bathroom, explains Charles P. Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. Upon flushing, "the toilet sends a spray of hundreds of thousands of contaminated droplets into the air, some of which land on the phone," he says. Even if you don't use your phone in the loo, you're vulnerable, as germs from your fingers end up pressed to your face.
What to do: For starters, no more bathroom chats. Next, consider a UV sanitizer (a good investment, especially if you have a family's worth of devices), like the Cell-Blaster Universal UV Cell-Phone Sanitizer ($90, restassured.com). Slip a phone inside and germs are zapped away in 30 seconds. Or use a fast-drying cleaner made for mobile devices, like Wireless Wipes ($3 for 12, wirelesswipes.com).
How often: Every other day.
Oh no: Sweat and wax build up with each use. Plus, if your earbuds have silicone or foam coverings, they pick up dirt and dust inside your bag like tiny lint brushes.
What to do: If you opt for the CellBlaster Sanitizer mentioned previously, just drop your earbuds into it. Otherwise wipe with a soft cloth dampened with a solution of mild dish soap and water. Clean foam or silicone covers separately, dabbing with dish soap and then rinsing. Let dry.
How often: Monthly.
Oh no: Keyboards are typically five times dirtier than a toilet seat, Gerba's research found. Maybe because we never clean them.
What to do: Remove the batteries or unplug the keyboard, then turn it upside down and shake gently. Turn it upright and spray compressed air around each key; sanitize with a fast-drying cleaner, like Wireless Wipes. For stains or stuck-on gunk, use Cyber Clean ($5, containerstore.com), a putty-like compound; press it over the entire keyboard, then peel it up. It lifts dirt the way Silly Putty picks up a newspaper image. If you share a keyboard at work, consider a disinfecting UV wand. (One option: the Verilux Clean-Wave UV-C sanitizing wand; $90, bedbathandbeyond.com.) That's what hospitals use to kill germs. It works in seconds and makes disinfecting effortless.
How often: Once a month; more often if you eat near your computer.
Oh no: In an office, a mouse is one of three surfaces that are most likely to harbor viruses. (The others are the desktop and the phone.)
What to do: Unplug the mouse or remove its batteries. Spray compressed air on the underside to clear dust from the trackball and crevices. Clean the top, along with the mouse pad, using a regular household disinfectant wipe. (Don't get the trackball wet.) Dry with a clean, soft, lint-free cloth.
How often: Monthly.
Oh no: Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that the remote has more germs than many other household surfaces, including the tissue box and the toilet handle. More than 30 percent of the remotes tested were positive for cold viruses. (Just imagine what's going on with its brother, the video-game controller.)
What to do: Spray compressed air between the buttons if you have reason to suspect the presence of crumbs. Then clean with the Wireless Wipes mentioned earlier. Hit the video-game controllers with the same plan.
How often: Weekly.