How gross my devices get from everyday use is my least favorite part of living a tech-forward lifestyle, TBH.
Smartphones, for example, look so shiny and sanitary when you first unbox them, and then we put our grubby hands all over them, take them on the subway, eat with them next to our plates, cough on them, drop them on the bathroom floor… and then press them right up against our mouths. Nauseated face emoji.
And it’s not just phones: Laptops, tablets, and remote controls all get health-hazard grimy, not to mention earbuds, which actually often start to sound muffled because they’re clogged with so much earwax. (Cue the nauseated face emoji again.)
All of that is to say: it’s spring, so it’s time to turn your attention to spring cleaning your tech universe. I’m here to hold your hand (as it scrubs and wipes), with all of the intel you need on the best way to clean each kind of device.
Just remember: spring is a great time to learn how to clean your gadgets and to give them an extra-thorough once over, but you should really be cleaning everyday devices at least once a week.
Try to make it a habit that’s as sticky as Instagram scrolling, k?
How to spring clean: Smartphones and Tablets
First thing’s first: No matter what you’re cleaning, make sure it’s off and unplugged.
Now, to cleaning that iPhone. It’s the most important device to clean consistently because it’s out in the world with you. Think about how often your phone is on a dirty surface, and then in your hand, and then near your face… where germs travel to get you sick (and where your phone gets even dirtier, thanks to sunscreen and makeup). In fact, you should probably think about cleaning it whenever you wash your hands, though most of us just give it a wipe on our jeans and hope for the best.
I recommend carrying phone wipes, like those made by Spruce & Co or Well-Kept at all times. And when you wipe down your phone, don’t just hit the screen; make sure you’re getting the entire surface on all sides, including the buttons, which you touch more than you realize.
For a deeper clean, invest in a cleaner spray like this one and some microfiber cloths. Or, you can make your own cleaner. I make a simple one that’s 50 percent water and 50 percent rubbing alcohol, and it works great. Just don’t spray your device directly; get the cloth wet and then wipe the phone down (unless you have a waterproof phone, but still I like to be safe).
Oh, and pull your screen off and clean your phone underneath while you’re at it: If any dirt has gotten trapped under there, it could scratch your phone over time. Hey, if you’re already cleaning…
One other approach for killing phone germs, especially if you’re a hypochondriac, is using a device like the PhoneSoap, which sanitizes the phone using UV light while also charging it.
Finally, you might also need to clean out your phone’s charging port every now and then. The best way to do it is by using a can of forced air and (gently, from a small distance) blow the dirt and dust out. If that doesn’t do the trick, you can try using a toothpick, but be super gentle so you don’t pick apart the sensitive connecting port.
All of these same products and techniques for phones also apply to tablets, you just might not have to do it as often, depending on how regularly you use your iPad or Kindle.
How to spring clean: Laptops and Keyboards
Okay, now to those other keyboards your dirty fingers spend so much time on.
You can approach cleaning your laptop a lot like you approach cleaning your phone or tablet. Power it down and then carefully wipe it down all over with a microfiber cloth that’s damp with cleaning solution. Be especially light with your touch on the screen, as certain screens are sensitive to pressure. Sometimes, the keyboard can make stains on the screen that are tough to get off. You might want to store your microfiber on the keyboard when you close your laptop, so there’s a buffer between it and the screen (and that will be a handy reminder to clean it!).
For the keyboard, you may not be able to get into some of the crevices between the keys. I find that a Q-tip dipped in the same cleaning solution works well for that. You may also be able to use forced air, depending on the laptop you have and how raised the keys are. For your desktop keyboard, forced air is definitely the way to go.
How to spring clean: Earbuds
Okay, this might be the grossest of the gross. I mean, you’re sticking them in your ears constantly. And cleaning earbuds is not only about yuck factor: when stuff builds up, it really affects the sound quality.
There are a few ways to go about cleaning them. For the outside, you can use a tech wipe. You can also use a microfiber cloth with soap and warm water. If you’ve got earbuds that have silicone covers, take them off and wash them in soapy warm water on their own.
To get at the wax and dirt that’s jammed up against the grill, there are a couple of approaches. Some people recommend using a toothpick. I’ve tried it and it does work well. Again, just be gentle. Some people also recommend wrapping a wipe around the end of a toothpick and swabbing that along the inside. Others use a clean toothbrush to brush out build-up. You can even buy a special tool that has a pick on one end and a brush on the other, to pick at the jammed-in grime and then brush out the loose particles. Ugh. It’s just all so gross…
How to spring clean: Remotes and Video Game Controllers
First, take the batteries out.
Rubbing alcohol is the way to go here, too, so my 50-50 solution will totally work. You can use a microfiber cloth but you also don’t have to worry as much about the material, here. For instance, soaking a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and using it to clean the buttons works well because it gets down around the sides of the buttons. You can also use a Q-tip for between the buttons if you can’t get at those spaces, and use a toothpick to pick and crumbs out.
Use the same approach on video game controllers, or opt for a sanitizing wipe, especially for quicker cleans day to day.
Oh, and remember the PhoneSoap sanitizer that kills germs with UV light? You can also get a wand that does the same thing, which you can wave over all kinds of phones, laptops, and controllers like a spring cleaning magician.
Don’t you feel a little fresher and shinier, already?