July 17, 2024

Free Your Rive

Building Bridges to the Digital Age

10 Must-Know Tips for Cleaning Every Electronic Device the Right Way

12 min read

“Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” political ads will ask us this year. Well, we were ready to dunk everything we owned into a vat of bleach, so yes. But just because we’re past the era of wiping down all our groceries and making our hands desert-dry with sanitizer doesn’t mean that our electronic devices shouldn’t be kept clean.

Even though we’re now less fanatical about disinfecting them, our devices still harbor plenty of germs and there’s no stopping grime, so they should be cleaned regularly. Grab some microfiber cloths, cotton swabs, distilled water, isopropyl alcohol, and dish soap, and read our guide to making your gadgets gleam—after you unplug or turn them off, of course.


How to Clean Phones and Tablets

person using a wipe on a phone screen

(Credit: Adrian Crook/Getty Images)

Phones and tablets have oleophobic (fingerprint-resistant) coatings that can wear off. So manufacturers generally recommend wiping them down with distilled water and a barely textured microfiber cloth, then using cotton swabs to clean around crevices such as the edges of the screen and buttons.

The global pandemic was no time to heed manufacturer warnings, though, and as people started taking harsher substances to surfaces in 2020, Apple revised its “How to Clean Your Apple Products” guidelines. It now endorses using 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75% ethyl alcohol wipes, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.

According to Cupertino: “You may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces…Don’t use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents. Don’t use on fabric or leather surfaces.”

To disinfect thoroughly without wipes, you’ll need 99% isopropyl alcohol, distilled water, a spray bottle, and a disposable microfiber cloth. Mix a solution that is 70% alcohol and 30% water, and pour it into the spray bottle. Then remove the case from your phone or tablet, spritz the cloth with your solution, and thoroughly wipe down your phone. Do not reuse the cloth. 

If you’re concerned about damaging your screen, put a tempered-glass screen protector on it. Though the protector is likely treated with a coating as well, it’s easily replaceable and won’t cause damage to the device. Before you put the case back on your device, go over the case with the solution and a cloth, and let it dry completely. Then be sure to wash your hands, or all your cleaning will have been for nothing. 

If you’re concerned only about grime, use wipes such as Care Touch Lens Cleaning Wipes.

How to Clean Your iPhone Speakers
PCMag Logo How to Clean Your iPhone Speakers

How to Clean Headphones and Earphones

person cleaning headphones

(Credit: goc/Getty Images)

Your headphones and earphones are some of the things you keep closest to you. Though coated in sweat and wax (gross, but facts), they’re likely traveling with you wherever you go.

The general recommendation for over-the-ear headphones is to go over them with a microfiber cloth dampened with a little water, then following up with a dry one. If the cushions and headband look or feel grimy, you can give them a wash: Remove the ear cushions first to clean them separately. Then combine a teaspoon of mild detergent with a cup of water, and use a lint-free cloth to wipe the band and cushions down with the solution. Follow that with a swipe of water on a cloth, then dry all the components completely. 

AirPods and other all-in-one units without eartips are supposed to be cleaned only with a microfiber cloth. If your AirPods have lotion or food spilled on them (it happens) or have stood up to a lot of sweat, take a lint-free cloth, dampen it with a little water, and go over them. Dry with a lint-free cloth, then let them sit for a while before you put them back in the case.

To remove wax and dust from headphones and earbuds, take a bit of adhesive putty, roll a tiny bit into a ball, then quickly and lightly press and remove gunk from any grille parts. If you want to de-germ, grab the same solution you made for your phone, spray it on one of those disposable microfiber cloths, and wipe down the entire surface. The same goes for over-the-ear headphones.

For earphones with removable tips, like the AirPods Pro, remove those eartips and go over them with some water and a tiny bit of soap applied to a microfiber cloth. Rinse them with water, pat them with a lint-free cloth, and don’t put them back on until they are thoroughly dry. You can clean earphone grilles by dabbing with the adhesive putty.

For the body of the earphones, if you’re not concerned about germs [eyes emoji], wipe them down with a microfiber cloth. But the sensible thing to do is to spray a disposable microfiber cloth with the alcohol-and-water solution, and use that to wipe them. Don’t forget to go over any wires, if you’re still living that life. 

If you own AirPods of any variety, we have a guide on How to Clean Your AirPods the Right Way.


How to Clean Laptops

canned air aimed at a keyboard

(Credit: ronstik/Getty Images)

Because your laptop travels, it has plenty of opportunity to pick up unsavory characters. Turn your laptop upside down and (gently) shake out the keyboard to rid yourself of the biggest and most obvious invaders: dirt and crumbs. Then grab a can of compressed air duster, and blast it.

Now make sure your laptop is unplugged, and if you can, remove the battery. Lightly dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth and go over all the plastic and metal surfaces.

To clean an LCD, use a product made for the job, along with a microfiber cloth that will prevent streaks other cleaners can leave. For touch screens, use water or eyeglass cleaner applied to a microfiber cloth. For a one-swipe solution, try 3M Notebook and Tablet Cleaning Wipes.

If you want to really give your laptop a deep clean, we get into the nitty-gritty of it in How to Clean Your Laptop the Right Way.


How to Clean Desktop PCs

woman wiping down desktop monitor

(Credit: GoodLifeStudio/Getty Images)

Your computer monitor might be the window to your world, but it’s not an actual window, so no Windex. Instead, for LCDs, use a microfiber cloth dampened with distilled water or screen cleaner. If you have a touch screen, clean it with a microfiber cloth; for smudges, use only water or eyeglass cleaner applied to the cloth first to remove them.

As for the plastic parts that surround the screen, spritz some window cleaner or just use water. The same goes for your tower: Go over all the surfaces with a cloth and either water, general-purpose cleaner, or a mix that’s half isopropyl alcohol and half water.

Chances are you’ve picked up the habit of eating over your keyboard, and it’s picked up some crumbs. As with your laptop, shake it out over a trash can, then grab a can of compressed air to get rid of what lurks under the keys. Take a damp cloth and go over the keys. Use a cotton swab to get inside the crevices. If your keyboard is particularly dirty, put a solution of half isopropyl alcohol and half water on the cloth and cotton swabs.

Your mouse spends the day skittering across your desk, and it can track plenty of dirt. Use the same alcohol-and-water solution, dab it on a cotton swab, and run it over the feet of the mouse and through any cracks and crevices. Then take a cloth dipped in the solution and go over the body of the mouse and the cord.


How to Clean Flat-Screen TVs

Close up of woman cleaning TV screen

(Credit: d3sign/Getty Images)

When you’re with your normal household cleaning, you might stop in front of your television, spritz it with a glass cleaner, wipe it down, and move on. In the words of millions of headlines: You’re doing it wrong.

Glass cleaners can be corrosive, and many television screens have anti-reflective coatings that are very sensitive to chemicals in those cleaners. To clean a TV screen properly, apply water to a microfiber cloth and gently go over the surface.

Don’t forget to clean your remote controls—they can be crumb-filled, smudgy messes. Remove the batteries, shake loose any crumbs, then blast the buttons with a bit of compressed air. Go over the surface with a mixture of one part water to one part isopropyl alcohol on a microfiber cloth. Dip a cotton swab in the solution, and run it around all of the buttons.


How to Clean Smart Speakers

Amazon Echo Show 10 on kitchen counter with video call on screen

(Credit: Amazon)

One family member that’s in your kitchen, living room, and probably even your bedroom doesn’t shower very often, and it’s time you two had a talk about it. Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, and Google Nest could use some freshening up.

For devices with screens, including the Google Nest Hub and Amazon Echo Show 10, you can go over the screen with a screen-cleaning wipe and the fabric-covered parts with a plain microfiber cloth. If the fabric has a stain, dampen the microfiber cloth slightly and go over it. (This is similar to the advice Apple gives for when the HomePod leaves a white ring on a wood surface).

For all-plastic devices such as older-generation Amazon Echos, use a slightly dampened microfiber cloth on the surface. If the grilles look grody, dab them with some Blu-Tack first.


How to Clean Game Consoles and Controllers

controller and remote control on sofa with bowl of chips sitting nearby

(Credit: Siro Rodenas Cortes/Getty Images)

Your low scores could possibly be blamed on a gunked-up game controller or console. That’s the good news. The bad news is that game consoles and controllers can get particularly nasty.

First, dust off the console with a dry microfiber cloth or Swiffer duster. Then go over it with a microfiber cloth and a small amount of water. Dip a cotton swab into water and run it through crevices—but not cutouts.

For controllers, make a mixture of one part water to one part isopropyl alcohol and apply it to a microfiber cloth. Wipe down the controller thoroughly. Dip a cotton swab into the solution and run it around buttons and into crevices. Because you handle controllers so frequently, upkeep with some wipes is a good idea that saves you a lot of work later and cuts down on germs and grime.

If your game system needs more attention, then check out Ditch the Dirt: How to Clean Your PS5, Switch, and Xbox Series X/S Controllers.


How to Clean Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches

woman looking at a fitness tracker on her wrist

(Credit: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images)

Your fitness tracker—and to some extent, your smartwatch—is there to make you sweat, but that means it gets sweaty along with you. The good news is that both devices can stand up to some moisture. Clean the face with a bit of water and a microfiber cloth.

For bands made of rubber, silicone, elastomer, and other bendy materials, rinse with water or wipe them down with a small amount of rubbing alcohol. If you’re wearing moisturizer or sunscreen with your band, use a gentle skin cleanser such as Cetaphil. Try erasing any remaining marks with a rubber eraser such as the Paper Mate White Pearl. Should that fail, mix one part baking soda to one part water to make a paste, and then rub that into the band, and wipe it off with a wet cloth. If the band is still stained, you can try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But be warned: The “magic” in Magic Eraser is that it removes layers of the substance you’re cleaning, so you’re essentially sandpapering the band.

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Nylon bands can smell because they are especially prone to picking up sweat. If this happens or if the band is stained, mix a tiny bit of dish detergent and water to wipe them down, then rinse.

Wipe metal bands with a lint-free cloth; if necessary, you can involve a small amount of water. If your stainless-steel band has become discolored, use a tiny bit of a stainless-steel polish such as Bar Keeper’s Friend—but make sure to thoroughly rinse it off, so you don’t transfer the chemicals to your skin when you put the band back on. For discolored silver-plated bands, use a silver-cleaning cloth sparingly (plating flakes off easily).

Wipe down leather bands with water and a microfiber cloth, and clean with a good leather cleaner followed by a conditioner. Apple Brand (no relation to your iPhone) makes a good kit.

Fitbit recommends cleaning the charging contacts on its trackers with a toothpick or toothbrush dipped in rubbing alcohol. Dry the contacts with a lint-free cloth.

For even more tips, check out How to Clean a Smartwatch or Fitness Tracker Without Ruining It.


How to Clean VR Headsets

Meta Quest Pro on bed

(Credit: Meta)

VR headsets, like the Meta Quest Pro, are as close to your face as possible and so not only do they trap sweat and pick up skin particles (yuck), they can also deposit bacteria back onto your face. Have we made the case yet for why you should grab some cleaning supplies and tackle these issues IRL? Good.

Do not use any alcohol- or ammonia-based products, or other solvents. If your headset just needs some maintenance cleanup, you’ll need just a microfiber cloth and some non-alcohol, non-abrasive antibacterial wipes like Clorox Free & Clear Wipes. If things are a little more sticky (hopefully not literally), you’ll also want to have on hand fragrance-free, dye-free dish soap like Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap.

First go over the lenses and front cover with a dry microfiber cloth. Do not use any liquids or wet wipes on them. You can clean the controllers and charging doc in the same way. Now you can go over just the body of the headset with the wipes.

If the facial interface, elastic head straps, head pads, and silicone covers are grimy, remove them and wash them with the soap and water. Make sure they dry thoroughly.

Once everything is clean and dry, you can put your headset back together.


How to Clean Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro

(Credit: Apple)

There are some specifics to cleaning the Apple Vision Pro, which you’re going to want to follow since it does cost a hefty $3,500. The first thing to know is though Apple loosened its recommendations for what you can clean most of its devices with, those don’t apply to the Apple Vision Pro. Do not use isopropyl alcohol, ammonia-based products, or other solvents.

Before you start cleaning, power down the Vision Pro and disconnect the cable. Make sure you’re working on a flat surface with enough room so that it won’t fall.

Start with cleaning the lens. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth or the Apple Polishing Cloth that comes with the Vision Pro. If you have Zeiss optical inserts, remove them and go over them with Zeiss Lens Wipes. You can also use a microfiber cloth or the Apple Polishing Cloth and either lukewarm water or Zeiss Lens Cleaner.

The next things to clean are the Light Seal and the Light Seal Cushion. Do not use disinfectant wipes or laundry detergent. What you might want to grab is some fragrance-free, dye-free dish soap like Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dish Soap.

Detach the Light Seal from the Vision Pro and then the Light Seal Cushion from the Light Seal. You can just wipe both parts with a microfiber cloth or if the parts need a deeper cleaning, use lukewarm water and the dish soap.

Whether you’re using the Solo Knit Band or the Dual Loop Band, remove it and go over it with a microfiber cloth. If it needs more cleaning, gently clean it with the cloth and lukewarm water and the dish soap. The battery can just be wiped with a dry microfiber cloth.

Now that everything is clean, make sure all parts are completely dry before you reassemble your Apple Vision Pro.

1Cool Thing: Apple Vision Pro: Everything You Should Know
PCMag Logo 1Cool Thing: Apple Vision Pro: Everything You Should Know

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