You probably touch your keyboard and mouse every day, in sickness and in health. Most of us are guilty of coughing or sneezing either directly on our keyboard, or at the very least into our hands and then going right back to work. And who doesn’t eat at their desk? The germs, dirt and food debris that gather on keyboards and mice is downright disgusting, yet it’s rare that we take the time to clean and disinfect them.
First, shut down your PC or laptop. If it’s connected with a cable, unplug your keyboard or mouse. If applicable, shake out the larger crumbs (don’t shake your laptop, please). Then use a can of compressed air to blow out as much of the larger dirt particles as possible. An anti-bacterial wipe is great for regular wipe downs, and frankly, anything to get it cleaned more often is a good thing. Q-tips and rubbing alcohol are even better for cleaning around the keys and buttons.
It’s pretty easy to pop the keys off most standard desktop-style keyboards, allowing you to get under them and thoroughly clean the keys themselves. A solution of 50/50 water and white vinegar is great for soaking off the hard to dislodge gunk. If you have a standard, non-battery operated keyboard you can even run it through the top rack of your dishwasher, just make sure it’s completely dry before plugging it back in.
Let’s take a moment to consider your cell phone. This little guy goes everywhere with you, from your pocket or purse to the bathroom. Here’s where I gross you out to get you to commit to cleaning it: scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, released a study in October 2011 that reported “one in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with fecal matter.” Yuck. Even if you’ve never headed to the little girl’s room with your smartphone, surely you’ve talked on it when you’re sick or handled it after coughing or sneezing.
Similar to your phone, your remote control is just plain nasty. A study by University of Arizona Microbiology Professor Chuck Gerba found that remote controls in hospital rooms had “three times greater levels of bacteria than any other site in the hospital room.” I’m sure I’m not the only one that has enjoyed a bowl of popcorn and neglected to wash my hands before channel surfing. Not to mention, the time it’s spent buried between my couch cushions did nothing to improve the shape of the crevices between the buttons.
What your cell phone and remote have in common is small buttons that harbor dirt and debris, and regular handling with grubby fingers. Rubbing alcohol is your new best friend. Unlike water, it evaporates, so it’s less likely to damage the inner workings. Still, use it sparingly. Never immerse your device in any liquid. Resist the urge to spray it down with Lysol. Instead, give your gadgets a wipe down with a cotton ball dipped, but not dripping, in rubbing alcohol. Once the surface is clean, dip a soft toothbrush in rubbing alcohol and blot it to remove excess liquid before brushing to dislodge debris in the areas around the buttons. Don’t neglect the ports that chargers and cables plug into. Finally, wipe the crud away with a clean q-tip.
Don’t get too aggressive – you don’t want to scrub off the numbers or letters. In a pinch, a disinfecting wipe is better than nothing and it’s a good idea to give your handheld devices a quick once-over every couple days, more often if someone who handles it has a cold. Don’t get the area surrounding your cell’s battery wet with any liquid as it may void your manufacturer’s warranty.