Cleaning and sanitizing tech devices is a priority even during normal times. We spend hours putting our hands all over touchscreens, keyboards, mice, and trackpads, but most of us don’t take the time to properly sanitize these devices after such heavy use. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for students to stay healthy and safe. As the coronavirus crisis forces education into the digital world, what steps should students take to keep their tech clean and safe? Let’s take a look at the most common devices students use and some best practices for safely cleaning your devices in the wake of COVID-19.
How to Clean Your Gadgets
Touchscreens are commonly made with protective oleophobic coatings which help shield the glass, reduce glare, and fend off fingerprints. A common belief is that household cleaning agents are harmful to these coatings and may even strip them from the screen entirely. However, this coating slowly wears off of your screen over time with regular use. You can even find aftermarket coatings to reapply it like new. If it’s not worth replacing the coating, you can recycle Apple devices and replace or upgrade them at a low cost.
To encourage accessible, safe, and effective cleaning methods, Apple has updated its guidelines for cleaning their products. They’ve clarified that it’s safe to use 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes or Clorox wipes to wipe down the “hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product” like the screen and hard casing. Make sure not to get liquid into any openings like the charger port, and never submerge the device in liquid in order to clean it.
A few other important rules include:
- Only clean the device while turned off and unplugged.
- Only use soft, lint-free materials to wipe down your screen. Don’t use porous, abrasive towels, even for drying. We recommend a microfiber cloth.
- Don’t spray your cleaning agent onto the screen. Spray it onto your soft towel and wipe the device.
- Do not use bleach or other corrosives.
These recommendations for cleaning your devices are generally safe for Android and other devices. However, we recommend that you consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning before proceeding.
How to Clean LCD Screens and Monitors
Your laptop is also a haven for germs without regular cleaning. Even if you don't have a touchscreen, you're breathing close to the screen the entire time you're using it.
Monitors come in all shapes and sizes, but in general, LCD and OLED screens will have even more sensitive coatings than touchscreens. After all, they aren’t designed for routine handling with your oily fingers. In these cases, it’s especially important to check with your device manufacturer’s guidelines for safe and effective sanitization.
For these screens, be more cautious about using Clorox wipes, and don’t use alcohol. The same recommendations apply to plasma screens. Even though they’re made of glass, they’re made with the same sensitive coatings which help reduce glare and optimize picture quality.
In general, however, there are some ways to make cleaning easier on yourself. For a student on a tight budget, there’s no good reason to spend $20 on a screen cleaning solution at the store. Instead, we can use a simple solution of distilled water and mild dish soap. Use a highly diluted mixture. For example, Panasonic’s guidelines state a 100:1 ratio.
Like with your smartphone, always apply the solution to your cloth first. Don’t spray it directly onto the screen. Make sure to wipe gently and without pressing. Use small circular motions to remove spots, and use the same motions to dry the screen when you’re done.
How to Clean Your Peripherals
While you’re breathing all over your screen, you’re also dirtying your keyboard with oils from your fingers and getting prints all over the shell of your laptop.
The first thing you want to do is dust the keyboard and any openings with compressed air. If that’s not an option, a dry dusting with a lint-free cloth will remove the bulk of the dust and debris in your keyboard. Your keyboard can be wiped down with a Clorox wipe, and the same goes for your mouse. A trackpad is made of glass, and it’s durable enough that you can sanitize it with Clorox of 70% isopropyl alcohol. Again, for best results, always use a soft, lint-free, nonporous cloth.
To clean your peripherals safely, there are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Avoid letting liquid soak into your keyboard. Use a damp cloth and wipe gently to avoid wringing water into the keys.
- Thoroughly dry the bottom of your desktop mouse and keyboard, or else you will leave watermarks on your desk.
- Don’t get liquid inside of openings like your USB ports or disc drive.
- Don’t forget to wipe off the power switch and any other controls you touch with your fingers.
Keeping Your Devices Clean
In order for all this cleaning and sanitizing to be effective, you have to keep your devices clean for as long as possible and re-sanitize regularly. This starts with your own personal hygiene. Before cleaning your devices, thoroughly wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 30 seconds. To keep your smartphone squeaky clean, make sure to wash your face and hair every day so that you can press the device to a clean ear. Avoid coughing and sneezing directly onto your devices, and try not to sit so close to them that you exhale particles onto the screens.
Keep your workspace clean by wiping down the top of your desk, armrests, mousepads, and any other surfaces you interact with during the day. For students, this even means keeping your textbooks, notes, and other work materials disinfected as well. You can only keep your devices clean if they live in a clean and sanitary environment.
Don’t miss class because you’re sick. Cleaning your tech devices is one of the easiest and most important ways to stay healthy during the coronavirus crisis.
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