Spring Clean Your Hardware

Dana Chen/Demand Media

Cleaning house isn't always a joyful experience, but spring cleaning just may be the exception to that rule. After a long, dreary winter, it genuinely feels good to open the windows and scrub away the memory of all those cold days. There's plenty of traditional advice out there for cleaning your windows and carpets, but your granny's spring-cleaning tips won't apply to your houseful of modern electronics. Here are the things you need to know before you spring clean your hardware.

Dana Chen/Demand Media

Your Mobile Devices

Wiping your phone or tablet regularly with a soft microfiber cloth is the best way to keep it clean from day to day, but a periodic deep clean is also a good idea. Shut down the device first and then wipe it with moist, disinfectant wipes designed especially for electronics. General-purpose cleaning wipes, or window-cleaning products, are too harsh and can damage your screen. For non-contact disinfecting, some companies manufacture devices that kill germs on your phone with ultraviolet light. Finally, blow any dust or grit out of the USB and headset connectors with a can of compressed air, available at camera or electronics shops. If you use a bumper or case on your device, clean that separately with a microfiber cloth and mild soap.

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Your Computer

Computers can become startlingly grubby over time. Start by wiping down your display and mouse with electronics-grade moist wipes, the same kind you'd use on a tablet. Take your keyboard outdoors and shake it, then blow out any dust and debris with compressed air. Clean the keys, and the gaps between them, with a moist wipe or a swab dampened lightly with rubbing alcohol. Next, take your computer out and open up its case. It will usually be filled with dust, which you can blow out with your can of compressed air. There'll be lots, so you might want to take it outdoors and wear a dust mask. Wipe down the case with a damp cloth and then reassemble the computer. With a laptop, use your compressed air to blow dust from the fan and then clean the exterior and keyboard with your microfiber cloth and moist wipes.

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Your Refrigerator

Start by transferring food from your fridge to picnic coolers, or inexpensive thermal bags. Then, remove all the shelves and drawers, and wash them in a sink full of hot, soapy water. Dry them, and set them aside. Next, spray the inside of the fridge with an odor-free cleanser or a mixture of three parts water to one of white vinegar. Wipe down the interior of the fridge, scrubbing trouble areas with baking soda or another mild abrasive. Replace the shelves and drawers and then return your foods to the fridge. Remember to wipe the bottoms of jars and containers with a soapy cloth, so you're not returning old dirt to your newly cleaned shelves. If your fridge has exposed cooling coils, clean them with your vacuum.

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Your Television

The larger your television, the bigger the target it is for dust and grime. That's especially true in households with kids and pets. A quick once-over with an electrostatic duster or dry microfiber cloth will do for day-to-day cleaning, but spring calls for more of an effort. You can use the same type of microfiber cloth, but mix up a mild solution of warm water with a few drops of dish soap as your cleanser. Moisten the cloth with a small amount of water and then wring it until it's barely damp. Use it to gently wipe away any greasy or stuck-on soil. Then go over the same area with a dry microfiber cloth to remove any moisture. Clean the TV's bezel, back and buttons with electronics wipes.

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The Microwave

Ah, the microwave. Inside its deceptively clean, sleek exterior, you know it's hoarding an entire winter's accumulation of cooked-on splashes and splatters. If your model has a steam-clean function, simply fill the reservoir with water and run the microwave for the time directed in your manual. Afterwards, wipe out the inside with a damp cloth to remove the softened soil. Any stubbornly stuck-on areas can be scrubbed with baking soda, or a similarly non-abrasive scouring product. If your microwave doesn't have steam-clean, boil water in a heatproof bowl or measuring cup until the interior is filled with steam. Let it penetrate for 10 to 15 minutes, and then wipe out the inside. Remove the turntable and run it through your dishwasher, or wash it by hand.

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Headphones and Headsets

You're on more intimate terms with your headphones than almost any other piece of tech you could name. Earbuds and Bluetooth headsets live inside your ear, and over-the-ear styles are always in contact. The soft, molded pads of earbuds are easily removed for cleaning, and your skin's oils and other soil can be wiped away with a cloth and mild soap or electronics cleaning wipes. Use a stiff brush to get into any small crevices. Wipe the speaker elements as well, and dry them immediately with a clean cloth, before reassembling the headset. The leather or vinyl pads on over-the-ear headsets can be cleaned with a soft cloth and mild soap, again using a brush to clean out any crevices.

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Camera

Modern cameras still center around delicate, high-quality lenses, and a soft lens-cleaning cloth from the camera shop is always your best bet for cleaning those. Blow any visible dust or grit from the lens with compressed air, and then gently wipe it clean with the cloth. Do the same with the viewfinder lens. Clean the LCD viewscreen with a microfiber cloth, as you would with the screen on any other device. Wipe the remainder of the camera with the cloth, moistening it or using a cleaning wipe to remove any stubborn soil. Use compressed air to blow any dust or grit out of the connectors and memory card slot.

Tip

  • While you're cleaning, don't forget the spaces around your hardware. Vacuuming up the dust behind your computer will keep it out of your power supply in months to come, for example. It's also a fine opportunity to organize behind your electronics, neatly wrapping and labeling the cords and wires. The next time you need to add or remove something from your computer system or home theater setup, you'll be grateful for the time you spent on organization.

Photo Credits: Dana Chen/Demand Media

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