Caring for and Cleaning Your Electronics

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Cleaning resolutions spring eternal, but when it comes to protecting the investment in your flat-panel TV and other components, you’d be wise to follow through with a little preventive maintenance.

Starting with the glass, it’s smart not to use a soapy, solvent-based liquid like Windex on the screen. That’s because it can discolor the clear plastic coating. Also, a spray is a scattershot approach, and you shouldn’t direct droplets into the speaker grille or inputs. Most importantly, never use an abrasive cleaner like Comet®, which can scratch the screen.

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A good do-it-yourself solution is to add a cap full of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to a glass of water, especially if you need to dislodge grease marks such as fingerprints. Dampen a soft cloth rather than applying the liquid directly to the screen. A microfiber cloth—the type provided with prescription eyeglasses, only larger—is ideal. You can also purchase a TV screen-cleaning kit that bundles the fluid and cloth.

The TV should be turned off when you’re cleaning it, mainly because you’re more likely to spot smudges on a dark screen than on a brightly lit one. However, before turning off the TV, check to see if any part of the picture is hidden under candy or gum—foodstuffs commonly transferred from the sticky fingers of children. Computer monitors should get the same respect as the TV—perhaps even more so since you have a closer relationship in terms of proximity.

Both computer setups and home theaters are susceptible to static electricity, a problem amplified by clumps of dust and hair that tend to congregate in the rats’ nest of wires and cables on the floor that you purposefully don’t sweep or vacuum for fear of dislodging the connections. It’s prudent to untangle the wires and set them on straight paths.

By bunching wires in parallel and tying them together, you can more easily lift the bundle for cleaning. A damp cloth will pick up dust. Use an electric duster to suck dirt from hard-to-reach spaces, including the vents and ports of a computer that sits on the floor. (You may even want to open the case at least once a year to remove any dust that may have made its way inside. Be sure the computer is powered off.) Alternatively, you can use a can of compressed air to blow dirt out and away from cramped areas. Both handheld vacuums and air blowers are also useful for dislodging dirt from keyboards.

While watching TV, we tend to forget about the device we touch the most and is most prone to being sullied—the remote. The cloth lubricated with alcohol that you used on the screen will work on the remote, too, or you can use a paper towel. And while you’re heeding the remote, consider replacing the batteries. Keeping a stock of AA and AAA alkaline batteries on hand covers the majority of remotes.

Mechanisms that read and write tape, such as a MiniDV camcorders, or read discs such as a CD, CD-ROM, DVD or Blu-ray players should also be cleaned periodically. A cleaning cassette can be played in the camcorder. It uses a dry cleaning method to remove foreign particles from the heads of MiniDV camcorders. Sometimes, that’s all that’s necessary to achieve a cleaner looking recorded picture. You can maintain the lens of any optical reader by inserting a special disc that cleans and demagnetizes the equipment.

It doesn’t have to be spring to spruce up your equipment. So, think about taking better care of your devices seasonally.