5 Essential Tips for Cleaning Your Gadgets

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I hate dirty things. Dirty dishes—hate ’em. Dirty laundry? Ewww. Dirty politicians? Have you ever heard of clean politicians? But there’s some dirt you can take care of and, for that, there’s no excuse but to clean it up.

But cleaning dirty electronics is a completely different ballgame. You invest a lot of money in your smartphones, tablets, and TVs—cleaning them is sometimes as tricky as a presidential campaign. You want to take extra care when cleaning out something that you spent your hard-earned money on.  Oh, yeah—I also hate dirty sentences, like ones that end in a preposition.

Cleaning your electronics isn’t hard; it’s just scary, unless you know what you’re doing. You go into it like you go into a voting booth, full of fear and trepidation, but confident that you’re making the right choice. Humph. Must be an election year. But it doesn’t have to be this way—cleaning electronics, not voting—and there are a few life hacks you can use to clean and organize your electronics.

Silica gel packs

These things are as ubiquitous as sneaky politicians. You get them inside a box of shoes, you see them in electronic shipping containers, and you find them in clothing. I’m talking about silica gel packs, not politicians—stay with me here—and there’s a reason for it. Silica gel desiccant is a substance with a micro-porous structure that absorbs moisture, especially humidity. Because of this, you find it almost anywhere that moisture would be a problem (like shoes in an enclosed box). But you can also use it to keep moisture out of electronics that are stored for long periods of time. I use silica gel packs in the boxes in which I store old hard drives. It’s an added level of security that I find comforting, like when a politician goes to jail. Try using it to keep moisture from precious items like photographs, camera equipment, and even old tools.

Bread ties for cords

I saw this once and thought: dumb. Number one, who saves these little squares from their bread loaves? Number two, how do you get the different colored ones? Answer: stop whining and check them out. Want them in different colors to coordinate with certain cords? Color them with a marker. Don’t have enough? You can find these ties on loaves of bread, vegetable sacks, and even some wrapped electronics. Label them and attach them to your cords and you’ll soon discover what I have—that I eat way too much bread. And also, that labeling cords is a lifesaver, especially when moving computer peripherals (like my router) around without forgetting which cord went where.


Post-Its® and erasers to clean keyboards

Want to hear something crazy? There are some who believe that putting your keyboard in the dishwasher takes all the grit, grime, and bacteria from your keys. Those same people are waiting for the mother ship to pick them up. Putting any electronic in a dishwasher has disaster written all over it. It might work, but if you have an expensive keyboard, why would you mix water and electricity? Have you learned nothing from old Tom and Jerry cartoons? Here’s a safer bet. You can use compressed air to blow out a keyboard (CAUTION: read warning below) or even a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (for light-colored keyboards), and even that runs the risk of removing the letters from your keys. Two hacks that I love: use the sticky edge of a Post-It® to get in between keys and pick up annoying detritus like loose hair, sesame seeds from your morning bagel, or light powder spills (in my case, instant coffee). For really stubborn grime, try using the eraser on the end of a pencil to rub out the dirt, but be prepared to clean the shavings out with the Post-It® when you’re done.

Using uncooked rice to save wet phones

This is a relatively new one that everyone thinks is a lifesaver. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Well, it doesn’t work effectively. A lot depends on the type of phone and the type of rice (iPhones don’t fare well, Android phones do—a great deal depends on the housing of the phone). If you accidentally immerse your phone in water, immediately remove the battery and any casing, air the phone out as much as possible, and then pack the phone in a small container with packets of silica gel. That’s the most effective way. Second on the list—instant couscous or instant rice, which is much better and faster than regular uncooked white rice. Give it a few days; the process takes some time to soak up the liquid.

To air is human

People love compressed air. You know: those cans of air with the small straw-like nozzle that blows air at a very high rate of pressure? Like your local politician? It’s great for blowing dust from your keyboard, and even better at cleaning out dust from inside your PC chassis. It’s also good for blowing out the vents of your laptop, which can accumulate dust in large enough quantities that they become a safety and fire hazard. So why not just go nuts with compressed air?

Well, a couple of reasons. Number one, while compressed air is great in small bursts, it’s not effective for cleaning, just for moving dust and dirt around. So if you start blowing out your ten-year-old computer chassis, you’re going to be left with a room full of dust, which will eventually make its way back into the chassis at some point. Also, the contents of compressed air cans are flammable in certain situations, and cause small spark fires when the liquid is exposed to heat sources. And lastly, exposure to the chemicals found in compressed are highly toxic when inhaled. Is that worth keeping a clean keyboard? I think not.

7 Comments

Don't put the silica packs in with any computer gear with slots big enough to get the little beads stuck in them if the packs break. Happened to a laptop in a soft case. The package broke, spilling the little silica beads and got jammed up in the computer. Apple Store disassembled and got them out. Beware!!

How about a note on how to clean battery contacts after leaky battery. 

Battery contacts: My first impulse would be to use white vinegar & a Q-tip, but I don't recall if I ever tried it.  Others have: https://youtu.be/ITKmMipctsk?t=1s, some in combination with baking soda.  (Sounds like the recipe for school-project volcano simulation...)

Try this: You can a lot of cash if you cut the clear plastic covers from some cold foods or use clear wrap to cover/protect the surfaces of your cell phones and other devices. Be care full not to use any that stiick to the surface too strongly, but a little alcohol on a soft cloth can remove any residue. Test all choices first. Do not use celophane tape.

When drying out an iPhone I use rice as suggested but I also power down the phone and put the rice and phone in an oven at 120-130 degrees F and never more than 150 degrees for days. Before I power it up I wait until it is room temperature. Don't put it in the refrigerator because water may condense inside when you take it out  

I used to use canned air for blowing out fans and CPU cooling fins on my heat sinks, until I accidently turned the can to the point it changed from air, to freezing moisture. What I do now is use a fine tip point attachment on a small touch-up painting sprayer compressor, and to completely clean out the internals of a desktop computer chasis, a fine tip spray nozzle on a full size air compressor. Mind you, you need to take care to hold the fans from spinning, or you can easily wear out cooling fan bearings. I also do not do this inside, but rather, unplug all the cables, open both sides of the chasis, and ensure that I do this outside. Not sure this practice can be applied to laptops, tablets, etc... (unless you are willing to "crack" the cases open, and possibly damage them). I tend to do this process of "blowing out" my desktop computers at the start of winter, and start of summer. Start of winter is to ensure the environment they will reside in will be enclosed, and with warmer, dryer, heated furnace ambiant air. I do it just before summer to ensure as the ambiant temporatures inside will be getting warmer, and cooling inside the case will become more important. (I don't have air conditioning). In either case, be sure to dial down the PSI (pounds per square inch) on your air compressor, just to ensure you don't blow out more than just dust bunnies and particles.

If you are using any form of air compressor to clean equipment, you might be doing more harm than good.

First, most compressors will emit air with much more pressure than 'canned' air and can literally tear things apart. But more importantly, along with compressing the surrounding air and any of its contaminents, you are also compressing the water vapor and blowing that into your equipment.

If you are going to use a compressor, add a drying filter! Second, either move that nozzle back away from the equipment and slowly move it in to control pressure, or install a pressure regulator.

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