Despite promises of a future where you only have to speak, wave or think at a gadget to make it work, for now you almost always have to touch a screen, button, keyboard or mouse. That means in short order your gadgets can collect oily fingerprints, dead skin, makeup, hair, food residue, saliva, dust and any number of other gross things.
It isn't just the gross factor, either. Dust, dirt and other contaminants can clog up gadgets, especially computers. This leads to overheating, which can slow down your electronics or cause permanent damage. But that's not the end of it.
Don't forget flu and allergy seasons. Dirty electronics are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria - especially if you share a gadget with kids. And when you're out and about, pollen can stick to a messy gadget and travel indoors with you.
Have we totally grossed you out yet? Good. Before you dunk your gadgets in boiling water, though, we're going to tell you how to clean them without ruining them.
Whether you're trying to clean a computer, smartphone, tablet, HDTV or any tech gadget, you just need to follow a few easy steps. Reminder: Whenever you're cleaning a gadget, make sure it's turned off and unplugged (the exception being a computer, as we'll explain in bit).
The best thing to clean a screen with is a microfiber cloth, which is soft and won't scratch. Don't use regular paper towels because these can cause scratches and nicks.
Need microfiber cloths? We sell them in the Komando Shop, and they even have Kim's picture on them. Click here to take a peek.
Most dirt and debris will just wipe away, but for more stubborn smudges and fingerprints, lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water. Don't pour the water directly on the screen!
Some people mix the water in a 1-to-1 ratio with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for a deeper clean.
Note: Don't use glass cleaner on a computer screen or TV because many brands contain ammonia, which can ruin the screen surface.
When it comes to cameras, you can use the above tips to clean a DSLR lens, but make sure you're extremely careful. Before you use cloths or liquids, try using a bulb syringe or a low-powered air blower to blow away the dust. We sell a great camera cleaning kit in the Komando shop.
A microfiber cloth works to clean the body of your gadget, too. However, a cotton swab does an even better job and can clean gunk out of the corners of the case or any open ports. If you're dealing with a keyboard, make sure you swab between each key.
If the swab itself doesn't do the job, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol is a good cleaner. Dampen the swab and go to town. Even though rubbing alcohol dries quickly, don't let it pool because it might leak into the interior. If it does, you'll need to wait 15 minutes or so before turning on the gadget to make sure the liquid evaporated.
Cotton swabs also work great for cleaning a computer keyboard and the various ports and openings in the computer case. Some people use a can of compressed air for this task. In general, use the air can when you need to get rid of lots of loose buildup and save the swabs for sticky gunk and detail work.
Where compressed air really shines is cleaning out your laptop or desktop. If you're afraid to open up your computer, you can simply spray the air into the fan's exhaust vent.
Spray in quick bursts to prevent your computer's fans from spinning too fast. Excessive spinning can damage them. You can also stick a pencil or pen between the blades as you spray to prevent it from spinning.
Bonus tip: Run over frequently touched surfaces periodically with disinfectant wipes to kill germs. Keep some handy during flu season for keyboards and mice and use them either first thing in the day or before any new person starts using the gadget.
Opening up your computer allows you to get an even deeper clean and get rid of dust and hair that can cause overheating. You should do this at least very six months. If you live in a dusty environment like Phoenix or have pets, every few months might be better.
As always, when working inside a computer, static electricity is your enemy. Be sure to ground yourself before putting your hands near any electrical components. You can do this by attaching a grounding strap to the case. Remember, don't unplug the computer or this won't work.
Once the computer is open, you can wipe down the case and any non-electrical parts - including fans, the power supply casing and optical drives - with a dry cloth. Use microfiber or a paper towel, it doesn't matter.
When it comes to electrical components, such as the motherboard, RAM and any add-on cards, use compressed air. Again, brace any interior fans so they don't spin too fast and get damaged.
When it's time to blast with air, we strongly recommend goggles and a dust mask, especially if the inside of your computer looks like this dust trap. Definitely do your cleaning in a well-ventilated or outdoor area, like a porch or backyard. You can also have a vacuum cleaner on hand to pick up loose dust or pull it out of the air.
For stubborn or built-up dust areas, a paper towel can work, just be very careful not to push too hard and damage parts on the circuit board. Don't use anything cloth-based because it might have built-up static electricity. Also, don't use cotton swabs because they catch on circuit board components and leave cotton fibers behind that will cause damage later.
If you haven't cleaned your gadgets in a while, the entire cleaning process - screen, outside case and inside case - might take a while. However, if you do regular cleanings after that it should go much faster so make it a habit of tidying up periodically.