By John Harrington and Charles Stockdale
Since the pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home orders and social gatherings restrictions — caused by concerns over the spread of coronavirus — people have been left to their own devices at home, and those include cell phones, laptops, iPads, video games, and television remote controls, among others.
Before the pandemic, these devices were frequently used — they are sometimes called high-touch items — and now that so many of us are home, they are being handled even more often, and not necessarily by a single user. That raises the specter of spreading the dreaded coronavirus. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or exhales.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of cleaning tips for your phones, tablets, and other devices. We reviewed articles in trade publications, as well as general media sources to create our list.
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1. Cell phones
The two leading cell-phone makers updated their websites to inform customers how to clean those devices. Apple said on its website that iPhones can be safely cleaned with disinfectant wipes, including products such as Clorox sheets. Samsung said you can wipe down the device with a microfiber cloth containing an alcohol-based solution (70%). A National Institute of Infectious Disease study of mobile phones from 2017 found a median of more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies on each.
A tablet is a portable computer such as an iPad. You can use alcohol-based agents to clean your device and attention should be paid to the screen and buttons. Remove any case on the tablet and clean underneath. When you put the case back on, wipe down the outside of it.
3. Touch screens
Computer touch screens can be cleaned by using a small amount of warm, soapy water or a solution made to specifically clean touch screens. When cleaning, use a microfiber cloth to avoid scratching the screen. Mixing water and rubbing alcohol works, too but any mixture of more than 50% alcohol might damage the screen and remove the coating that protects it from fingerprints.
Keyboards have lots of germs and are potential virus havens. Researchers at the University of Arizona found that the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that the coronavirus was still detectable on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours, meaning viruses can live longer on non-porous surfaces such as keyboards. Keyboards should be unplugged and then shaken. Then they can be cleaned by gently wiping them down by using a 70% alcohol solution or disinfecting wipes. Stay away from bleach and don’t let moisture into the openings.
Like many devices, your mouse can be cleaned using products such as Clorox cleaner and bleach products, Lysol disinfectants, Purell sanitizers, and Zep disinfectants. Before you start cleaning, unplug your mouse and remove batteries. Researchers have found that the virus can survive for up to three days on plastic and steel, which are commonly used in electronic devices like the mouse.
Computer monitors don’t receive frequent contact from hands, but viruses can still settle on them so they should be cleaned periodically. Cleaning agents should not come into direct contact with the monitors and instead droplets of the agent should be applied to a microsoft fiber cloth, which can then be used to clean the monitor.
Often receiving daily use, laptops can be major carriers of germs, thereby potentially spreading bacteria and disease. A 2018 New York Times article recommended laptop users begin by turning the machine off and removing the battery, if easily done, then cleaning out all of the crevices using canned air. The outside can then be wiped down using a microfiber cloth with a few drops of rubbing alcohol added to it — never apply alcohol directly to the computer. The screen can be wiped using a microfiber cloth dampened with plain water.
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