Ultimate Guide to Disinfecting Your Electronics.
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The Ultimate Guide to Disinfecting Your Electronics

Even in the best of times, our electronics are icky, gross germ-magnets. Just consider how remote controls are often the germiest objects in hotel rooms or how studies show smartphones can be 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Ew. But don't go dunking your iPad in bleach solution. There are plenty of safe ways to disinfect your everyday electronics—and their chargers—without frying your expensive gear. Here is our easy guide.

See recent posts by Maria Teresa Hart

Use Bleach Wipes—But Very Carefully

If you’ve ever had a smartphone serviced, you know one of the first questions they ask you is whether you got your phone wet. Liquids and electronics do not mix. That said, the easiest and least expensive way to disinfect your electronics is to run over them very lightly with a bleach wipe. We highly recommend getting a screen protector for your phone that can act as an extra barrier between your phone’s touch screen and the solution. Even with the protector in place, don’t use a sopping-wet wipe to do this. You should ring out the cloth so it’ll just apply the lightest coating of solution. 

A few tips: Never ever spray any solution on the device directly, and keep your device unplugged when you wipe it down. Let it air dry completely before you handle it, and avoid Windex or other glass cleaners.

Bleach wipes are also ideal for disinfecting your tangle of cords. Feel free to run it down the length of charging cables, but avoid completely the outlet plug or the plug to your device. Again, do this when the cord is not plugged into anything. Likewise, you can run down the length of wired headphones or earbuds, taking care to avoid the jack or the earpieces. 

Man wiping down his keyboard with a bleach wipe.

Remote controls and keyboards are just as sensitive. The goal here is to disinfect the tops of the keys or buttons without getting a drop of solution between the cracks to the delicate electronics below. You can, again, take a rung-out bleach wipe or damp cloth with 70% isopropyl alcohol, but your better option could be UV light. (See below.)

Consider UV Disinfecting

In the past, it was just germaphobe travelers such as ourselves who would travel with disinfecting UV wands, passing them over hotel or rental surfaces to sanitize them. But with our current virus scare, everyone wants in on the ultraviolet action. 

UV light works on a microscopic level, by breaking down the bonds that hold DNA together. And it’s so effective in studies, it’s even used to sterilize hospital equipment. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that this is the same UV light that can cause skin cancer, so while you’re free to pass a wand over a keyboard, you’d never want to shine it on your face or body. Let hand sanitizer or good ol’ fashioned soap and water do the trick of disinfecting your skin. (If you’re nervous about accidentally flashing yourself with UV, just know most devices automatically switch off if they’re not face-down.)

It’s also worth noting that there have been no studies showing that UV light can kill Covid-19. But since it can kill similar viruses, like the common flu, it goes to reason that it would work just as well on this new superbug.  

For small electronics, we’re fans of the box-shaped UV cases, where you can tuck in your phone or other small items (earbuds, keys) and get 360-degrees sanitation with zero risk of flashing the light onto yourself. Pop in your smartphone and with a quick zap, your touch screen will be cooties-free. 

And Try Plastic Baggies for Communal Items

Don’t underestimate the humble plastic baggie when it comes to keeping germs at bay. While this solution is rather low-fi, it’s still remarkably effective. For communal items like hotel remote controls, feel free to toss them in a Ziploc. You can still press all the buttons, and see them clearly through the plastic, but you’ll be able to avoid the germs of all the people that previously held that item. How’s that for a ten-cent solution? You can also use this workaround on other passed-around gizmos like your rental car’s GPS or rented hotspots.

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