Keep your mobile device clean

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The world is a filthy, filthy place. Just look at your mobile device, and you can see on-screen evidence of what happens when gadgets continually get poked by grubby fingers, pushed against sweaty ears, and parked on tables covered with crumbs and other contaminants. How do you keep your phone or tablet shiny and clean in the face of this onslaught?

Cleanliness is next to gadgetness

Alpine Products packages its Spudz microfiber cloth inside a small, attachable case.

Adopting a routine of cleaning your mobile device every day will help. For daily cleaning, apply a microfiber cloth with the minimum possible force to remove dirt and stains. Between cleanings, store the cloth in a bag or other container to prevent it from picking up dirt or other foreign matter along the way, especially as these could scratch the screen when you use the cloth. Replace the microfiber cloth with a new one regularly, to avoid spreading the very stains you're trying to remove. Several companies, such as Alpine Products, offer small microfiber cloths that tuck into a cover and clip onto the device itself, or onto a bag or key ring. Keeping the cloth with your regular gear kit (chargers, cables, extra battery, and the like) will help you stay on top of cleaning.

If your screen has food or other dried-on stains on it, dip a corner of your microfiber cloth into water, and then use this to try and gently moisten and remove the stain. Do not apply water to the screen directly: Drops can easily slip inside your device—and that won’t end well.

Regular cleaning

Once a month, you should clean your devices thoroughly, including each device's screen, ports, and buttons. Such cleaning can extend the effective life of your equipment, but some caution is required.

Many people use cloths soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean their devices. Though this approach can be very effective on glass screens, the alcohol can damage the surface of some plastics, making them look dull. We recommend that you use a cleaning fluid formulated for screen cleaning—such as iKlear and Monster Cable’s ScreenClean—as they won't damage plastics.

Never use abrasive cleaners or cloths; window cleaners; cleaning solvents; or other household cleaners. Most modern device screens are coated with a thin oleophobic coating that repels the oil from your skin, and this coating can easily be damaged.

To clean the headphone port and speaker grilles, use a keyboard vacuum cleaner with a brush head to gently stir up and remove dust and dirt. Don't use a floor vacuum; it has too much suction and may damage your device's sensitive components. Also stay away from air dusters and canned air, which may blow dirt into the device. Headphone sockets are a particular concern here, because they contain a small micro switch that tells the device when the headphones are plugged in. If anything blocks this switch, your headphones won't work. Manufacturers also use water sensors near the headphone socket, so blowing air might push water onto the socket, potentially voiding your warranty. For the same reason, don't use Q-tip-style cotton swabs; in fact, never insert anything into a socket except the plug it was designed to receive.

Cases need cleaning, too

Richard Baguley

If your device sits in a case, you might assume that it doesn't need cleaning. Not true. All cases have gaps that collect dirt and dust particles, which then work their way between the case and your tablet. These bits of grunge can inflict deep gouges, scratches, and other harmful marks on the back of a device that (as far as you were aware) had never endured unusual abuse. Devices that you carry in a pocket or bag are especially susceptible to this type of damage, as the shifting pressures against them push the bits of dirt around.

You should regularly remove the device from the case and clean the case in much the same way you would the device. Use a soft cloth or small vacuum to get into the corners and crevices of the case, being sure that remove all of the dirt and dust. Replace screen protectors regularly, too, as they peel slightly at the edges over time, and their sticky undersurface acts as a magnet for dirt and dust.

Remember, a clean gadget is a happy gadget; and you want to keep your gadgets happy if you plan to keep using them for years—or at least until your latest two-year contract expires. If you treat your mobile tech well, it should reward you with long and faithful service. Treat it badly, and your buttons will fail, your screen will become dull, and your gadgets will hate you.

This story, "Keep your mobile device clean" was originally published by TechHive.

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