Revealed: the grubby gadgets putting your health at risk – and how often you should clean them

Yup, it's not just our hands that need sanitising
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  • We’ve all got the message by now about washing our hands, but new research shows that the UK public could be putting themselves at risk of illness by not frequently sanitising their household electricals – and crucially, TV remote controls.

    Of course, the more we wash our hands, the less we’ll need to clean our gadgets. But it’s worth bearing in mind that lots of different germs can survive on household electronics, including viruses, bacteria and mould.

    Related: The most important cleaning tasks to keep up after lockdown is lifted

    Once your remote become contaminated, the germs can linger for days, and it’s possible to fall ill via contact with contaminated surfaces.

    Media packaging provider Neo-Online investigated why we should be cleaning our household gadgets, how often we should be doing so, and what we should be using to sanitise them. Collaborating with Lisa Evans, spokesperson from MyJobQuote, Henry Paterson, Senior Operations Executive at Housekeep, and Lynsey Crombie, Queen of Clean, they’ve come up with this guide on how to clean remote controls, game controllers, keyboards and and other electrical items.

    What should I use to clean household gadgets?

    How-to-clean-remote-controls-TV

    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    For cleaning electronics, it’s best to use a small quantity of rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) applied to a microfibre cloth, or alcohol wipes. Alcohol evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave behind excess moisture which could damage electronics.

    Look for between 60-80% alcohol, as higher concentrations can evaporate before they’ve had sufficient contact time to sanitise.

    Related: How to make your own hand sanitiser

    Whatever devices you’re cleaning, make sure that you do not get any moisture in openings such as charging ports or headphone jacks.

    How to clean remote controls

    How-to-clean-remote-controls

    Image credit: TI Media

    TV remotes should be cleaned monthly, or even weekly if shared by multiple people, and more frequently if a family member is ill.

    Firstly, remove the batteries from the remote, then use a disinfectant wipe or cloth to sweep over the remote a few times. To clean around the buttons, use a cotton wool bud and a toothpick to remove any stuck debris.

    How to clean gaming controllers

    Gaming controllers should be cleaned every 2 weeks if used regularly, and weekly (or more frequently) if shared by multiple people.

    Using a disinfectant wipe or cloth, clean the entire controller area, ensuring any power sources have been removed. Use a cotton wool bud and toothpick to gently clean around the button and joysticks to remove any lodged grime.

    How to clean earphones and headsets

    How-to-clean-remote-controls-earphones

    Image credit: TI Media

    Earphones should be cleaned once a week, or before each use if you take them out of the house.

    Cleaning with a cotton wool bud and disinfectant spray will keep any germs and bacteria away. Make sure to avoid spraying directly into the electrics and remove the earphones from any power source before cleaning.

    Headsets should be cleaned every two weeks, or before each use if you wear them five days a week for work purposes.

    Using a disinfectant cloth or wipe when the headsets are not plugged in. Make sure to dry them efficiently before using.

    How to clean chargers

    Chargers should be cleaned every week.

    Wiping them down with a disinfectant cloth will prevent the build-up of germs around the household. It’s important to clean chargers when they’re not plugged in as you don’t want to get a nasty electric shock.

    How to clean your keyboard and mouse

    How-to-clean-remote-controls-keyboard

    Image credit: Brett Charles

    A computer mouseshould be cleaned monthly at minimum if infrequently used, but before and after each use if excessive daily use.

    Cleaning your mouse with an alcohol wipe will stop an accumulation of bacteria and germs. Wipe the underside of your mouse from dirt and debris, as this can prevent it from working efficiently too.

    Your computer keyboardshould be cleaned monthly at minimum if infrequently used, but before and after each use if daily use.

    You can do this by using a disinfectant wipe and sweep it over the keyboard gently. Make sure the keyboard isn’t plugged into a power source before doing this. You can then use a cotton bud to go in-between the keys and clear any debris.

    How to clean a mobile phone

    Mobile phones should be cleaned regularly – wipe down your phone screen and around your case at least once a day. You’ll want to remove your phone case and wipe the back of the phone every few days, as well as thoroughly cleaning the case. You probably won’t need to clean the ports out daily, but should do this once a week or so.

    When cleaning your phone screen, use a lint-free, soft cloth, and an alcohol wipe. Unplug all power sources and avoid getting moisture in any openings.

    Get more tips from our dedicated care and cleaning category

    To clean your phone case, a disinfectant cloth or wipe will be fine. Remove the phone from the case before disinfecting and ensure the case is dry before putting the phone back in.

    To clean your charging ports, use a toothpick, or a compressed air can. Don’t blow down them, as your breath holds a lot of moisture which could cause damage to your phone.

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