Tech Cleaning 101: Helping Your Gadgets Survive Your KidsHeather Spohr
Sometimes I find myself staring at the gadgets at the electronics store and wondering how the ones I’ve got at home ever could have been so shiny and new. That’s because, as the mother of a toddler who loves to get her sticky fingers on anything even remotely electronic (including the remote), I have a hard time keeping my gadgets in tip-top shape. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few indispensable tricks to clean my gadgets after they’ve spent some quality time in the hands of lil’ Miss Annie.
Disclaimer: These tips work for me, but you should always consult your instruction manual before doing anything.
It doesn’t matter if it’s my TV, computer, smart phone, or tablet – if its got a screen, its got Annie’s finger prints on it. And, since Annie is a toddler, her fingers are often smudged with chocolate, milk, or honey. Awesome!
If I only have household items at my disposal, I pass over the paper towels and cleaning detergents (which can cause damage), and instead grab one of my husband’s clean T-shirts. T-shirts are great for cleaning away minor smudges and build-up when lightly pressed against the screen. For more intense messes – and let’s face it, with kids they’re always more intense – I turn off the machine and wipe the screen with a baby wipe.
For best results, though, I use a screen cleaning kit. I finally broke down and bought one not too long ago, and it was well worth it. Most kits come with soft cloths (like “chamois” or “terry”) and a spray bottle of alcohol-free, ammonia-free and phosphate-free cleaner.
I have a number of tricks for cleaning my keyboards, some of which are lo-tech, and some of which are a bit more sophisticated. Lo-tech techniques include turning my keyboard upside down and gently shaking out crumbs and the like, and placing scotch tape between the keys to snag other unwelcome guests.
On the more sophisticated side, I use compressed air (or a hair dryer in a pinch), electronics cleaning putty, and computer cleaning wipes (baby wipes work, too). It’s smart to spend a few extra bucks on this stuff so you have it on hand for the inevitable child related mishap.
Kids have an amazing ability to scratch, smudge, or generally muck up DVDs and CDs. If Annie gets her hands on a CD or DVD she will play with it a few minutes, then leave it in the corner gathering dust. To clean a dirty disc, try gently rubbing it with a clean T-shirt. You can also squirt a little window cleaner onto the T-shirt before cleaning the disc. I’ve used this trick to make unplayable discs playable again.
Like many parents I’ve had that nightmare moment when my kid spills liquid onto one of my electronics. It’s not always possible to save your gadget when this happens, but to have a chance you need to act fast. If the spill happens on your keyboard, immediately turn it upside down to force out the fluid, then use q-tips to soak up as much of what is left as possible. After that you’ll want to dry it out. Many people dry out smaller electronics like a phone or tablet in a bag of rice because the rice will absorb any leftover moisture. We keep a jumbo bag of rice on hand, just in case!
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