Six Electronics on Your Desk That You Should Clean Regularly

Plus, the essential products you need to get the job done.

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Photo: Matthew Williams

Keeping your desk in order may already be on your daily to-do list: Storing documents and essential paperwork in an organization system all your own, keeping pens and pencils all in one place, and arranging books and magazines in an orderly fashion takes a few minutes out of your schedule each day. Cleaning goes hand in hand with organizing and upkeep-and just as you would at home, you'll need to clean the stationary items on your desk every once in a while.

We're not just talking about your desk surface (this should be done frequently, especially if you eat lunch at your desk), but rather those electronics you spend hours using each and every day. If you can't remember the last time you disinfected your office phone or sanitized your keyboard, it's about time you do so. "Any of the common disinfectant wipes that you use to clean other surfaces in your home should not be used on most types of electronics on your desk," says Burton Kelso, the chief tech expert at Integral Computer Consultants, a Kansas City-based technology services firm. "The real problem is that bleach-like disinfectant wipes can void the warranty on your devices, and cause corrosion on touch screens. Chemicals in a commercial wipe can ruin it."

In this guide, Kelso and other experts share safe ways to wipe down and clean each piece of technology on your desk.


If you're using a landline, Kelso says the best approach to regularly cleaning a desk phone is to use a fine microfiber cloth and a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the phone's surfaces. Unplug the phone before cleaning the keypad and individual buttons with a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Kelso says rubbing alcohol can be corrosive on an interactive touch-screen surface, so if you are using a smartphone or cellphone at your desk, you'll need to change tactics-and carefully spot clean each detail on the phone itself using the microfiber cloth and a bit of water. Alternatively, you could invest in a UV-light cleaning gadget, which is Kelso's first choice to disinfect handheld technology. "Alcohol is somewhat corrosive, which is why we've seen the rise of UV cleaners, because you don't want to use anything other than water to clean those screens out," he says. Kelso uses Phonesoap on a regular basis to clean handheld smartphones without impacting touch screens or other sensitive features.


Ideally, you should be deep cleaning your keyboard at least twice a month, if not once a week-researchers from the University of Arizona have previously found that keyboards can harbor 400 times the amount of bacteria found on a toilet seat. If you're cleaning an external keyboard or one that can be disconnected, unplug it first. Laptops that feature a built-in keyboard need to be shut off first, says Art O'Gnimh, head of keyboards and the C&P portfolio at Logitech. "It's a safety measure when dealing with electronics. Plus, you don't want to accidentally send someone an email," he says. While there's a special coating on the keys to prevent the letters from rubbing off, O'Gnimh says, you should only use dampened microfiber cloths to clean your keyboard-harsh chemicals could remove any protective layering.

O'Gnimh recommends using a dampened Q-Tip or a soft toothbrush to remove dust and other debris from the nooks of a keyboard. If that doesn't clear up the mess, both O'Gnimh and Kelso recommend using compressed air to blow away tough-to-remove dirt. Don't spray the can while holding it upside down, as this may cause propellant to spray onto the keyboard. If your keyboard still looks or feels particularly oily, don't reach for rubbing alcohol. "Pure and Clean was originally a non-toxic way to clean out wounds-but there are Pure and Clean products that you can use for business purposes, and we use it here," Kelso says. "Spray the solution onto the microfiber cloth before wiping the keyboard down; it'll clean most electronics and its noncorrosive."


In a similar fashion to keyboards, you'll use dampened microfiber cloths and rubbing alcohol to clean the surface of your mouse. You can also use Pure and Clean's surface cleaner to disinfect your mouse as well, but be sure to spray it onto a cloth first before applying it to the mouse. Spraying the mouse directly could lead to moisture becoming trapped underneath the right and left click buttons on your device. If you have a greater budget, Kelso says you can also buy UV-light cleaner gadgets in larger sizes to accommodate both smaller and larger items, from a mouse to a keyboard. Phonesoap sells a larger model designed to disinfect common household items using UV light.

Desktops and Laptops

One of the most common factors that can lead to performance issues on desktop and laptop computers actually has to do with dust, Kelso says. He suggests regularly wiping down the surfaces of your machine with a microfiber cloth and one of the cleaning agents he's recommended. You should also deep clean your entire unit, including all of its ports and crevices, every six months using compressed air. "Don't blow into those crevices-the moisture from saliva can end up in these areas over time, which can render certain functionalities useless," Kelso says. "Most PCs and Mac products have vents; some are directly installed into desktops, and most laptops have them as well. Computers are sucking in cool air to keep hardware cool, which means if you don't clean these vents over time, a bunch of dust bunnies can actually collect inside your machine. Dust is a major killer of all electronics."

If you feel comfortable taking apart your machine, do so, but Kelso recommends asking a technician to take a look at your computer's interior twice a year for the best results. Experts can remove dust that's collected inside the machine, but you'll be less likely to run into problems if you keep both your workspace and the machine dust-free. When cleaning screens and monitors, Apple specialists told Martha Stewart Living that it's important to power down shutdown computers before using a microfiber cloth dampened with water to softly wipe away any marks and streaks. These monitors and screens are susceptible to scratches and discoloration, so harsh cleaners aren't recommended.


In addition to wiping down the exterior of your printer every once in a while, Kelso says there are a few things you can clean to extend the life of your desktop printer. "Inkjet printers get clogged after a while, which is why I often have to use a [cotton swab] and rubbing alcohol to clear up some of the excess gunk that they can leave behind in the interior," Kelso says. "For laser printers, the toner is inside the printer, but using a can of compressed air inside the printer can blow out any toner that's accumulated on a surface." Most printers are also equipped with a utility function to clean your inkjets-Kelso says to run that feature every time you swap out ink cartridges, and then use a cotton swab to mop up any excess ink that appears around the jet head afterward.

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