Working Clean

By Chelle Cordero

February 15, 2017 5 min read

If you could see the germs on your computer keyboard or on the mouthpiece of your cellphone, you would say, "Eww!" Everything you touch -- from the handrail of a public escalator to the toilet handle in a diner's restroom -- is filled with germs. Each time you touch something that someone else previously handled or something that has sat collecting dust, pet hair or germs from coughs and sneezes, you are transporting these microbes.

Stop the insanity! Or rather, stop the spreading of nasty bacteria and viruses.

Techies may think that cleaning the desktop involves defragging and freeing up space on the hard drive. But it's just as important to clean your keyboard if you want to keep your machine in great shape. Despite the tendency to want to run a vacuum over your keyboard and open ports, it is not a good idea. The vacuum brush and suction might cause a static electricity buildup, which would not bode well. There are mini-vacuums specifically designed for computers. Dust and pet hair can get into the cracks and crevices of your keyboard and vents to wreak havoc on your computer's delicate electronics -- coating them with a form of dirt insulation and not allowing heat to escape the unit; eventually, it overheats.

Take your keyboard and/or your central processing unit to an outside area if possible so that when the particles you are trying to clean out go flying in the air, they won't settle back on your workspace or tools. Turn your keyboard upside down and shake it gently to dislodge crumbs, dust and other alien matter. Using a can of compressed air spray, gently blow out stubborn garbage. Never spray directly into crevices when using compressed air spray, or you might drive specks and dust further into the unit. Wipe your keypad down with a disinfecting over-the-counter towelette. Next, use a barely damp microfiber cloth to wipe down the keyboard, wrist rest and more. Using a second clean microfiber cloth, wipe away any moisture and dust that remain behind.

Unplug your mouse, and remove the batteries. Shake it out and let the accumulated dust fall out. You can use the air spray to help brush away any clingy dust particles. Just as you did for the keyboard, wipe the mouse with a damp disinfecting towelette and then use a barely damp microfiber cloth and a dry microfiber towel. Make sure that you don't leave any excess moisture on either unit or let any moisture seep into the openings. Never submerge the keyboard or mouse in water -- and do not remove the keys, or they might pop off the next time you are typing something.

Phones get breathed on constantly. Breaths not only leave germs but also are humid, causing a moisture buildup that is a breeding ground for the microbes. Disinfecting wipes, bleach and other cleansers can be harsh and damaging to the special coatings in the glass and plastic covers; the same thing goes for the glass covers on tablets. Put equal parts water and 70 percent isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle, and spray a very small amount onto a clean, soft cloth like the type used to wipe eyeglasses; never spray the solution directly onto the phone or tablet. Use the barely damp cloth to wipe your device down, and use a second, dry cloth to wipe away any moisture.

Clean the clutter off your desk and workspace. Only the things you use with regularity should be on or near your desk. Put books on a shelf. Stick pens and pencils in a single cup holder. And file paperwork in folders in a filing cabinet or deep drawer. Put things you will need to reach for, such as a phone, on your dominant side so you won't knock over anything you are reaching across. Make sure you have a completely clear surface that will fit paperwork that you need to mark up, fill out or sign during your workday. Wipe your computer screen with a cloth that's barely damp with the water/alcohol solution. Use a damp disinfecting towelette to wipe off the desk surface, getting rid of any dust, crumbs, pet hair or oils from your hands.

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