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Tech Bytes - Spring Cleaning: Don’t forget your electronics

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Apr 19th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Spring Cleaning: Don’t forget your electronics

It’s April, and although it may not feel like our typical Minnesota spring, many people are beginning their spring cleaning if they haven’t already completed it. Cleaning out storage, washing windows, cleaning carpets, dusting--they’re all typical spring cleaning chores. But what about all of your electronic gadgets? They probably need a little sanitizing several times a year, not just in the spring. And no, I’m not talking about cleaning out those untouched, never used files, programs, and applications on your devices. I am thinking about something much simpler: cleaning your screens, keyboards, and keypads.

In fact, these surfaces are some of the worst bacteria breeding grounds that exist, ranking right up on the list with public restroom surfaces (okay, maybe not quite that bad). Restroom talk aside, in a study done by paper products and office hygiene company Kimberly-Clark Professional, two of the six most germ-infested surfaces were keypads including vending machines keypads and computer keyboards.

But even if we don’t spend a lot of time on the computer, a lot of people use cell phones constantly. Many studies suggest that individuals check their smartphones up to 34 times a day, and even more if you’re a person who sends a lot of text messages. However, would you check your phone so often if you had to wash your hands after every use? Maybe you would want to after hearing these facts.

Researchers from the University of London after examining several phones found that 24 percent of push button phones tested positive in the study of carrying bacteria capable of causing skin rashes, respiratory illnesses such as influenza, or even the stomach flu! A lot of people may be thinking, ‘Good thing I have a touch-screen phone.’ Well, think again. Touch screen phones only came in with a rating of 3 percent lower than push button phones. Worse yet, phones don’t just spread those germs to your hands. People put them right up to their faces when placing a call.

Now think of everything else that you touch: the television remote, the office copy machine, your laptop and desktop keyboards, the microwave keypad, calculators… Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to clean these once a week, right? So since it’s the season of spring cleaning, add clean keypads to the list. In the best case scenario you may save yourself a case of the common cold or the flu in future years.

Note: You want to be particularly careful when cleaning your electronic devices. Spraying disinfectant liquids onto electronics is not a good method. To avoid damaging electrical components, disinfectant wipes or gentle liquid disinfectants on paper towels yield the best results. Harsh cleaners on screens are also not an optimal idea.

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