Dust, coffee drips, and other debris on computer keyboards and monitors, tablets, phones, and TVs make them look disgusting—and can affect how they work. But cleaning your electronics the wrong way can do more harm than good.

Stores sell special wipes for your monitor, tablet-cleaning kits, and keyboard dust blowers. Do you really need them? Read on for the best methods to clean each type of device, and what not to do.

Tablets, computer displays, and smart phones

Don’t use glass cleaner or other solvents on the screens. That could remove the coating that lets your fingers glide easily over the surface.

Do use a microfiber or soft cotton cloth with just a little splash of water. Most of those devices come with a microfiber cloth.

For more expert tips, check our buying guides for computers, tablets, smart phones, digital cameras, and TVs.

TVs

Don’t use window cleaner, ammonia, alcohol, paper towels, or anything abrasive. All of them can damage a screen.

Do use a microfiber cloth or another soft, lint-free cloth. Make sure it’s clean because embedded dust or dirt can scratch the screen. Also, turn off the TV and let it cool down before wiping it. Then start with a dry cloth. If you still see dirt or smudges, dampen it slightly with lukewarm water or water mixed with a few drops of mild dish or hand soap. Rub the screen gently, and then let it dry.

Keyboards

Don’t use a drippy towel or wipe.

Do use special keyboard wipes or slightly moistened disinfecting wipes. Use compressed gas if you think there’s a lot of dust in your keyboard. Spray it on while you’re holding the keyboard upside down. That way, the dust will fall out instead of getting embedded even deeper inside key crevices.

—Donna Tapellini

 A version of this story appeared in the August-September issue of ShopSmart magazine.

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