When was the last time you really looked at the glass covering your smartphone screen? If you do, you'll probably see a collection of oily fingerprints, dead skin or makeup from holding it up to your face, maybe some dust or flecks of spit from holding it near your face at lunch ... any number of other gross things, really.
Just think; you touch that screen hundreds of times a day. You also probably don't want to consider the state of your tablet screen, eReader screen or computer keyboard and mouse.
It isn't just the gross factor, either. Dust, dirt and other contaminants can clog up gadgets - especially computers. This leads to overheating, which can slow down your electronics or cause permanent damage.
Don't forget flu and allergy seasons, either. Dirty electronics are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria - especially if you share a gadget with kids. And when you're out and about, pollen can stick to a messy gadget and travel indoors with you.
Have we totally grossed you out yet? Good. Before you dunk your gadget in boiling water, though, let me tell you how to clean it without ruining it.
Handy hint: If you ever do drop your gadget in water, watch this video to learn how to salvage it.
Whether you're trying to clean a computer, smartphone, tablet, HDTV or any tech gadget, you just need to follow a few easy steps. Reminder: Whenever you're cleaning a gadget, make sure it's turned off and unplugged.
Let's start with gadgets that have screens, which covers smartphones, tablets, eReaders, TVs and monitors. The best thing to clean a screen is a microfiber cloth, which is soft and won't scratch the screen. Don't use regular paper towels because these can cause scratches and nicks.
Need microfiber clothes? We sell them in the the Komando Shop, and they even have Kim's picture on them. Click here to take a peek.
Most dirt and debris will just wipe away, but for more stubborn smudges and fingerprints, lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water. Don't pour the water directly on the screen.
Some people mix the water in a 1-to-1 ratio with white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for a deeper clean. Note: Don't use glass cleaner on a computer screen or TV because many brands contain ammonia, which can ruin the screen surface.
You can use the above tips to clean a DSLR lens, but make sure you're extremely careful. Before you use cloths or liquids, try using a bulb syringe or other low-powered air blower to blow away the dust. I sell a great camera cleaning kit in my shop right here.
A microfiber cloth works to clean the body of your gadget, too. However, a cotton swab does an even better job and can clean gunk out of the corners of the case or any open ports. If you're dealing with a keyboard, make sure you swab between each key.
If the swab itself doesn't do the job, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol is a good cleaner. Dampen the swab and go to town. Even though rubbing alcohol dries quickly, don't let it pool because it might leak into the interior. If it does, you'll need to wait 15 minutes or so before turning on the gadget to make sure it's evaporated.
Cotton swabs also work great for cleaning a computer keyboard and the various ports and openings in the computer case. Some people use a can of compressed air for this task. Use the air can when you need to get rid of lots of loose buildup and save the swabs for sticky gunk and detail work.
Where compressed air really shines is cleaning out your laptop or desktop. If you're afraid to open up your computer, you can simply spray the air into the fan's exhaust vent.
Spray in quick bursts to prevent your computer's fans from spinning too fast. Excessive spinning can damage them. You can also stick a pencil or pen between the blades as you spray to prevent it from spinning.
Bonus tip: Run over frequently touched surfaces periodically with disinfectant wipes to kill germs. Keep some handy during flu season for keyboards and mice and use them either first thing in the day or before any new person starts using the gadget.
Opening up your computer allows you get an even deeper clean and get rid of dust and hair that can cause overheating. You should do this at least very six months. If you live in a dusty environment like Phoenix, or have pets, ever few months might be better.
As always, when working inside a computer, static electricity is your enemy. Be sure to ground yourself before putting your hands near any electrical components. You can do this by occasionally touching the case or power supply, or buy a static wrist guard.
Once the computer is open, you can wipe down the case and any non-electrical parts - including fans, the power supply casing and optical drives - with a dry cloth. Use microfiber or paper towel, it doesn't matter.
When it comes to electrical components, such as the motherboard, RAM and any add-on cards, I recommend using compressed air. Again, brace any interior fans so they don't spin too fast and get damaged.
When it's time to blast with air, we strongly recommend goggles and a dust mask, especially if the inside of your computer looks like this dust trap. Definitely do your cleaning in a well-ventilated outdoor area, like a porch or backyard. You can also have a vacuum cleaner on hand to pick up loose dust or pull it out of the air.
For stubborn or built-up dust areas, a paper towel can work, just be very careful not to push too hard and damage parts on the circuit board. Don't use anything cloth-based because it might have built up static electricity. Also, don't use cotton swabs because they catch on circuit board components and leave cotton fibers.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest radio show about the digital lifestyle, heard on 435 stations in the USA and globally on American Forces Radio. Find your local radio station, read more digital news, get the podcast and more at Komando.com.