How-to: Clean your favorite gadgets
If the image on your LCD or plasma set isn’t as high-def as it’s supposed to be, the problem might not be the technology; it may be the dust. Windex and other glass cleaners can leave a hazy residue on plasma and LCD screens. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of filtered or bottled water and isopropyl alcohol, then lightly mist it onto a very soft, nonabrasive cloth, such as a cotton T-shirt or a large microfiber dust cloth. (Paper towels may scratch the screen.)
You can clean your PC’s exterior with a damp cloth, but the real mess is inside the case, where dust restricts airflow. Remove the case’s top or side panel and use a can of compressed air to blow dust from components such as the fans, CPU heat sink and video card. Always hold the can upright and position the case so its opening is on the side, to ensure that blown dust doesn’t resettle on your components.
Clean speaker cabinets and removable plastic or metal grilles with a soft, damp cloth. Carefully vacuum fabric grilles from both sides. If the grilles are really dirty, you can remove them, rinse them in warm water and let them air-dry. If they aren’t removable, use a damp cloth to clean them, but be careful not to get any water on the drivers inside. Don’t clean the drivers unless they’re covered in dust. If they are, use a clean, dry paintbrush to gently sweep away the dust.
You can clean any printer’s exterior with a damp cloth, but interior cleaning differs for inkjet and laser printers. For inkjets, open the ink-cartridge access panel and use a dry cloth or foam or chamois cleaning swabs to remove any dust or ink. Then run your printer’s head-cleaning software to clear the ink nozzle. For laser printers, remove the toner cartridge and wipe the toner cavity and rollers with a dry cloth, while avoiding the transfer roller that sits directly under the cartridge. Resist the urge to clean the optical mirror near the toner cavity; you’ll only distort it.
The tips for cleaning flat-panel sets also apply to laptop screens, while a damp cloth can be used on the shell and touchpad. Use compressed air to dust off the keyboard, ports and fans — but first stick a toothpick in any fans so they won’t be damaged by overspinning. Your user’s guide should show how to detach the keyboard so you can use the can of compressed air on the internal components. If your keys are gunky and the user’s guide indicates that they are removable, use swabs and undiluted isopropyl alcohol to remove any residue.
A soft cloth dampened with a 60/40 mixture of water and alcohol is the ideal way to wipe off your phone and kill bacteria. If the keys are somewhat unresponsive (and you don’t mind potentially voiding your warranty), follow instructions in the manual to pop the front and rear panels off your phone, and remove the battery and keypad. Use a swab dampened with undiluted alcohol to gently clean the circuit board beneath the keypad, and the power/data connector on the side or bottom of the phone.
For smudges on the lens, use a chamois cloth and an alcohol/water solution. Many tape formats, such as MiniDV and Digital8, use internal lubricants that can form deposits on read/write heads and various rollers. If your image quality is suffering, run a cleaning cassette through the camera for five to 10 seconds. If the camera eats tapes, clean off any gunk on both the heads and capstans with an alcohol-dampened swab, then allow them to air-dry before using.
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