Part of the reason our phones are so filthy is that we tend to bring them everywhere. Like, we’re probably scrolling in between wiping our butts. Unless we’re bringing our computers with us into the bathroom (seek help, if so), there’s a bit more of a barrier in place — at the very least, we usually wash our hands after going to the bathroom and then touching our computers.
But while I give my cellphone at least a daily rubdown in alcohol, my computer doesn’t get nearly the same love. Should it?
Is it as important as cleaning my phone, though?
Bathroom aside, we’re not bringing our computers out in public much, especially now. While maybe we brought it to a coffee shop or used it at the office, our computers don’t often come in contact with too many germs beyond our own. Still, there is definitely some crossover, even if it’s just from touching a doorknob and then logging back in. Not to mention, you probably aren’t the cleanest, either. Don’t pretend you haven’t shoved your hand down your pants and then returned to typing at one point or another while working from home.
According to microbiologist Jason “The Germ Guy” Tetro, author of The Germ Files and host of the Super Awesome Science Show, the germs on our bodies aren’t always great to keep around. “Keyboards, mice and electronic devices are in many ways an extension of ourselves, like another limb,” he explains. “So, you would expect to have the same types of microbes on these surfaces as you might your hands. Some of the more troubling ones happen to be fecal bacteria like E. coli from a lack of proper handwashing.”
There are also plenty of germs that may or may not be concerning. “You will no doubt find skin bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, including potentially antibiotic-resistant isolates,” he says. “You can also expect to see yeast, some of which could cause infections where hair grows. Also, you can expect to see environmental bacteria and fungi, although they may not cause much harm.”
If you eat around your computer, bacteria from food can multiply on the surface, too. “They may also develop biofilms, allowing multiple species to hang out together, including pathogens,” says Tetro.
Despite this, Tetro recommends only cleaning your computer with a disinfectant wipe once a week or so if you work alone, or daily if you work in a communal space. IT specialist Zack Gaudet warns to be careful that the disinfectant wipe isn’t too saturated, though. “Those wipes are usually going to leave a good amount of liquid on the keyboard, which can potentially seep into the internals,” he says. Instead, he suggests spraying disinfectant spray onto a clean towel or cloth, and wiping down the computer this way. Per Apple’s protocol, he also recommends unplugging and powering down your computer before cleaning, and drying it with a microfiber towel afterward.
“The key is just to avoid moisture getting to the actual electronics inside the computer, especially while the laptop has power. If the laptop doesn’t have power and stuff gets in there, just leave it off and wait an hour or two for it to dry,” he says. He also recommends using a non-conductive cleaner designed specifically for electronics, like this one.
So, no, you don’t need to be as religious about cleaning your computer as you might your phone, but it’s still a decent idea to give that thing a rubdown once a week or so. You’ll probably feel a bit better about yourself once you realize your computer is no longer covered in fingerprints and crumbs, too.