Your keyboard and mouse are disgusting. Here's how to (safely) clean them

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Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are having something of a moment. And while we're all spritzing our hands with alcohol multiple times per day and wiping down the doorknobs, it can be easy to overlook other common household items that frequently have our grubby paws all over them, like the computer keyboard and mouse. Did you know that some studies have found keyboards shared among multiple users can harbor hundreds of times more bacteria than a toilet seat? That's just nasty.

So here's how to clean your keyboard and mouse.

Cleaning your computer keyboard

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1. Turn off and unplug your device

First, make sure you've got the keyboard unplugged and away from any sensitive computer parts. You definitely don't want to blow dust out from the keyboard into your PC tower if you've got both on your desk.

If you have a laptop that comes with a keyboard, you'll want to unplug it from the AC adapter before cleaning.

2. Take the keyboard and shake, shake, shake

It's not uncommon for crumbs and bits of crunchy snacks to fall in between the keyboard keys. The solution is simple: Turn the keyboard upside down and shake that thing until your midnight snacks of months past drop out.

If you have a laptop, then you need to be more gentle. Be careful about shaking your device roughly while the top half is unsupported. Letting it flop around might damage the screen's hinges.

3. Use air for the stuff that's hiding

Shaking the keyboard won't get out all the dust, because some crumbs will get stuck behind the keys and refuse to come out. Or maybe you're not comfortable shaking your laptop.

Canned air can come to your rescue during times like these. Use the canister as directed and point the narrow nozzle between the keys. If you can pop the keys off your keyboard, this would be a great time to do it and blast out the debris from beneath them. If you can't, not a problem — just angle the keyboard and keep shooting air through the keys as best you can. Take care not to hit your bare skin with the canned air.

4. Bring out the vacuum

A vacuum with an attachment can get the rest of the dry stuff if there's any still lingering. Go ahead and skip straight to using it if you don't have any canned air lying around. (However, if you have lots of electronics at home, you might want to consider buying canned air just because it's safer to use for delicate devices.)

You can also use toothpicks to chip at anything dried and stuck between the keys before vacuuming it up. Be gentle, though.

5. Wipe down the keys

Here is where your disinfectant wipes can come in. Use the wipes to clean up the surface of the keys and the body of the keyboard. If you're having trouble getting between the keys, use a cotton swab to push the wipe between the narrow spaces. This can get rid of any sticky spots left behind by any liquids you spilled or splashed. (Very helpful if you're an eat-soup-at-the-desk type of person like me.)

Try to avoid using bleach wipes as those can cause discoloration or ruin any coatings on the device. Apple specifically cautions against certain cleaning agents, which you should be aware of if you're a Mac user. If you don't have wipes, isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will work just as well. However, you don't have that, then use lukewarm water. Just make sure your wipes or paper towels are lightly damp — don't dunk or soak the keyboard as if you're washing dishes.

Let your keyboard or laptop dry before hooking it back up and using it again.

Cleaning your computer mouse

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1. Unplug the mouse

Next comes the mouse. Disconnect it from the computer or remove any batteries if it uses any. This step prevents any potential harm from electrical shocks if any liquid happens to get into it.

2. Wipe it down with a dry cloth

Dry cloths, preferably microfiber cloths, are best to use for the mouse. This wipes away the grease clinging to the surface and bottom. This alone might get rid of most of the dust; if there's nothing else stuck to the mouse, then skip straight to using a wipe for disinfecting.

3. Chip away at gunk with a toothpick

If you've still got crumbs on the bottom or in the grooves of your mouse, use a toothpick to get those out. A basic mouse might not have this problem, but if you've got one of those Transformer-looking gaming mice, then you probably need to do a bit of detailed cleaning.

If you're uncomfortable with a toothpick, then use a cotton swab.

4. Use isopropyl alcohol or disinfectant wipes

Use a wipe to take away any sticky residue. Make sure to get the bottom, but be gentle when you go over the sensor. If your mouse splits into parts, go ahead and separate them and wipe them down. Wait for everything to dry before putting it back together and using it again.

And that's your keyboard and mouse done. While you're at it, you can use a slightly damp cloth to wipe down your mousepad as well. And before you put away your cleaning supplies, take care of your smartphone, too.