Five Things You Use Everyday That You Need to Clean

If you catch Swine Flu from your cell phone, you can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.

This week…

Five Things You Use Everyday That You Need to Clean

Even though nobody seems to care about keeping themselves germ-free quite as much as when there’s a hip, animal-centric influenza pandemic filling up the late local news, the disinfecting of one’s hands and, more importantly, their personal effects is a course of action that should be a part of everyone’s normal routine, regardless of the headlines.

If the threat of illness isn’t enough to get you interested in cleaning the things that occupy your hands, pockets, and/or bag everyday (and here’s a fact that seems to be lost on most people: 36,000 people die every year from the regular flu)… how about doing it just because the rest of us don’t like looking at (and occasionally having to directly come into contact with) your filth?

All self-respecting men should take the time to remove the burgeoning civilizations of germs that easily take hold of the following five most frequently handled objects.

5. Everything in your wallet

One of the underrated reasons we all use credit/debit cards is so that we don’t have to handle actual money, which is renowned for being a disgusting carrier of germs.

Well, the plastic isn’t invincible. After just a few weeks of use, your cards can carry germs and dirt that will not only threaten the integrity of the cards’ magnetic strips but they will also become a quasi-Petri dish containing the aftermath of hundreds of encounters with the plastic of others. Those card swiping slots on check-out counters, gas pumps, and ATMs have been used by nearly everyone and, as you may have guessed, they are not cleaned with any sort of regularity. If you let your credit/debit cards go unchecked, you’re definitely going to contract some sort of mutant disease that passed through a 7-11 six months ago. Lifehacker recently addressed the best way to clean your credit and debit cards (if nothing else, they will be shinier).

Additionally: while your driver’s license and other membership cards may not fraternize with grime quite as much as your charge cards, they are exposed to a fair bit of the world themselves and should also get the credit card treatment.

4. Computer keyboard

Unless you have one of those Macs with the white keyboard, you probably have no idea just how dreadfully overrun with dirt and grime your black/grey keyboard really is. Well guess what: they’re pretty gross. The good news is that all the filth on there is probably only your filth so the breadth of dangerous microbes is limited. Regardless, it’s still a little gross and unsightly.

The best way to clean it is with some of the compressed gas air dusters and then the pre-moistened screen cleaning wipes, which are totally safe to use on plastic.

3. Keys

You probably never even consider whether or not your keys are clean or dirty, in any way. I never did, until recently. But they are surely a nightmare.

When the keyring is not in your potentially dirty hands, it’s sitting on a table that may or may not be filthy, being accidentally dropped on the ground, and, most dangerously, coming into close contact with doorknobs (which are teeming with microscopic death, as you would guess).

Clean the keys themselves with soap and water (and maybe rubbing alcohol), clean any of those mini-swipe cards on there (like for a grocery store or bookstore rewards program), clean any of the non-essential keychains (my Boba Fett, as it turns out, collects a lot of dirt), and finally, any little rubber key covers may need to be disinfected and ultimately replaced, entirely.

If you want to go above and beyond, polish the keys to really complete the “medieval dungeon master” look.

2. Television remote

More than anything item on this list, several other people handle the remote control and though many of us will never admit it, when we’re bored and sitting in front of the TV for a while… that remote may go near our mouths. It’s weird, I know, but it happens.

On top of that, the remote control frequently falls under couches/tables (earning itself a wonderful dusting from all sorts of refuse) and is rarely completely replaced, festering on your coffee table for years on end.

With some Q-Tips, rubbing alcohol, warm water, and paper towels, you can undo years of community funk collection and maybe stop the spread of infection between roommates or family members, in the process.

1. Cell phone

Your fingerprints are all over it. You put it near your mouth. You let your friends hold it and put it near their mouths. If there were a gadget zombie outbreak, cell phones would absolutely be patient zero.

Fortunately, there’s a way to cut off the epidemiological supply lines, as it relates to getting sick due to your personal electronic devices. First of all, (brace for revolutionary concept) keep your hands clean; clean hands will make sure your texting doesn’t churn up a new Black Plague. Secondly, don’t share the phone during the colder months, when your friends are much more likely to infect your device. Finally, hit the Internet and read one of forty million “how to clean a cell phone” tutorials

Justin Brown is a writer and artist living in Virginia. He channels most of his mind's molten river of creativity into his blog Esteban Was Eaten!. For even more information about him, check out his website.