Sara’s Tech Tips: How To Clean Your Gadgets

May 24, 2011 at 9:48 am , by

Whether the dust that has created a protective barrier between you and your ability to see your TV screen or the computer keyboard contains at least one crumb from every meal you’ve multi-tasked over the last several months… our gadgets can get pretty nasty. Here’s the scoop on how to clean them (without ruining them!).

What you’ll need: Water and isopropyl alcohol (mixed 60/40,) a bottle of compressed air, microfiber or electrostatic cloths (like Swiffer or Pledge dry cloths) and cotton swabs.

Remember: You should always turn off and unplug all devices before cleaning them. Also, rather than vigorously scrubbing your gear like you would your dishes, channel the image of handling a baby when cleaning your gadgets. They may seem tough with the ease in which they solve all of our problems, but they are fragile (expensive!) machines to be handled with care.

Screens (computer, TV, and smart phone) seem to be magnets for dust and grime. Even the cleanest among us will notice a layer of dust coating the surface of the TV or computer. And don’t forget about the smudgy finger prints. First, wipe them down with a microfiber cloth (which traps dust between fibers) or a electrostatic cloth (which has synthetic fibers that create magnetic charge to pull dust to them). By doing this, you actually remove dust rather than spreading it around or unsettling it just to have it land back on your screen within minutes. Then, use a cloth dampened with the water/alcohol mixture to remove the fingerprints. (Paper towels and napkins are too abrasive for standard screens and can leave minute scratches on the surface).

Keyboards (computers and smart phones) are a more delicate area to clean because any fluid you use can drain into the actual machine, causing damage. That’s why it’s important to spray liquid cleaner (like the alcohol/water mix or other gadget-specific cleaning products) onto a cloth and NOT onto the device itself. Wipe the top of the keys off with a cloth and then use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to trace the sides of the keys. Finally, use the compressed air to blast any dust and grime out from the inside of the keyboard.

Earphones often end up attracting earwax or other unidentified yuck from the bottom of the bag or purse they have been riding in. If they have soft removable covers, take them off and soak them for 10/15 minutes in a glass of water mixed with a couple drops of soap. Then, using an alcohol-dipped cotton swab, wipe over the earphones themselves. Let them dry for 20 minutes afterward to ensure that all of the water has evaporated.

Sara’s Tech Tips: Techie Stocking Stuffers

November 16, 2010 at 11:16 am , by

sara _0079Let’s face it: Tech gifts can get really expensive. That’s why I picked out my favorite stocking stuffer ideas. The gadget-lovers in your life will love these great techie gifts that add a little buzz-factor this holiday season—without breaking the bank.

78336Iphone Charging Leather Case, on sale for $25 – When I’m traveling or just away from my desk, there is nothing more frustrating then trying to salvage the little battery life my phone has left as it creeps into the red zone (i.e. EMPTY). This charging case provides up to 3.5 hours of additional talk time and the case can recharge an iphone (or ipod touch) up to 1.5 times before it needs to be charged itself. It’s a lifesaver when an outlet is hard to come by!

41fh4SaJUUL._SL500_AA300_WowWee Paperjamz, $20-24 – What kid hasn’t dreamt of being a rock star? Well, now you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on instruments. Paperjamz are paper cut-outs of a guitars, drums, etc. with circuits embedded inside that allow kids (or the young-at-heart adult) to play the instrument by touching the right spots on its surface.  All of the instruments have internal speakers (and volume control!). Their website even offers tutorials that will help you get started.

314ymcAuxoL._AA300_Tao Photo Keychain, $10 – What is the one thing you can’t leave home without?  I hope you didn’t say your phone because we all know how many times we forget that! The correct answer is your keys. Now, wherever you go, you can take up to 99 of your favorite photos on your keychain. With an 1.5-inch LCD screen, this Tao keychain ensures that you aren’t empty-handed for those unexpected run-ins (and photo show-off opportunities!).

415JDEy6eyL._AA300_Menotek Flexible Bluetooth Waterproof Mini Keyboard for the Apple iPad, $30 – iPads have been the hot techie gift of 2010, but anyone who has worked on a touch screen can appreciate the comforts of a regular keyboard. This Menotek keyboard literally folds up (like a sleeping bag) for easy transport. And with its bluetooth technology, there is no need for any cords (except for the retractable USB cord that is used to recharge the keyboard). It’s also waterproof, which I love: Who hasn’t had the unexpected overflow when trying to work and eat at the same time?

varioVario Stand, $70 – With an almost 10-inch high-resolution screen, watching movies, music and videos remains one of the most appealing features of the iPad—but who wants to hold it up while you sit through a movie? Problem solved! Vario is a 360-degree rotating stand that allows you to prop the iPad vertically or horizontally. With its fold-flat design and smart-drop exterior, you can easily slide this into any case when you are on the go.

Gift Guide Giveaway: Win These Tech Gifts

November 15, 2010 at 6:00 am , by

These presents are just the thing to make a smart lady lose her cool. If you’ve got someone on your list who loves her gadgets and toys, you’ll find something perfect here. One lucky reader will score all of them. Want to know more about each item? Check out our Geeky Gift Guide.

Enter to win by posting a brief comment below telling us why you’d like to win one of the holiday gift packages. Comments must be posted by 11:59 ET on Monday, December 20. We will randomly select one winner. Read the full rules here. Good luck!

Making Travel Easier, One Gadget at a Time

July 22, 2010 at 5:38 pm , by

Just hearing the words “summer vacation” is enough to make you smile, right? Unless of course you’re thinking about all the time you’ve spent packing and unpacking, hunting through your bag for your wallet (where’d you put that thing?) and taking horribly aligned, too-close self-photos while trying to fit in the scenery/people/interesting things behind you. That’s where these pretty nifty travel doodads from Dynomighty come in.

The Bottle Cap Tripod is a pocket-size attachment that screws on to the top of a water bottle for an instant hands-free camera stand. No more balancing your digital on the side of fountains, atop precarious rocks or on rusty railings that are just as likely to obliterate your camera as they are to be useful props. $10 at

Pickpockets begone! Super-slim Mighty Wallets are cleverly designed to look like random items (like an airmail-envelope inspired option and the one that could pass for a page of newspaper, at right) that thieves would be much less interested in investigating than anything resembling a wallet. They’re also ecofriendly, water-resistant and perfectly pocket-size. There’s more than 45 different designs, too, including some cheeky ones with beach scenes and gorillas. $15 each at

The colorful Mighty Tote is a seriously lightweight 1.6 ounces, so you can feel free to stuff it full of whatever junk you carry around with you while sightseeing or beaching that you always regret bringing later, after your shoulders hurt. $15 at