Our children never seem to put down their electronics. From smartphones to tablets, they constantly touch their devices, passing them back and forth.

Quickly though, those fun gizmos turn into havens for a variety of germs, many that are harmless or even helpful, but there are also those that spread sickness – like colds, flu, MRSA and norovirus. The commonly touched and shared electronics that litter our households need frequent cleaning and disinfection.

This is also particularly important at school, where our kids attend computer lab regularly. But the home is our domain and it needs special attention, especially during cold and flu season.

Would You Let Your Kids Play with a Kitchen Sponge?

Professor Kelly Reynolds at the University of Arizona included electronics in her study “The Eight Germiest Items in Your Household” and noted that some of the bacteria she found on household electronics matched the bacteria found on your kitchen sponge. That sponge, if not disinfected, can contain millions of bacteria. Yuck!

And while it’s not the ideal item to clean your electronics with, the similarity between the bacterial populations has to do with the availability of food debris in both electronics and sponge environments.

Spreading Germs at Snack Time

How often do your kids watch TV while shoveling a snack into their mouths? Dr. Reynolds says that when they’re snacking and using electronics, food oils and crumbs are transferred to the electronic surfaces, which then become hospitable environments for germs.

So while many of us are focused on keeping our kids healthy by feeding them apple slices or carrot sticks, we often forget what happens when their hands leave the plate and start touching everything else.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Electronic Devices

Messy eating and playing with toys and gadgets – it’s all just another wonderful part of growing up.  But there are simple, common-sense ways we can reduce germs on electronic devices in our homes without taking the fun out of eating and playing.

The list below is based on Dr. Reynolds’ interview with Fox News and provides basic directions for cleaning and disinfecting your kids’ favorite gadgets. In general, a good rule to follow is to clean and disinfect your electronics once a week, but if you or others are sick, do it more often.

Directions for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Kids’ Gadgets

  • Remote controls – Use a dry cloth or vacuum cleaner with an appropriate attachment to remove all visible particles. Then swab with a well-wrung-out, commercial, pre-moistened disinfecting wipe.
  • Computer keyboards – Disconnect from the computer and use a vacuum cleaner with the appropriate attachment to remove all visible particles. Then swab with a well-wrung-out, commercial, pre-moistened disinfecting wipe.
  • Video game controllers – Disconnect from the game console and use a vacuum cleaner with the appropriate attachment or a dry cloth to remove all visible particles. Then swab with a well-wrung-out, commercial, pre-moistened disinfecting wipe.
  • Computer mouse – Disconnect from the computer and use a dry cloth to remove all visible particles. Then swab with a well-wrung-out, commercial, pre-moistened disinfecting wipe.
  • Smartphone and tablet covers (plastic / fabric) – Remove cover from device and use a dry cloth to remove all visible particles. Then swab with a well-wrung-out, commercial, pre-moistened disinfecting wipe.
  • Touch screens – Disconnect device from its electronic source and use a dry cloth to remove all visible particles. Then clean with a scratch-free product designed for electronics. As 21st century moms, we know how to troubleshoot a computer, tweet the latest gluten-free recipe and change the tablet to “kid mode.” How often though are we taking the right steps to keep our kids safe by cleaning and disinfecting the devices they touch every day?

Oh, one last piece of advice: Don’t even think about the remote controls in hotel rooms.

(Curious why? Google “hotel remote control germs” …if you dare!)


1Wringing out your disinfecting wipe is important to avoid moisture seeping into the interiors of electronic devices. If a disinfecting wipe is unavailable, use pre-moistened alcohol-based eyeglass lens cleaner or mild soap and water on a cloth or paper towel.

2These products may or may not contain disinfectant.