Spring Has Arrived Mobile Device Spring Cleaning Time

Finally, the long winter of discontent we’ve experienced in much of the US looks set to continue. This means that many people are starting to think about outdoor activities again. Patios and decks are cleaned and patio furniture is revealed or removed from storage. It’s also a good time to consider cleaning your mobile hardware. I don’t know about you, but for some reason my devices and accessories collect a lot more dirt over the winter. I’m not just talking about oil and dirt, I’m talking about files and content, I no longer need to clog Cloud streams and backups either. So while I’m working on my “honey-do” spring cleaning list, I took some time to do some spring cleaning in my gadget arsenal.

Below is my checklist for mobile device spring cleaning. If you have any suggestions from your own list, feel free to let us know in the comments.



I don’t just wait for seasonal changes to clean my screens. Touchscreens collect grease and grime every time you use them. The oleophobic coating, which makes it easy to clean fingerprints on touch screens, unfortunately wears out over time. Screen protectors also seem to collect more scum the longer they stay on a device. Sunnier days ahead mean you’ll be staring at your device through a cloud of fingerprint smudges if you don’t keep everything clean.

I keep a handy microfiber cloth and screen cleaner handy to keep my screens clean. Typically, a good wipe with a microfiber cloth or two will get rid of most of the scum, but sometimes a screen cleaning solution is needed to get rid of some of the grease. Be careful though and make sure you don’t use household cleaners for this. They can eat the oleophobic coating, rendering it useless. If your oleophobic coating is in good condition, you should see a few drops of water or cleaning solution on your screen.

For devices I use screen protectors for, I change and drop every spring.

On desktop and laptop computers, screen cleaning is not done that often. However, I was always surprised to find as much dirt as I found on these screens when I cleaned them.

Cases & Covers

It’s a seasonal thing for me. Cases and covers provide protection and can also become hiding places for dirt and grime. I remove all cases and covers from my devices and do a thorough cleaning both on the inner surface that touches the screen and on the outer surface. Before applying a cleaning solution or water to these, I will use compressed air to blow any dust that may have built up. Mophie cases for iPhone are notorious for collecting dust in secluded corners.


Purge the compressed air and cleaning solution. Spring is the perfect time to clean up any debris that may have fallen between the cracks in your keyboard(s). I’ll give each keyboard a thorough wipe after blowing out the mess with compressed air. I found this [amazon_link id=”B0071SCSO0″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Mr. Clean Magic Eraser[/amazon_link] A great addition to my cleaning bucket when it comes to removing grease and grime from keyboards.

Another good thing to have on hand for cleaning messes from keyboards is a shaving brush. The bristles on an old-fashioned shaving brush are a great way to remove particles from an old-fashioned (not island) keyboard.

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White power and sync cables are obviously the design choice of our time. The problem is that these lily white cables tend to get dirty and take on a dirty gray appearance after a period of use. Applying a good cleaning solution to a cloth and wiping them will remove some of the dirt, but some cables will absorb the dirt and become less than white over time.

Cables connecting entertainment devices tend to make nice slots for dust bunnies to gather. As painful as it is, I’m going to disconnect everything from my entertainment devices, clean the cables and get them working again. Cleaning once a year is also a good reminder of how things are connected.

remote controls

Remote controls are the curse of home entertainment centers. We all have them and we despise them. If you have kids in the house or snack a lot while surfing the canal, the remote controls pick up an extraordinary amount of dirt. A good cleaning solution and a cloth can remove a surprising amount of dirt. Do not spray the solution directly on the remote control, just spray it on a cloth to clean it.

Power Supplies and Vents

If you have a desktop computer, there is a power brick feeding it. Uninterruptible power supplies that power your equipment can also collect dust. You would probably never think of looking at them once they are installed and running. Every spring, when I deep clean them, I’m amazed at how much dust they collect.

If your appliances or power supplies have vents or fans, blow out any obvious dust that has accumulated. Again, make sure the device is turned off first.

Pen Tips

If you use a stylus, it will eventually collect grease and grime from your screen. It takes a bit of cleaning to keep the digital ink flowing nicely. If a tip is wearing out, spring cleaning is the time to replace it.


Most of our gadgets use batteries. Some devices do not have replaceable ones. If a mobile device has a replaceable battery spring, cleaning time is a good excuse to remove it and clean the contacts. It’s also a good time to replace the battery if you think the battery has lost its effectiveness.

Bluetooth keyboards, mice, remote controls, and other accessories sometimes have replaceable batteries, and you’ll likely replace them as they run out over the course of the year. Every spring I buy new batteries for these devices so I have a new supply. I do the same thing every holiday season.

Content Crud

Maybe it’s the holidays, maybe it’s because I’m indoors more often in the winter, but my hard drives and cloud storage seem to fill up more during the colder months of the year. There are a few areas that I pay attention to when it comes to cleaning up old files and content.


I use various Cloud services to store and backup photos. Most of them automatically take photos from my mobile devices. I will take some time to visit each of these photo services and clean up the photos I no longer want to keep and do some editing if needed. I usually try to organize photos in albums and share albums by project. (I don’t like having photo services edit them for me.) If there are albums I created for a project that I no longer need, I delete them. However, be careful if you’re deleting an album you’ve shared with someone else. Depending on the service you use, if you delete the album you shared, it may disappear from their view. Let them know in advance that you will be deleting the album to give them a chance to archive the photos first.

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iCloud Photo Stream

I automatically send photos to various services, including iCloud, Dropbox, Flickr, OneDrive, and Google. Since most of my photo work is done on a Mac, the primary tool I use to manage photos is iPhoto. Every spring, I’ll clean up my Photo Stream after I make sure I archive the photos I want to keep and start a new stream. The best way to do this with Apple’s iCloud is to turn off Photo Stream on all your devices after deleting Photos from that stream. After restarting Photo Stream you should have a clean start.


I create quite a lot of documents. I keep most of them for archival purposes. But instead of keeping them in Cloud or local storage, I will move them to archive storage. I keep several external hard drives for this purpose. They don’t stay connected on a daily basis, but I’ll change files every spring and fall, I don’t need regular access to release systems that I use daily.


If you download or create media files (music and video), they can quickly consume storage space wherever they are located. Spring cleaning time is a great way to offload large files you no longer need locally, especially if you have streaming alternatives for your music and video services. If you’re only going to assign media files to a Cloud service, it’s a risky proposition. If this service breaks down or licensing regulations change, you have no chance of accessing these files. I usually keep a local copy of all media content on the external hard drives I mentioned above. These drives are not permanently connected, so the media is archived.

If you use iTunes to download movies, you already know that in most cases you get iTunes Extras with some movies. I usually delete these extras right away, but every spring I’ll find the ones I don’t delete take up space on my system. They go to the cloud.


I’m downloading lots of Apps on multiple systems. Every spring I do a thorough house cleaning and throw away what I no longer use. I do this periodically throughout the year and if there is an update to an OS then I can start with a fresh build. But I usually find few Apps that can be thrown during spring cleaning.

I still have Apps downloaded on my MacBook Pro with iOS. If I get rid of an App on the iPhone or iPad and determine that I no longer need it, I also delete it on the MacBook Pro via iTunes.

I do most of my reading myself, whether it’s via RSS and Feedly, Flipboard, Pocket or Instapaper. I used to clean up my RSS feeds every spring, but this spring, I’m clearing out Flipboard magazines I no longer read, as well as deleting or archiving material from Pocket and Instapaper. If I haven’t looked at the content in a post for a while, it goes away.

Local Backups

Spring is when I reset all my local backups. By that I mean I’m going to take an external drive out of circulation and replace it every spring that I use for automatic backups. The removed drive is archived and a new backup routine starts with a new external drive.

Online backup has replaced the need for local backup in some cases, but I follow the rule to have online and local backups of important data and content. When I clear data and content on my devices, an online backup will eventually reflect these changes. However, the original data resides in the local archived backup.

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