By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Think about how many times a day we touch our phones, pencils, and keyboards. Think about how many times a day we put our backpacks or work bags on the classroom or office floor and then put those bags on our bed or couch. (Please don’t put your backpack on your bed – can you imagine?!)
I admit, I tend to like things cleaner and neater than most people. If you’ve met me personally, then you know. But the tips in this post are suggestions for bare minimum cleaning standards. I’m not suggesting that you bleach your keyboard every day (well…I mean…if you want to…), but I’m sharing some basic tips for cleaning school and office supplies that are practical, doable, and important.
How often and when to clean school and office supplies
How often and when you clean your tools and spaces depends on how frequently you use your items. Some things should be cleaned daily, such as desks and workspaces. Others are okay to clean weekly or less frequently – again, depending on the item and how often you use it. In the section below, I give suggestions for how often to clean each item.
What school and work supplies to clean?
A good rule of thumb is that the items we use the most should be cleaned the most. So if you regularly use school or office supplies that are not listed here, by all means, clean them.
Keyboard and mouse
How to clean it: Lock the keyboard to wipe it down, or clean it when the computer is off. Turn the keyboard upside down and shake it out over the trash barrel. Using a basic cleaning wipe like a Clorox wipe, gently wipe the keyboard and clean between the keys. You only need to use compressed air if you need help dislodging particles, but gently tapping the keyboard upside down usually does the trick. Using the same clearing wipe, wipe down the top and sides of your mouse.
How often: At least once a week – more if you regularly eat Cheetos at your computer. (Maybe stop doing that?)
How to clean it: To clean computer, tablet and phone screens, you can use an eyeglass cleaning wipe like these, a teeny tiny bit of diluted rubbing alcohol (that’s what I use) or a specialty screen-cleaner spray. If you’re using a specialty cleaner, follow the instructions on the bottle, but if you’re using diluted rubbing alcohol, first spray it on a cloth and then wipe the screen.
How often: Clean phone and tablet screens daily. Don’t forget the side buttons, too. Non-touchscreen desktop monitors don’t need to be cleaned more than once a month, unless you’re a frequent Cheeto-finger screen-toucher.
How to clean it: If you’re in school, you likely use a fancy shmancy graphing calculator. Like your keyboard, your calculator buttons can get gross. Using a basic cleaning wipe, gently wipe the keys, screen, sides, and the case. Replace batteries as needed.
How often: Every other week, ish. If you’re taking a semester off from math, then clean it well before storing it away.
How to clean it: I know cleaning your pens and pencils might seem odd, but have you ever thought about how often you touch them? And what’s on your hands when you touch them? And how often you touch your face while you’re using them? Eek! Writing utensils are super easy to clean: simply use a cleaning wipe or simply cleaning spray on a paper towel to quickly wipe down your frequently used pens and pencils.
How often: Whenever you clean your workspace, keyboard or anything with a cleaning wipe, use the remaining wipe on your pens and pencils. I suggest doing this at least once a week.
Backpack or work bag
How to clean it: You should get in the habit of emptying the trash from your backpack or work bag every day. Don’t leave food wrappers, water bottles, tissues, etc. in your bag overnight. Once a month and before any extended breaks, remove everything from your bag and dump it upside down to shake out crumbs. To do a deep clean (when needed), read the instructions on your bag – but know that some backpacks are machine washable. Treat leather bags with leather cleaner.
How often: Empty trash daily. Once a month and before extended breaks, shake the bag upside down to clean out crumbs. Spot clean when necessary.
How to clean it: According to Apple’s cleaning instructions, “using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your AirPods.” I suggest following these instructions no matter the brand of earphones you use. Don’t forget to clean the case.
How often: It depends on how often you’re using them. If you use them daily, then clean them once a week. If you work out with them, clean them more frequently.
Lunch boxes and cooler bags
How to clean it: Shake lunch bags and boxes over the trash to get rid of crumbs. Wipe down the inside and outside with a cleaning wipe or a wet cloth. Use the dishwasher if the instructions indicate it’s okay to do so.
How often: Clean spills and sticky spots daily, and do a more thorough cleaning at the end of each week. Allow bags and boxes to dry completely before zipping or sealing them closed.
Workspaces and desks
How to clean it: The neater and more minimal your workspace, the easier it is to clean; I suggest keeping your workspace clear of nearly everything except for the items you use multiple times a day. Clean your workspace according to the type of material it’s made of: I personally use Pledge for my solid-wood desk at home, and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day spray for my IKEA desk at my office. To more thoroughly clean my IKEA desk, I use Windex Antibacterial spray.
How often: Tidy your workspace daily. Clean the surface at least weekly (I clean mine daily, but that’s because I am me) or more if you eat Cheetos while working or studying.
A few more cleaning tips
Keeping your school and office supplies clean doesn’t have to be burdensome or take a lot of time. Below are a few more tips for making the whole process easier.
Make cleaning your school and office supplies part of your Sunday Routine or something you aim to do every Friday as you close out the school or work week. Keep travel-sized cleaning wipes in your backpack or work bag to take advantage of free time during your day. Keep your workspace minimal and free of clutterWhen purchasing backpacks and lunch bags, look for options that can go in the dishwasher or washing machine.Mix 2 parts rubbing alcohol and 1 part water in a small spray bottle. Keep this bottle handy for quick daily or weekly wipe-downs.Before shutting down for school vacations, summer vacations, or extended time off, make sure you do these 5 things, in addition to cleaning your supplies.