How to clean earbuds, glasses, keyboards and more

Here's the down-low on some of the grimiest things around.

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By Rebekah Lowin

Nobody really wants to think about it, but a few of our most treasured possessions are also some of the dirtiest. Meaghan Murphy, executive editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, shared the real story on some of the filthiest items we own — and some tips on how to properly clean them.

Check out our interactive guide to learn how to clean your home from top to bottom.

How to clean earbuds and headphones

What you need:

What you need to know: Earbuds come in contact with body oil, sweat and makeup — and it probably doesn't help that they're often inside your ears. Believe it or not, a study from the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences found that 68 percent of earbuds from frequent users contained bacteria, including staph bacteria. While mostly harmless, some of the bacteria could lead to an infection if they were to enter broken skin.

What you can do: First of all, don't share your earbuds! Secondly, don’t use water to clean the actual working electronics and certainly don't submerge them in water (alcohol, meanwhile, dries quickly, so it's a good option). If the buds have removable silicone covers, place those in white vinegar for five minutes or use a bleach/water solution. You can also use sterile alcohol pads to wipe them down.

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How to clean your keyboards

What you need:

What you need to know: A study from Kimberley Clark and the University of Arizona found that 27 percent of office keyboards and more than half of computer mouses are contaminated with mold, yeast and bacteria. Yikes. And an NSF study found mold on keyboards in 68 percent of homes. People tend to eat over their computers, which explains a lot.

What you can do:

  1. For starters, unplug your keyboard, turn it over and tap the back to remove any loose crumbs and debris from between the keys.
  2. Then, try using a hand vacuum to vacuum up the dirt.
  3. Finally, clean the keyboard with electronics cleaner spritzed on a soft cloth. You can also use an alcohol wipe. Or, you can also use a hairdryer to blow off dirt and debris. Make sure the setting is on “cool” so that you don't damage your keyboard.

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Another idea: Dip a cotton swab in alcohol (gently wring it out to make sure it doesn't drip) and wipe the individual keys to disinfect them without harming the electronics. Remember, you don't want moisture to get into the openings and crevices, so it's best not to spray the keyboard directly with any liquids.

How to clean your toothbrush holder

What you need:

What you need to know: Yes, toothbrushes harbor bacteria — there are hundreds of microorganisms in your mouth no matter how hygienic you are — but the American Dental Association says there isn't evidence that they'll make you sick. The toothbrush holder is actually more of a danger. An NSF study found that they are the second-most contaminated item in the home, with nearly a third harboring bacteria such as coliform. And 14 percent harbored staph, which could also indicate the presence of MRSA, a contagious and antibiotic-resistant form of staph bacteria that can lead to a potentially dangerous infection.

What you can do: Avoid covered toothbrush holders, as these tend to accumulate the most mold in that small space. The best ones have partitions, but no cover, and are dishwasher-safe. Your best bet is to store it inside your medicine cabinet. Then simply wash it as often as you run the dishwasher.

How to clean your coffee pot

What you need:

What you need to know: According to the 2011 NSF study, in the homes with yeast and mold present, 50 percent were found to have it in the coffee reservoir, second only to the dishrag and sponge.

What you can do: After use, it's important to disassemble appliances like coffeemakers and blenders. Wash the parts in the dishwasher or by hand in warm soapy water and dry them thoroughly before reassembling. You can also run vinegar through the machine every so often to disinfect, or leave the lid off so that the water evaporates instead of staying in the machine. A surefire sign that it's time to clean your coffee reservoir? When you notice the coffee brewing slower. That's because the minerals in the leftover water are clogging crevices.

How to clean your glasses

What you need:

What you need to know: Nearly 50 percent of Americans wear corrective glasses, according to the trade group Vision Council. And according to the CDC, glasses can actually pass conjunctivitis — also known as pinkeye. Natural oils from your hands, eyelashes and face can lead to a lot of buildup each day. This is especially true when it comes to sunglasses. You're always taking them off and putting them back on, so they're bound to get smudged.

What you can do: The worst thing you can do is try and clean them using your shirt or a paper towel. Your shirt might carry dust and you run the risk of scratching your lens. Don't breathe on your glasses to clean them, either. It's ineffective, and it'll effectively add to the germ issue. The AOA recommends washing glasses every morning, paying special attention to the frames and earpieces, where hair product and makeup tend to rub off. Still, instead of reaching for a specifically designed product that promises to wipe away streaks, just run your glasses under warm water and wipe dish soap on the lens using your finger. Then, rinse with warm water and dry with a lint-free cloth. Murphy recommends using a coffee filter since it won’t scratch the lenses, like a microfiber cloth.

How to clean your smartphone

What you need:

What you need to know: If it's on your fingers, it's going to end up on your phone. And there's a heck of a lot of bacteria on your fingers.

What you can do: Like sunglasses or glasses, wiping your smartphone on your shirt might seem like a quick fix, but you're actually just spreading the germs to more places. To clean, follow the manufacturer's directions, but generally, use a cleaner designed for electronics and a soft cloth. Never spray the device. Spritz the cloth, then wipe your phone. You can also use an alcohol wipe. The E-Cloth, a microfiber cloth with a flat texture that's designed specially for screens hard cases (like plastic), is less porous than rubber ones, which won't trap dirt as easily.

Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

This article was originally published on July 13, 2015.