The Dirty Glove: Remote Control Edition

Cleaning thoroughly, efficiently, and greenly is the name of the game here at the Purple Fig, but we all have those areas of the house that- let’s face it -nobody likes to tackle. What better way to honor those dastardly, dirty crevices then to dedicate a post about how to scrub them until they shine?

Every other month, we’ll walk you through guidelines tailored for each unique mess (greasy stovetop? Moldy tub? Sticky sink?) and lend some valuable tips along the way. So strap on your gloves, because we’re about to dissect the most popular (and most grubby) electronic in your living room button by button: the remote control.

Tools You’ll Need

Microfiber cloth

60% (or higher) Rubbing alcohol



Cotton Swab


Optional: Dish soap

 Controlling the Remote

 Easily the most used (and most under-appreciated) electronic, the remote control is the ambassador of relaxation and entertainment in any room with a television. Ever since the 1980s, the infrared remote control has dominated the global culture with its wireless signaling, allowing people to remain comfortably on their rumps while surfing the TV. Amazingly, 9 owners out of 10 will bury these electronic miracles under the couch cushion.

Although remotes come in various shapes and sizes, their components are all essentially identical, making cleaning a tad less headache-inducing. But being the most man-handled object in the room comes at a filthy price: grime, crumbs, sauces, saliva, dirt particles, and dust are common hitchhikers on and inside the average remote control, all piggybacks for germs and bacteria. After a few months of you, your partner, your friends, the kids, and your mother-in-law grabbing the remote, an occasionally cleaning becomes imperative!

Go With the Alcohol

Be it a quick clean or an intense scrub, there’s no need for complicated cleaners with unknown chemical ingredients. Rubbing alcohol with a 60% or higher concentration of isopropyl (NOT ethyl!) is preferred because it evaporates at an accelerated rate; water, on the other hand, will drench the remote’s circuit and lead to a most certain electronic death.

As for the cloth, microfiber fabric has a high capacity for absorption- ideal for the hydrophobic remote control -and is also lint-free. Any lint-free rag or cloth that can absorb the rubbing alcohol very quickly will do.

Maintenance Cleaning 

 To perform a cosmetic cleaning on those remotes that only require a menial amount of TLC,  follow these steps:

1.Remove the batteries from the remote and set them aside.

2. Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently work it around the buttons.

3. Use a toothpick to work the grime out of the seam of the remote, as well as any visible gunk wedged in between the buttons.

4. Dampen your lint-free cloth in rubbing alcohol, making sure its not too wet. Wipe the flat surface of the remote thoroughly with the cloth until fingerprints and grime are gone.

Heavy Duty Cleaning

If your remote looks like its growing hair out of the button holes, its time for a deep cleaning:

1.Remove the batteries from the remote and set them aside.

2. Use a screwdriver to remove all of the screws, setting them aside with the batteries.

3. Separate the 2 halves of the remote (you may need a flathead to gently pry them apart).

4. Separate from buttons from the circuit board, and place the circuit on a dry surface.

5. To clean the buttons, choose between rubbing alcohol or the dish soap/water mixture (i.e. 1 tsp soap + 2 cups water). Use either the cloth or a cotton swab to dip into the solution and scrub the buttons clean.

6. For an extra dose of hygiene, dip the toothbrush in the solution and scrub the keypad. Use a cotton swab for stubborn stains/grime.

7. To clean the circuit board, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and gently wipe away any gunk built up. Be careful to not leave any fuzzy cotton residue while cleaning! Once finished, set it aside and wait for the alcohol to evaporate.

7. Double check that all of the remote’s components are dry, and then put it back together.

8. Dampen the lint-free cloth in rubbing alcohol and give the remote a final cosmetic wipe-down, and voilà!