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How to clean your Alexa or Google Nest smart speakers

Got gunk on your smart speakers? Here's the best way to clean up your assistant.

If you have a smart speaker at home, it's likely in a busy part of the house. It's best to place smart speakers in the center of a home -- places like living rooms and kitchens. But that makes them vulnerable to stains, germs and general gunk.

With the coronavirus and its variants being a continuing concern and national emergency, you might be thinking about disinfecting everything your family touches, including your smart speakers. 

Whether it's a wayward coloring marker or a flying speck of spaghetti sauce, smart speakers are kind of defenseless when it comes to dirt. So, what's the fix for a smart speaker covered in goo? Here are the best ways to approach cleaning your Google NestAmazon Echo and Apple HomePod devices. 

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Google Nest speakers

Google Nest smart speakers look great, and we love the way the Google Home Max sounds. However, the fabric covers aren't the simplest material to clean. Google says the speakers shouldn't be washed, so definitely don't run it under the faucet or spray it with a lot of liquid. The Google support team I spoke with didn't recommend using damp cloths or any liquid cleaning products or sprays, noting that those methods could cause performance problems.

The recommended method? Google suggests wiping dirt and stains away with a dry cloth. The support team certainly doesn't want to suggest anyone bring any moisture near these products. That makes sense, but it doesn't seem practical. If you're willing to go against Google's suggestions, a slightly damp cloth can help with stains when a dry cloth wasn't enough.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Amazon Echoes

Devices like the Amazon Echo Dot used to be an almost entirely plastic without any fabric to worry about. The latest models, however, have a fabric shell. You can wipe these down with a soft cloth to clean up any dust or grime. A dry-cloth rule applies here, so as to be absolutely sure not to damage the speaker. 

Amazon also recommends cleaning the outside of any Echo device with a blow-dryer on low speed (I'd add that you should probably set it to the cool setting if possible). That could alleviate surface dirt or dust in the device's seams and buttons. Again, using any cleaning method with moisture is not recommended. 

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The HomePod mini next to the original HomePod.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini

Apple was the only brand where I didn't have to chase down an answer on how to clean. The suggested method is listed in a useful support page for the Apple HomePod. The HomePod and HomePod Mini are wrapped in what Apple describes as a "seamless mesh fabric." Here's the cleaning advice Apple offers HomePod owners: 

Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipe, or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the top surface of your HomePod. Don't use on the mesh fabric of your HomePod. Don't use products containing bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don't submerge your HomePod in any cleaning agents.

Clean with a dry cloth. If necessary, you can clean HomePod with a damp cloth. Don't use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, or abrasives to clean HomePod.

Apple also mentions keeping the HomePod away from any sources of water that might expose it to drips or splashes. That's good advice for any smart speaker. 

All three speaker brands prefer a dry method of cleaning, seemingly to discourage people from taking a sopping rag to their smart speakers. Still, a dry cloth might not be enough to get the stain off your speaker cover. So, in short, if you absolutely can't remove a stain with a dry method and you're fully aware of the risks involved, consider trying a damp cloth. It might take one or two rounds of light scrubbing and drying to get through the stain, but that's better than ruining your smart speaker with a liquid cleaner or too much water. 

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