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How to clean your Alexa or Google Home speakers

Got gunk on your Google Home? Here's the best way to get stain-free smart speakers.

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.

Now that the new coronavirus is a global pandemic 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 HomeAmazon Echo and Apple HomePod devices. 

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Google Home

Google Home smart speakers look great and I love the way the Google Home Max sounds. However, the Google Home fabric covers aren't the simplest material to clean. Google says the speaker 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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Ian Knighton/CNET

Amazon Alexa

Devices like the Amazon Echo Dot are pretty easy to clean, since there isn't any fabric involved. Wiping it down with a dry cloth should take care of any dust or grime that's settled on your Echo Dot. If you do purchase an Echo device with a fabric shell, the same dry-cloth rule applies so as to be absolutely sure not to damage the speaker. 

Amazon also recommends cleaning the outside of any Echo device with a dry cloth or a blow-dryer on low speed. That could alleviate surface dirt or dust in the device's seams and buttons. 

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Apple HomePod

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 speaker is wrapped in what Apple describes as a "seamless mesh fabric." Here's the cleaning advice Apple offers HomePod owners: 

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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