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Smart Home

If you can't hear your Google Home speaker it may be choked up -- literally

Dust, debris and pet hair can gum up your Google Home's ability to hear and be heard. Here's how to fix it.

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Your Google Home device isn't just a decoration -- it's a small, voice-controlled computer. Keep it away from from possible accidents and spills, like on a bookshelf or mantelpiece, and clean it regularly to maximize sound quality.

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Your Google Home ($99 at Walmart) smart speaker isn't worth much if you can't hear it loud and clear. It's easy to forget that a routine cleaning can help keep the electronics free of the dust and debris that can muffle the sound. Giving your Google Home a thorough wipe-down from time to time will keep it looking -- and sounding -- its best.

When a frisky cat knocks over a wax warmer or a red wine toast goes awry, if your Google Home speaker or smart display happens to be at ground zero, don't panic. Here are the best methods to clean your Google Home device.

Read more: The best Google Assistant and Google Home devices of 2019

Keep in mind that these best practices apply to the diminutive Google Home Mini ($49 at Walmart) all the way to the new Nest Hub Max, with its 10-inch touch screen.

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Gentle cleansers are okay to use on plastic and fabric Google Home components, but keep them away from the sensitive coating on Google Home Hub and Hub Max screens.

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How to bust dust and other dry debris

Dust happens. It's a fact of life. The decorative fabric wrapped around the base of the Google Home Hub ($129 at Walmart) and Google Home Hub Max, as well as the Google Home smart speaker and its Mini and Max brethren, is a magnet for the stuff, as well as for pollen, pet hair and dander. Feather dusters don't easily spring small particles from mesh, but you probably have something even better to use stashed in your linen closet or junk drawer: a lint roller.

For light to medium dust and particle dirt, a lint roller will snap it right up. Best of all, there are no liquid cleansers involved, so you won't risk shorting out your devices in the process or working in chemicals that could crystallize inside the casing. A suit brush or shoe brush could work, too.

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For tougher, deeper particulate problems -- let's say you've been jamming to tunes on your Google Home while sanding drywall -- your vacuum cleaner's furniture brush attachment should do the trick. Its bristles will dislodre stubborn particles so your vacuum can siphon them away. For getting dust out of ports, try a toothpick.

Whatever you do, do not use a can of compressed air to force out fluff. The high pressure and freezing temperatures produced by canned air can damage the sensitive microphones and speaker cones inside Google Home devices. Several Reddit users report making this mistake and ending up having to replace theirs.

How to rinse out liquid stains, carefully

Unfortunately, the best way to get liquid stains out is with more liquid, so you'll have to be careful. Google recommends only using dry cloths to clean its smart speakers, so that means ignoring the manufacturer's advice. Proceed with caution. 

If you spilled liquid onto the original Google Home speaker, you're in a little bit of luck. The base is detachable (allowing you to spice it up with a personal touch). As soon as you notice the stain, unclip the base by pulling it apart from the magnets holding it on. 

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The base of the original Google Home smart speaker is held on with magnets, letting you detach it easily to clean. 

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If you were thinking about switching things up anyway, now may be the time to order an alternative base, either from Google or any number of third-parties, like Best Buy or Amazon.

Otherwise, for recent stains that haven't set in yet, you may be able to run the base (just the base, not the speaker!) under a faucet to get the errant liquid out. If the stain has set, you can plug your sink, fill it with soapy water and let the grille soak until the stain dissipates. For a really nasty, set-in stain, running it through the dishwasher is an option, but be sure to clean out the dishwasher trap and don't wash it in the same load as your dirty dishes.

For all other Google Home devices with mesh fabric speaker enclosures, your best bet is going to be to dab the stain with a wet, lightly soapy cloth. The point is to avoid allowing liquid to infiltrate the device, which can damage internal components, so use a cloth with as little soapy water as possible. 

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Your Google Home Hub or Hub Max's screen is delicate. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive materials like paper towels or rags.

Angela Lang/CNET

How to clean your Google Home smart display screen right

The Google Home Hub and Hub Max present another challenge: keeping their screens clean. CNET's guide to cleaning your smartphone screen offers solid guidance that can be applied to cleaning your Google Home Devices too.

That guide contains an extensive list of substances you definitely don't want to use to clean your screens, including window cleaner, kitchen cleansers, rubbing alcohol, soap or vinegar. These kinds of solvents can damage the sensitive coating on touchscreens, leaving them dull. Also avoid paper towels and regular rags or cloths as well, as those can scratch your precision-milled touchscreen's glass.

Instead, a microfiber cloth dampened with distilled water is the absolute safest way to remove dust and smudges from your Google Home device screens. For sand and lint, cellophane tape or the aforementioned lint remover should get it. 

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A microfiber cloth is your touchscreen's best friend. Use it to buff out fingerprints and smudges without damaging the sensitive display.

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If your device is in the kitchen and happens to come in contact with contaminants like raw meat, the safest way to kill off any potential bacteria is with a germ-killing UV light, such as the PhoneSoap Smartphone UV Sanitizer.

A megabit of prevention is worth a gigabyte of cure

Your best bet for keeping your Google Home speaker clean is to place it far away from danger zones like your kitchen counter or end tables or coffee tables where drinks go. A bookshelf or mantelpiece is a great place to put it, and display devices like the Google Home Hub can go on a picture shelf if you don't really use it while you cook. 

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Mount your Google Home Hub or Hub Max on a small shelf to keep it away from splashes and spills but still within reach.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll probably still have to dust your Google Home from time to time and, if you have any cats, dogs, rabbits or other pets, occasionally check the power cables for tooth or claw marks (if they've penetrated to the metal wires, it's time to replace the cord; if not, or to prevent such damage in the first place, a cable sleeve will take care of the problem). 

The best thing you can do the next time you're on a cleaning jag is remember to give that Google Home some attention. And then ask it to thank you.

Need more tips for your Google Home? Check out these 7 Google Home commands you'll use every single day.

Originally published earlier this week.

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