How to Clean a Remote Control

Think about it. Everybody, even guests, pets and children touch and slobber all over the remote controls as they sit on the couch, floors, and tables. You should clean it regularly to keep your family members from getting sick, and to keep from getting sick yourself.

Cleaning the remote is a relatively easy task. However, you have to be extremely careful with it so that you do not damage the battery contacts or the circuits. If you do, basically, it will stop working. Then you’ll have to leave the comforts of the couch every time you want to change the channel or turn the volume up, just like back in 1985.

There are two kinds of cleaning you can do: a quick surface cleaning or a more in-depth cleaning of the inside of the remote as well as the outside. They break down as follows.

Deep Cleaning a Remote Control

Warning: this is not for the squeamish! Scroll down for a less invasive method.

1. Take the remote apart

Sure, it is always fun to take things apart, but again, use extreme caution when doing so. First, open the battery compartment and take out the batteries. Then take a screwdriver and remove all of the screws that are holding the remote together. Put them in a safe place, such as bowl, so that you don’t lose them – and stick the batteries in there as well.

With the screws removed, the remote should come apart pretty easily. You can use a flathead screwdriver or knife to gently separate the two halves if it doesn’t just fall apart. If the device won’t come apart even from a gentle prying, double check to make sure there aren’t any screws still in the remote that you have overlooked.

2. Separate the buttons from the circuit board

It should be very easy to tell these two sections of the remote apart. Put the buttons to the side for now and place the circuit board on a clean and dry surface. If no such surface is available, place it on a paper towel.

3. Clean the circuit board

The key to cleaning the circuit board is to use the right cleaning solution. You absolutely do not want to use water unless you really want an excuse to purchase a new remote control. Instead, use either rubbing alcohol or a commercial contact cleaner, which you can find at most electronics stores.

Either spray the contact cleaner on the circuit board or use a cotton swab to gently wipe off any gunk with the rubbing alcohol. Be sure your swab is intact and that no fuzz ends up on the circuit board.

You shouldn’t need to dry the circuit board since the cleaning solution should evaporate on its own.

4. Clean the buttons

To clean the buttons on the remote, you can use a mixture of dish soap for hand washing and water, or you can stick with the rubbing alcohol. If you decide to go with the dish soap mixture, add about a teaspoon of dish soap to two cups of water and mix them together in a bowl until you get a uniform solution.

You can scrub the keypad with a cotton swab or an old toothbrush. Once you’re done scrubbing, let the buttons air dry or wipe them with a handkerchief, old t-shirt or microfiber cloth so that you don’t end up with lint inside your remote.

5. Put the remote back together

When everything is dry, gently stick the remote back together and put the screws back in. Then follow the steps below for the quick surface cleaning.

How to Quickly Clean a Remote

Note: If you still have the batteries in the remote, remove them at this time.

1. Clean the area around the buttons

Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean the crevices surrounding the buttons on your remote control. (It may take several swabs to get this area completely clean). Use a toothpick to extract any gunk from the seam between the two halves of the remote, but be certain that it does not break off and fall inside the remote. If it does, you’re stuck with going to the in-depth cleaning method.

2. Wipe the rest of the remote

Using a lint-free cloth, as described in step four above, wipe down the remainder of the remote with the rubbing alcohol (or use an electronics cleaning wipe). Make sure to get both the top, bottom and sides of the remote as well as the inside of the battery compartment. Use the cotton swab for any areas that the cloth can’t reach easily.

*Make sure the battery compartment is dry before you put the batteries back in.

3. Put the batteries back in

And you’re done. Now wasn’t that easy?

Can you clean a remote in the dishwasher?

Kaman25, a contributor to, advocates using the dishwasher to clean your remote, citing that you can run it through the wash cycle on the top rack as long as you take the batteries out first. We don’t recommend this approach, the water can damage the internals and the heat can melt the plastic.

Keeping your remote clean

Well, it’s easy to keep your remote control clean if you throw it in a drawer and don’t use it. But that pretty much will defeat its purpose as a remote. Other than that, you’ll just have to clean it every week or so, though you don’t need to tackle it with the in-depth method much, unless your remote quits functioning normally or you spill some Diet Coke on it.


  1. How to keep your remotes clean:

    Wrap them in plastic wrap, it does the trick. Doesn´t look very pretty, but it prevents remotes from getting sticky and grimy – especially if you have kids, or let them sit around the coffee table on a football night.

  2. We are becoming too germaphobic. I don’t think anyone has to constantly clean the remote unless you really get it sticky. I have a small caddy that sits on the coffee table and we put the remotes in there — keeps them off the tables so not always touched or spilled on. As for our hands touching them, I would hope we wash our hands frequently when we get dirty and not have to worry about everything we touch. I just wipe the remote with a cloth when I clean and that is that.

  3. My cousin has always just left the plastic wrap that the remote came with on it to keep it in good condition; works well and you don’t even have to do any work!

  4. Fort Lauderdale Bill says:

    I put my remote control in zip lock bags and they all look new regardless of how old they are. Not as unsightly as plastic wrap. I have radio frequency remote controls that I take them to the pool and water does not harm them. I also take the Ziploc bags when I travel to put the dirty remotes in the hotel rooms so I have no contact with previous guests’ germs. Same with a hospital stay.

  5. I use the flimsy plastic bags that the daily newspaper arrives in. The excess is tied in a knot. Makes it easy to find when it slides between the cushions. I am able to replace it frequently.

    Works for me!

  6. I use those little disinfecting handy wipes made by Clorox every once in a while. Works good and no muss no fuss.

  7. Occasionally your remote or other electronic items, e.g. keyboard, mouse, etc. can get wet either through spills or it falls into water, I suggest, as soon as possible, (1) rinse in/with distilled water to remove any dissolved conductive film/salts and then flush with alcohol to remove the water. Do not soak. Rinse/flush quickly to prevent the circuit board from absorbing water. Then, blow dry with a hair dryer set to low heat or air dry. Keep touching the item with your hand. If it gets too hot for comfort, STOP. This process may save an item that you might otherwise lose.

  8. I cover mine with plastic also, sure saves time cleaning; slide the new *sandwich* bag over and tape together on the back. Sometimes it takes two bags, improvise.

  9. There are few things in this world that water will harm. Wood, fabric and paper are the only things I can think of at this time. Electronic circuit boards and components are washed in deionized water and isopropyl alcohol during the manufacturing process in controlled temperature washing machines. I cleaned satellites, the Space Station and Shuttle hardware with Mr. Clean Original and deionized water. Contrary to what people are saying, water will not damage cell phones if all the water is removed before turning on the power. The key to cleaning appliances with water is to use deionized water mixed with Mr. Clean and a camels hair brush. Rinse well with a deionized water and isopropyl alcohol mix and dry thoroughly. Never apply power when anything is wet. Wiping a remote control with sterile wipes will removed bacteria that can cause concern for families and travelers.

  10. I have put my keyboard in the tub three times now and soaked it for an hour each time. I hang it to dry for three days. It’s still working great!

  11. Peterfield says:

    I was given a very good tip from some Thai friends; from new, they cover the remotes with cling film – not that pretty, but it does the trick.
    Best of luck!

  12. Great advice for the future, BUT, I have an older remote to a perfectly working TV and the number “8” and the “volume down” are very unresponsive. I have adjusted, but it’s rather crap. Can we clean them? Do we buy new universals?

  13. I don’t do it often so the remotes get pretty grimy, but a couple of times a year I sit down with a fist full of Q-tips and a bottle of rubbing alcohol and detail the remotes. I don’t take them apart, though. Works on calculators, telephones, and keyboards, too.

  14. Loose Shoes says:

    Wow. The principal article is almost entirely bad advice. The underside of the “keys” on the rubber keypad and the trace wires on the circuit board are coated with conductive paint. When the button is pressed, the underside of the button shorts out the traces under it, activating the switch and changing the channel, etc. Scrubbing will remove the conductive paint.

    Dan has it right. Soak the circuit board for a few minutes in warm water with a little detergent in it. Very gently and briefly rub the top of the board with your thumb or a soft cloth to clean the contact traces. You can do the same with the keypad. You can use a toothbrush on the TOP side of the keypad only. Rinse and dry thoroughly before reassembling.

  15. I tried the rubbing alcohol on both the circuit board and the rubber keys… and they are more responsive except the principle one I needed, the ON/OFF button. Oh, well, I’ll give it a while longer and perhaps try it again. Other than that, Wally World – Here I come!!!

  16. Attn.: Loose Shoes

    Where does one get the conductive paint needed to reactivate the on/off button on a remote?

  17. The Tech Dept. at my school shared their secret for cleaning keyboards; they run them through the dishwasher. I’ve done this at home with excellent results.

    I have also ruined the rubber buttons on a TV remote using a sharp object to dig grime from under and around the buttons, so a soft toothbrush with alcohol seems like a better plan.

  18. Use hand sanitizer. It works. Use carefully as steps above mentioned.

  19. D.M.W. says:

    I’m not a fan of deep cleaning such an insignificant piece of hardware! I only thoroughly wipe the exterior with paper towel + rubbing alcohol. But I heard Salmonella bacteria isn’t eliminated by rubbing alcohol. :/ It even likes to multiply in it.
    Since I’m single, with no kids, and being fairly obsessed with hygiene, I’m not too worried and my remotes don’t get much gunk around the buttons.
    I like the plastic wrap/Ziplock idea though.

  20. For everyone who is wrapping their rascally remotes in plastic or keeping them in bags, while this keeps your remotes clean inside, you are still very vulnerable to cross-contamination in terms of spreading germs from one family member to another. If you have a family member with cold or flu, or a pet that goes rooting around in the dirt, replace the plastic often, or at least disinfect the plastic as often as you feel is necessary.

  21. I cleaned my TV remote’s insides with rubbing alcohol and the rubber buttons trying to get it working again. This didn’t work. If anything, it completely stopped working. Then I recalled a greasy substance on the contacts inside of the remote. Of course. I applied some dielectric grease on the contacts inside the remote, that is, where the button make contact with the circuit board on the inside. This worked perfect. The remote now works perfectly!

  22. Rubbing alcohol on my remote made the plastic case that much more “sticky” and it is irreversible. Don’t use it.

  23. From Australia, not familiar with rubbing oil, but I use cleaning film. My kitchen remote is always wrapped in “Gladwrap” or film if you prefer, and I can tell you it looks good. The face is taunt and I tape it at the back, nothing wrong with that for a couple of months till it needs to be redone.
    But deep cleaning should be done when it’s necessary, that is when some buttons don’t respond any longer properly. I did not realize that screws had to be removed too before you can separate the remote casing (early dementia!), but in the end it was ok. Like anything, have to proceed with caution and be methodical, but it’s worth it.
    Dish washer…not for me! Spray and cotton buds yes. And thank you for the other tips.

Leave a Comment