How to Clean Your Cell Phone—And How Often You Should

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Your phone is grosser than you realize. Here's how to clean it properly.

Get this: Your smartphone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat, according to microbiologists at the University of Arizona. Sure, many of these germs are harmless. But the researchers make a good case for learning how to clean your phone. After all, smartphone screens can also carry illness-causing bacteria like streptococcus and E. coli, as well as viruses like the flu. And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk of getting COVID-19 from surfaces low, researchers have found the virus can live on surfaces for up to nine days.

“Phones are known points of contact where we’re constantly touching other things and then touching our phones,” says Melissa Maker, host of the YouTube channel Clean My Space. Like a good grasp of hand hygiene, an understanding of how to clean your phone will help you avoid the flu and COVID-19. That’s why Maker says the task should be a regular part of your cleaning routine.

Below, cleaning and tech experts share the scoop on how to properly disinfect your smartphone, which products you should use, and how often you should clean your device. If you want to be extra thorough at removing germs and bacteria from your new tech gifts and other tech items, be sure you have the best phone sanitizer on hand and know how to clean your AirPods and assorted accessories.

How do you clean your phone screen at home?

The average smartphone screen carries more than 17,000 types of bacteria, so experts recommend cleaning it every time you return home. Here’s how to clean your phone of bacteria and other germs:

  1. Power down your smartphone and remove the case. Germs can get caught in the corners of the case, so it’s important to take it off when cleaning, says Sarah McConomy, a smartphone expert and chief operating officer of cell phone trade-in site Sell Cell.
  2. If you have a screen protector that is pulling up on the sides or at the corners, bacteria can build up there, too, McConomy says. Remove the screen protector and throw it away.
  3. Gently wipe your screen with a microfiber cloth. For a deep clean, use an approved disinfectant wipe (more on those below).
  4. Don’t forget to clean the camera’s lenses and edges with a microfiber cloth. A sign yours needs cleaning? Your pictures will start to come out blurry.

How do you disinfect your phone?

If your phone needs more than a quick clean, you can disinfect it with the method below.

  1. Make sure your phone is turned off and the case is removed.
  2. With a Q-tip or similar product, scrub the grooves in your phone where grime might build up, such as the speaker grills, charging port, lock button, and earpiece.
  3. Gently wipe down your entire phone using a disinfectant wipe. Keep scrolling for options that are safe to use on smartphones.
  4. If there are any streaks left on your phone, use a microfiber cloth to buff and polish.
  5. Clean your phone case by running it under warm water or wiping it down with a disinfecting wipe. Leave the case and your phone in a clean area with plenty of airflow to dry.
  6. When your phone is dry, place a new screen protector over the screen. Then put the case back on your phone.

Don’t stop there! You should learn how to clean your phone’s charging port, your TV screen, and your computer screen, too.

Can you use Clorox wipes on your phone?

Apple has recently updated its guidelines for cleaning iPhones, saying that disinfectants like Clorox wipes are safe to use. If you don’t have an iPhone, Lysol wipes and other Lysol products are recommended for sanitizing electronics like smartphones.

Wondering how to clean a phone with Clorox or Lysol wipes—without damaging it? Gently wipe down the exterior surfaces. Avoid getting liquid in any openings, which could seep into your device and damage it.

Can you use alcohol wipes on your phone?

Alcohol wipes are approved by Apple’s experts for cleaning iPhones. For the best germ-busting results, the company recommends using 70 percent isopropyl or 75 percent ethyl alcohol wipes. Like Clorox wipes, alcohol wipes should only be used on outside surfaces to avoid damaging your phone. Don’t have an iPhone? McConomy says alcohol-based wipes can be used on any type of smartphone.

Can you use hand sanitizer on your phone?

Hand sanitizer contains ingredients, like fragrances and rubbing alcohol, that could harm your smartphone, so it’s best to avoid using it as a phone disinfectant. Another thing you’re doing that Apple experts wouldn’t: using heavy-duty household cleaners to clean your device. That’s a big no-no. “These solutions are so strong that they’ll damage your phone’s LCD screen as well as other intricate components of your phone,” says Kenny Trinh, CEO and editor of NetbookNews.

How often should you clean your phone?

Trinh recommends wiping down your smartphone with a microfiber cloth every day. If wiping down your phone daily sounds unrealistic, you might change your mind after you learn how dirty your phone screen actually is.

“It might sound tedious, but it will only take a minute or two to do, just like handwashing,” Trinh says. He also suggests using microfiber cloths rather than tissues or paper towels to protect the screen from scratches. At the very least, you should give your phone a good cleaning twice a month, he says.

Sources:

  • University of Arizona: “Why your cellphone has more germs than a toilet”
  • Journal of Hospital Infection: “Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents”
  • Melissa Maker, host of the YouTube channel Clean My Space
  • Germs: “High level bacterial contamination of secondary school students’ mobile phones”
  • Sarah McConomy, chief operating officer of SellCell.com
  • Apple: “Cleaning your iPhone”
  • Lysol: “How to Clean Electronics in Your Home”
  • Kenny Trinh, CEO and editor of NetbookNews

Brooke Nelson
Brooke is a tech and consumer products writer covering the latest in digital trends, product reviews, security and privacy, and other news and features for RD.com.