How to Clean Your Cell Phone—and How Often You Should
Your phone is grosser than you realize. Wondering how to clean a phone without damaging it? Follow these step-by-step instructions.
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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 to be low, researchers have found the virus can live on surfaces for up to nine days. If you’ve recently asked yourself, “How do I clean my phone?” you’re in the right place.
“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 schedule.
Below, cleaning and tech experts share the scoop on how to properly disinfect your iPhone or Android, 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, charging port and assorted accessories.
How to clean a 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 iPhone or Android of bacteria and other germs:
- 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.
- 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.
- Gently wipe your screen with a microfiber cloth. For a deep-clean, use an approved disinfectant wipe (more on those below).
- 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 to disinfect a phone
If your phone needs more than a quick clean, you can disinfect it with the method below.
- Make sure your phone is turned off and the case is removed.
- 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.
- Gently wipe down your entire phone using a disinfectant wipe. Keep scrolling for options that are safe to use on smartphones.
- If there are any streaks left on your phone, use a microfiber cloth to buff and polish.
- 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.
- When your phone is dry, place a new screen protector over the screen. Then put the case back on your phone.
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 have an Android or Google smartphone, on-the-go Clorox wipes, Lysol wipes and other Lysol products are recommended for sanitizing many electronics, including smartphones and glass-display computer screens.
If you’re wondering how do I clean my phone with Clorox wipes or Lysol wipes without damaging it, wring out any excess liquid and 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 alcohol pads with 70% isopropyl or 75% ethyl alcohol. Like Clorox wipes, alcohol wipes should only be used on outside surfaces to avoid damaging your phone. If you’re looking for something slightly milder, alcohol-based lens wipes are also a good option. Don’t have an iPhone? McConomy says alcohol wipes can be used on any type of smartphone, including Android and Google phones.
Can you use hand sanitizer on your phone?
Hand sanitizer contains 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 iPhone experts wouldn’t: using heavy-duty household cleaners, including window cleaners, hydrogen peroxide or bleach 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 iPhone or Android 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.
How to keep your phone clean
- Designate a special pocket in your handbag or backpack for your iPhone or Android, which will keep it separated from other items that might not be fully sanitized.
- When exercising at a gym, stash your phone in a pocket or armband instead of leaving it on workout equipment that could be carrying sweat, hair, skin and other germs from previous users.
- Avoid using your smartphone on public transit or in the bathroom, where harmful bacteria could find its way onto your phone’s surface.
- Rather than cooking with a recipe from your phone, print out the recipe on a piece of paper. Illness-causing bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella from raw poultry, beef, pork and fish can contaminate your device if you leave it in the kitchen while you cook.
- Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before reaching for your iPhone or Android, especially if you have been out in public.
- 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