Your phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Clean it now

Yes, it is true that your phone harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat, which is why you should regularly disinfect the device that touches your skin several times throughout the day. As a bonus, cleaning your phone can help too make it last longer. But how often should you?

Ideally, you should clean your phone at least once a day by following the phone manual for cleaning instructions. Cleaning the device incorrectly (such as using rubbing alcohol and paper towels) can remove the coatings that protect the screen. There are safer items that will do the trick.

We will show you the most common ways to clean your phone without germs and dirt the right way, especially for phones rated for water resistance.

Use disinfectant wipes or the right alcohol-based solution

If you touch your phone after touching a public door handle or shopping cart, your first thought may be to clean it with rubbing alcohol. Don’t. Pure alcohol can remove the oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that prevent oil and water from damaging your phone display and other ports.

Some websites suggest making a mixture of alcohol and water yourself, but getting the right concentration is crucial. You are wrong and you could damage your phone. The safest bet is to use disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean the phone screen.

Drop the window cleaner and counter spray now.

Derek Poore / CNET

Before the pandemic, we were asked not to use disinfectant wipes on our phone screens, but Apple says it’s okay to use Clorox Wipes and others with similar concentrations.

AT & T’s cleaning guidelines suggest that you “spray a non-abrasive or alcohol-based disinfectant (70% isopropyl) directly onto a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe the device while it is powered off and unplugged.” Samsung also said that it is possible to create an alcohol-based solution of 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, applied with a microfiber cloth.

Another option for daily cleaning is to invest in a UV light, for example Phone Soap. This UV lamp company claims that its product kills 99.99% of germs and banishes bacteria. As far as we know, this model has not been tested in relation to COVID, however some of its products have.

Remove fingerprints with a microfiber cloth

Fingerprint smudges are difficult to prevent because your skin is constantly producing oils. This means that every time you pick up your phone, it’s bound to get fingerprints all over the place.

The safest and most effective way to clean the screen is with a microfiber cloth. If the screen is in dire need of cleaning, use distilled water to moisten the microfiber cloth and then clean the screen, avoid spraying water directly on the screen. This method can also be used on the back and sides of the phone.

You can also try a microfiber screen cleaning sticker, which sticks to the back of the phone and can be removed when you need to clean it.

Also check out Samsung’s tips on cleaning your phone.


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dirty phone screen

Remove fingerprint stains and other mud with these cleaning tips.

warat42 / iStockphoto

Remove sand and lint with this tape trick

Lint and sand can get stuck in the small ports of the phone and in the crevices where the screen meets the body.

The best way to remove sand and lint is with scotch tape. You can lay it along the folds and the speaker, roll it up and gently place it in the ports. The viscosity of the tape will eliminate lint or sand that may be stuck in the phone.

For smaller speaker holes that the tape can’t reach, use a toothpick (gently) or try sucking up the debris with a small crevice tool. These tools can also be used for other small appliances or hard-to-reach areas in your car.

Remove makeup with a damp cloth

When you have full makeup and need to make a phone call, guess what that foundation is going to stick to? That’s right, your phone screen. And while you can use a makeup remover to take off your makeup every night, you shouldn’t use it as a screen cleaner due to some chemicals that may be lurking in the ingredients. (Organics.org explains the chemicals that may be present in your makeup remover.)

Instead, you could get your phone with its own makeup remover, for example Whoosh. The company claims that its product is safe for all screens and does not contain alcohol, chlorine, ammonia or phosphates that could damage various screen coatings.

You can also use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the phone and then throw that cloth in the wash. Make sure you use a spray bottle to spray the cloth, instead of running it under water. The less water, the better.

How to clean waterproof phones

If you have a water resistant phone, rated for IP67 and above, you can rinse it with water. Although these phones like the new one iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S phones, they can withstand immersion for up to 30 minutes in up to 3 feet of water, it’s a much better idea to use a damp or wet cloth to clean your phone. Then wipe the phone with a soft, dry cloth to remove the water. Make sure you dry all speakers and ports.

Soaking your phone in water or running it under a faucet will get water into the ports, which means you won’t be able to charge it until they dry and that can take time. Remember that having a water-resistant phone means more peace of mind in case of an accident than intentionally taking the phone for a swim.

person talking on the phone

If you make a call while wearing makeup, guess what it gets on your phone.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Avoid these items when cleaning your phone

We’re here to warn you, not to shame you, but drop that bottle of Windex, stat. Here are some products you should never use to clean your phone.

Hand sanitizer

Since some hand sanitizers contain ingredients such as fragrances and ethyl alcohol, it is best to keep the hand sanitizer away from the phone screen. However, if you have touched something outside your home, you should disinfect your hands before touching the phone to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. For best results, use a manufacturer’s hand sanitizer instead of making one at home (they are not that effective).

Window cleaner

Clean mirrors and windows with glass cleaner and they are perfectly clean, so must the glass cleaner be ok to use on your phone? Wrong! Some phones, like the iPhone, have a protective coating that resists water and oil and can wear out over time.

Using harsh cleaners can tear the coating and make your phone more vulnerable to scratches. James LeBeau, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, told us that any cleaner with an abrasive agent will likely scratch the surface, so they should be avoided altogether.


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Kitchen cleaners

The scratch-resistant properties of a screen are not diminished by cleaners, but removing the protective coating is still a problem. That’s why Apple also suggests not using household cleaning products to clean your iPhone, including bleach. Bar Keepers Friend, for example, claims that its abrasive formula could damage the protective layer. Bon Ami declares not to use it on glass with coatings.

Paper towels

They might be ideal for cleaning your desk, but keep them away from your phone. The card can be destroyed, greatly worsening the debris on the phone. Paper towels can even end up leaving scratches on the screen.

Denatured alcohol

Since many newer phones have a protective coating, denatured alcohol can consume it more quickly over time, making the phone more prone to scratches. Be sure to check the product ingredients for alcohol on any “safe to use” phone screen cleaner. Apple says to avoid alcohol when cleaning its devices.

Make-up remover

Some makeup removers may contain chemicals that can be harsh on an electronic screen. LeBeau suggests avoiding makeup remover and instead using a soft cloth with a little water.

Compressed air

Your phone is delicate, so blowing an intense amount of air into its portals can cause damage, particularly to the microphone. Tech companies, such as Apple, specifically warn against using compressed air.

Dish soap and hand soap

While your plate is hand soaps
they can be delicate, the only way to use them is to mix them with water. Most phone companies suggest keeping water away from the phone, so once again stick a damp cloth.

Vinegar

This is a no. The vinegar will remove the screen coating. You could, as Lifehacker suggests, use very diluted vinegar to clean other parts of your phone. Android Central suggests a 50/50 mix with distilled water for cleaning the sides and back.

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