Your phone is evil. Here’s how to clean it properly

Make sure you clean your phone properly.

Derek Poore/CNET

It’s spring cleaning season—and while it might be you Polish up your kitchen or declutter your space, why not extend the tidying fun to your technique too? Your iPhone or Android phone needs a good cleaning keep as long as possible. And with COVID-19 is still spreadingit is important to disinfect the objects that you touch frequently.

You should clean your phone at least once a day by following the cleaning instructions in your phone’s user guide. Cleaning your device improperly (like using rubbing alcohol and paper towels) can remove coatings that protect your screen. A disinfectant wipe or a microfiber cloth is usually sufficient.

We show you the most common methods to properly rid your phone of germs and dirt, especially for Phones designed to be water resistant.

Use disinfectant wipes or the right alcohol-based solution

When you touch your phone after touching a public doorknob or shopping cart, your first thought might be to clean it with rubbing alcohol. Not. Pure alcohol can remove the oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that prevent oil and water from damaging your phone’s display and other ports.

Some websites suggest making your own mix of alcohol and water, but getting the concentration right is crucial. If you get it wrong you could damage your phone. The safest way is to use disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your phone’s screen.

spring cleaning

Now drop the window cleaner and counter spray.

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Before the pandemic, we were told 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 cleaning guidelines suggest that you “spray a non-abrasive or alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) sanitizer directly onto a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe your device while it is off and unplugged.” Samsung has also said you can make an alcohol-based solution using 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, applied with a microfiber cloth.

Another option for daily cleaning is to invest in a UV light, such as PhoneSoap. This UV light company claims their product kills 99.99% of germs and banishes bacteria. As far as we know, it has not been tested for this strain of coronavirus.

Get rid of fingerprints with a microfiber cloth

Fingerprints are difficult to prevent because your skin is constantly producing oils. That means every time you pick up your phone, it gets fingerprints all over it.

The safest and most effective way to clean your screen is with a microfiber cloth. If the screen needs to be cleaned urgently, dampen the microfiber cloth with distilled water and then wipe the screen – avoid splashing the water directly on the screen. This method can also be used on the back and sides of your phone.

You can also try a microfiber screen cleaner sticker that you can stick on the back of your phone and peel off when you need to wipe it down.

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


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dirty phone screen

Remove your fingerprints and other dirt with these cleaning tips.

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Remove sand and lint with this tape trick

Lint and sand can get stuck in your phone’s small ports and in the cracks where the screen meets the case.

The best way to remove sand and lint is with masking tape. You can lay it along the folds and the speaker, roll it up and carefully place it in the connectors. The stickiness of the tape will remove any lint or sand that may be stuck in your phone.

For the smaller speaker holes that the tape can’t reach, use a toothpick (carefully) or try to vacuum out the dirt with a small one splitting tool. These tools can also be used for other small appliances or hard-to-reach places in your car.

Wipe off makeup with a damp cloth

If you have a full face covered in makeup and need to make a call, guess what this foundation will stick to? That’s right, your phone screen. And while you can use makeup remover every night, don’t use it as a screen cleaner, as there might be some chemicals lurking in the ingredients. (Organics.org explains the chemicals that might be in your makeup remover.)

Instead, you could get your phone its own makeup remover like Whoosh. The company claims its product is safe for all screens and contains no alcohol, chlorine, ammonia or phosphates that could damage the various screen coatings.

You can also clean the phone with a damp microfiber cloth – and then toss that cloth in the wash. Make sure to use a spray bottle to mist the cloth instead of holding it under water. The less water the better.

How to clean waterproof phones

If you have a waterproof phone, rated for IP67 and higher, You can rinse it with water. Although these phones, like the new iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S Phones can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, it is much better to clean your phone with a damp or wet cloth. Then dry your phone with a dry, soft cloth to remove the water. Be sure to pat all speakers and connectors dry.

If you submerge the phone in water or hold it under a tap, water will get into the ports, meaning you won’t be able to charge it until it’s dry, and that might take some time. Remember that having a waterproof phone is more about having peace of mind in the event of an accident than about taking your phone for a swim on purpose.

317 galaxy convolution

If you’re on the phone with makeup on, guess what gets on your phone.

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Avoid these items when cleaning your phone

We’re here to warn you not to shame, but drop the bottle of Windex, Stat. Here are a few products you should never use to clean your phone.

hand sanitizer

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

window cleaner

You clean your mirrors and windows with window cleaner, and they’re sparkling clean, so your phone’s window cleaner must be fine? Not correct! Some phones, like the iPhone XR ($499 at Amazon)have a water and oil resistant protective coating that can wear off over time.

Using harsh detergents can strip the coating and make your phone more prone to scratches. James LeBeau, associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, told us that any cleaning products that contain abrasives are likely to scratch the surface, so these should be avoided entirely.


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kitchen cleaner

A screen’s anti-scratch properties aren’t abraded by detergents, but stripping this protective coating is still a problem. For this reason, Apple also suggests not using household cleaners to clean your iPhone, including bleach. For example, Bar Keepers Friend states that its abrasive formula can damage the protective coating. Bon Ami states not to use it on glass with coatings.

paper towels

They might be the number one choice for cleaning your desk, but keep them away from your phone. The paper can be shredded, making the dirt on your phone even worse. Paper towels can even scratch your screen.

rubbing alcohol

Since many newer phones have a protective coating, rubbing alcohol can wear it down faster over time, making your phone more prone to scratches. Be sure to check the product ingredients of any “safe” phone screen cleaner for alcohol. Apple says it shouldn’t use alcohol when cleaning its devices.

Make-up remover

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

compressed air

Your phone is delicate, so blowing too much air into its vents, especially your microphone, can cause damage. Tech companies like Apple specifically warn against using compressed air.

dish soap and hand soap

During your court and hand soaps may be gentle, the only way to use them is to combine them with water. Most phone companies recommend keeping water off your phone, so stick with a damp cloth here too.

Vinegar

This is a no go. Vinegar will loosen the coating on the screen. You could, as Lifehacker suggests, use highly diluted vinegar to clean other parts of your phone. Android Central suggests a 50/50 mix of distilled water to clean the sides and back.

If you’re thinking of buying a new phone, stop by Samsung’s Galaxy S22 range and our iPhone 13 test. Plus, here are the latest rumors about the expected ones Pixel7 and Pixel 6A.