Think you don’t need to worry about cleaning your smartphone? Think again. Because we constantly handle them and take them just about everywhere we go, the unfortunate truth is that smartphones are magnets for dirt, germs, and plenty of other unappetizing things. In 2011, a study conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 92% of 390 phones tested had bacteria on them; even more troubling was the finding that one in six phones harbored particularly harmful E. coli bacteria (the type of bacteria found in fecal matter).
Fortunately, keeping your smartphone squeaky clean—without damaging any of its delicate parts or surfaces—is easily accomplished with a little know-how and the right equipment. Read on to learn about some of the most important do’s and don’ts of getting, and keeping, your smartphone as clean as possible.
Do make a habit of wiping it down.
Just like anything else that needs regular cleaning, the longer you put off cleaning your smartphone, the grimier it will become and the harder it will be to get fully clean. To prevent things from getting too filthy, get in the habit of giving your phone a regular wipe down with a soft cloth moistened with a light cleaning solution. This will help prevent dirt and germs from building up and will make full-scale cleaning of your phone a considerably easier task.
Don’t use just any type of material on your phone.
Disinfecting or antibacterial wipes might seem like a good choice for cleaning your phone, but in fact it’s better to avoid them. They may be convenient, but the disinfectant liquid these wipes are saturated with can actually act as a corrosive agent on the exterior of your phone, eating away at the oleophobic coating that protects your phone’s glass screen by repelling the natural oils of your fingers and face. In addition, the cloths or towelettes themselves can be abrasive and leave scratches on your phone; it’s important to avoid using paper towels or tissues for the same reason. Instead, be sure to use a soft microfiber cloth, just like the ones people use for cleaning eye glasses; its delicate and gentle texture will let you wipe away the grime without damaging your phone.
Do turn off your phone before cleaning it.
Make sure your smartphone is powered down before launching your cleaning mission. This will not only ensure you don’t accidentally dial or text someone halfway through, it will also minimize any potential damage to your phone should any excess cleaning liquid get on it. It can also be helpful to remove the battery from your smartphone prior to cleaning it. And, of course, if you use a case or cover on your phone, be sure to take that off as well so that you can completely clean all the phone’s surfaces.
Don’t use too much cleaning solution.
Liquid and electronics don’t mix, so be sure to use the absolute minimum amount of cleaning solution when wiping down your phone. There are plenty of commercial smartphone cleaning solutions available, or you can easily make your own by filling a small spray bottle half full of distilled water (avoid tap water as it can leave residue behind) and half full of 70% rubbing alcohol. Lightly spray a very small amount of this solution on a microfiber cloth and wipe away; be sure to never spray the solution directly on your phone. If you’re nervous about using any liquid at all on your phone, just skip the solution altogether; gentle but persistent rubbing with a microfiber cloth will typically get rid of all but the most caked-on grime.
Do get into all the nooks and crannies.
Once you’ve thoroughly wiped the exterior of your phone all over, it’s time to clean out all the phone’s seams and crevices. To do this, you’ll need the right tools: toothpicks and cotton swabs are great for getting into even the smallest of cracks. Starting with a toothpick, gently and carefully excavate any dirt or grime from areas like the seams around any exterior buttons, headphone jacks, and USB ports. Then, run a dry cotton swab over the cracks to clear out any leftover dust.
Don’t forget about any smartphone accessories.
Once you’ve cleaned your smartphone, be sure to give any phone accessories the same treatment. Wipe your earbuds (another prime home for germs) with a soft cloth soaked in a little water and mild dish soap; you can also use this dish soap solution to gently remove dirt from over-the-ear headphones (take off the silicon covers from headphones and clean them separately with a toothbrush). The same procedure can be used to clean Bluetooth headsets.
Do prevent your phone from getting dirty in the first place.
It’s inevitable that your smartphone will get dirty, but you can minimize just how dirty it gets by using a protective cover, keeping your phone in a separate compartment of your backpack or purse, and washing your hands regularly before handling your phone. Remembering to do these simple things will save you time and effort in the long run.