You're Probably Not Cleaning Your Phone Right. Here's What to Actually Do (2024)

At this point, it's common knowledge that your phone harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat. Which creates a very compelling case for disinfecting one of the most used devices in your life. By keeping your phone clean, you can potentially protect yourself from illness.

According to the FCC, you should be cleaning your phone at least once a day by following your phone's manual for cleaning instructions. Cleaning your device the wrong way (like using rubbing alcohol and paper towels) can strip away protective coatings on your screen, and end up doing more harm than good. There are safer items that will do the trick.

We'll show you the most common and effective ways to keep your phone free of germs and harmful bacteria the right way, especially forphones 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 grocery cart, your first thought might be to clean it with rubbing alcohol. Don't. Straight alcohol can strip the oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that keep oil and water from damaging your phone's display and other ports.

Some websites suggest creating a mix of alcohol and water yourself, but it's crucial to get the concentration right. Get it wrong and you could damage your phone. The safest bet is to use disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your phone screen.

You're Probably Not Cleaning Your Phone Right. Here's What to Actually Do (1)

Before the pandemic, we were instructed to not use disinfectant wipes on our phone screens, butApple says it's OK to use Clorox Wipes and other disinfectant wipes with similar concentrations.

AT&T's cleaning guidelines suggest that you "spray a nonabrasive or alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) disinfectant directly on a soft lint-free cloth and wipe down your device while it is powered down and unplugged." Samsung has also said you can create an alcohol-based solution of 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, applied with a microfiber cloth.

Another option for day-to-day cleaning is investing in a UV light, such asPhoneSoap. This UV light company says its product kills 99.99% of germs and banishes bacteria.

Get rid of fingerprints with a microfiber cloth

Fingerprint smudges are hard to prevent because your skin constantly produces oils. That means that every time you pick up your phone, it's bound to get fingerprints all over it.

The safest and most effective way to clean your screen is with a microfiber cloth. If the screen is in desperate need of cleaning, use distilled water to dampen the microfiber cloth and then wipe down your screen -- avoid squirting the water directly on the screen. This method can be used on the back and sides of your phone, too.

You can also try a microfiber screen cleaner sticker, which you stick to the back of your phone and can pop off when you need to give it a wipe-down.

Check out Samsung's tips on cleaning your phone, too.

Remove sand and lint with this tape trick

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

The best way to remove sand and lint is Scotch tape. You can lay it along the creases and speaker, and roll it up and gently place it in the ports. The tape's stickiness will pull out any lint or sand that may be stuck in your phone.

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

You're Probably Not Cleaning Your Phone Right. Here's What to Actually Do (3)

Wipe away makeup with a damp cloth

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

Instead, you could get your phone its own makeup remover, such as 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 use a damp microfiber cloth to clean the phone -- and then throw that cloth in the wash. Make sure to use a spray bottle to spritz the cloth, rather than 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 iPhone 15 Pro, can withstand submersion for up to 30 minutes in up to 6 meters of water, it's a much better idea to use a damp or wet cloth to clean your phone. Then dry your phone with a dry, soft cloth to remove the water. Make sure to pat dry all speakers and ports.

Dunking the 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're dry, and that can take time. Remember that having a water-resistant phone is more about peace of mind in case of accidents than it is about purposely taking your phone for a swim.

Avoid these items when cleaning your phone

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

Hand sanitizer

Since some hand sanitizers have ingredients like fragrances and ethyl alcohol, it's best to keep sanitizer off your phone's screen. However, if you've touched anything outside your home, you should sanitize your hands before touching your phone to prevent viruses and bacteria from spreading. For best results, use a manufacturer's hand sanitizer instead of making your own at home (they're not as effective).

Window cleaner

You clean your mirrors and windows with window cleaner, and they're squeaky-clean, so window cleaner must be OK to use on your phone? Wrong! Some phones, such as the iPhone, have a protective coating that resists water and oil and that can wear out over time.

Using harsh cleaners can strip the coating and could leave your phone more vulnerable to scratches. James LeBeau, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, told us that any cleanser with an abrasive agent will likely scratch the surface, so those should be avoided entirely.

You're Probably Not Cleaning Your Phone Right. Here's What to Actually Do (4)

Watch this: Here's Why Your Phone Battery Still Sucks

Kitchen cleaners

A screen's scratch-resistant properties won't get ground down by cleaning agents, but stripping that protective coating is still a problem. That's why Apple also suggestsnot using household cleaning products to clean your iPhone, including bleach.Bon Ami statesnot to use it on glass with coatings.

Paper towels

They may be the go-to for cleaning your desk, but keep them away from your phone. The paper can shred, making the debris on your phone much worse. Paper towels can even end up leaving scratches on your screen.

Rubbing alcohol

Since many newer phones have a protective coating, rubbing alcohol can wear it away more quickly over time, causing your phone to be more prone to scratches. Make sure to check for alcohol in the product ingredients on any "safe to use" phone screen cleaners. Apple says to avoid alcohol when cleaning its devices.

Makeup remover

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

Compressed air

Your phone is delicate, so blowing an intense amount of air into its portals can cause damage, especially to your mic. Tech companies, like Apple, specifically warnnot to use compressed air.

Dish soap and hand soap

While your dish and hand soaps may be gentle, the only way to use them is to combine them with water. Most phone companies suggest keeping water away from your phone, so again, stick to a damp cloth.


This is a no-no. Vinegar will strip the screen's coating. You could, asLifehacker suggests, use very diluted vinegar to cleanse other parts of your phone.Android Central suggestsa 50/50 mix with distilled water for cleaning the sides and back.

You're Probably Not Cleaning Your Phone Right. Here's What to Actually Do (2024)


Does my phone really need cleaning? ›

If you never use your phone while eating, you don't have to be as diligent about cleaning your device. But if you tend to use your phone all the time—including during meals—a daily cleanse with a disinfectant wipe is a good idea. “I clean mine twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening,” Tierno says.

Can I use vinegar and water to clean my phone screen? ›

Stick with solutions that include distilled water. Never use bleach or vinegar – Either straight or in a solution, bleach will wreck your tech. Vinegar isn't as destructive, but it can still strip screen coatings. There are better, more effective and safer ways to clean your phone, so it's best to avoid both entirely.

What's dirtier a cell phone or toilet? ›

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that cellphones carry ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat. While many bacteria are harmless, some studies have found serious pathogens on cellphones like E-Coli, MRSA, and Strep. To avoid picking up bacteria, don't take your phone in the bathroom with you.

What is the fastest way to clean your phone? ›

Do unplug and turn off your phone first. Do use disinfectant wipes with 70% isopropyl alcohol or a similar disinfecting spray, spritzed onto a clean microfiber cloth. Do spray any cleaners onto a soft cloth, not directly onto your phone. Do wring out the wipe or cloth before using if it's too wet.

Can I use Clorox wipes to clean my phone? ›

Sanitizing means reducing germs to a level acceptable by public health standards. It only takes 10 seconds for Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes to sanitize a smartphone. If there's obvious dirt, wipe it away first, then give the phone a quick wipe down and make sure it stays visibly wet for 10 seconds.

What is the best thing to clean your phone screen with? ›

Gently wipe down the screen with a lint-free microfiber cloth, such as the lens cloth you use for your eyeglasses or sunglasses. Avoid using a tissue or paper towel, because both can leave a residue on the screen or scratch a screen's protective coating.

How can I clean my phone from viruses for free? ›

How to get rid of a virus on your Android phone: Step-by-Step
  1. Step 1: Clear your cache and downloads. ...
  2. Step 2: Reboot in safe mode. ...
  3. Step 3: Connect to a different network or change your connection method. ...
  4. Step 4: Change your Google password. ...
  5. Step 5: Change your passwords. ...
  6. Step 6: Identify and uninstall any suspicious apps.

Can I use alcohol wipes to clean my phone? ›

70% isopropyl alcohol wipe: Apple, Samsung, and Google all recommend using isopropyl alcohol–based cleaning wipes on their devices. Apple also says you can use 75% ethyl alcohol wipes or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes. Samsung additionally suggests 50- to 80-ppm hypochlorous acid–based solutions.

Can I use Lysol wipes on my phone? ›

You CAN use an alcohol wipe to disinfect your iPhone and Apple devices (such as Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Lysol Disinfectant Wipes or other wipes) in which isopropyl alcohol is at least 70 percent. Using the alcohol disinfectant wipe, gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your iPhone or device. NEVER USE BLEACH.

Is it OK to clean your phone with Windex? ›

Do not ever use Clorox, Windex, or Lysol cleaning products on your electronic devices. Smartphone screens should only be cleaned with alcohol-based cleaners, such as lens cleaning wipes you would use to clean your eyeglasses. Another option would be to use a screen cleaner designed to be used on computer screens.

How can I clean my phone for free? ›

Here's how to uninstall unneeded apps:
  1. Open up the Settings app on your Android phone and go to the Apps item.
  2. Run through the list of apps and see which ones you haven't used in a while.
  3. Tap on an app you no longer need and select Uninstall. Confirm by tapping OK. Done!
Sep 26, 2019

What is dirtier than a toilet seat? ›

Dishcloths and sponges are dirtier than any other item in the average home, harboring the largest amount of E. coli and other fecal bacteria—mostly because they aren't replaced as often as they should be. Each square inch of these items contains 456 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.

What's dirtier than a toilet bowl? ›

It's not just the bathroom doorknob that's dirtier than a toilet, it's all the doorknobs, handles, light switches, and electronic keypads around your home that are probably teeming with bacteria or virus-laden. A quick wipe down with a disinfectant wipe will take care of the problem.

What is one place that phones come in contact with the most bacteria? ›

Normally, bacteria are transferred onto cell phones from cheeks and ears as well as naturally-occurring oils in fingers.

Can you use alcohol wipes on phone screen? ›

Some websites suggest creating a mix of alcohol and water yourself, but it's crucial to get the concentration right. Get it wrong and you could damage your phone. The safest bet is to use disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your phone screen.

Can I use rubbing alcohol to clean my phone? ›

Do not use rubbing alcohol, paper towels, compressed air, dish soap or vinegar. All of these can damage your phone: Paper towels can scratch your screen, and vinegar could damage its coating. Do not use hand sanitizer on your phone screen, but do sanitize your hands before touching your phone.

Can I use wipes to clean my phone? ›

For more persistent marks and dirt, you can use some gentle face or baby wipes, or a little bit of household hand soap. If you do opt for cleaning wipes, use them sparingly and make sure they're approved for use on electrical devices. If not, Turner says a little soap, water, and a cloth will do just fine.

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