Your phone screen is dirty. This is how you clean it without causing damage

If you’ve ever heard that your phone harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat, it’s true (and pretty gross). With that in mind, you should regularly disinfect the device that touches your skin several times a day. Cleaning your phone can help make it last longerbut how often should you do that?

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

We’ll show you the most common ways to properly clean your phone of germs and gunk, especially for phones rated for water resistance.

Use disinfectant wipes or the appropriate alcohol-based solution

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

Some websites suggest making your own mix of alcohol and water, but getting the concentration right is crucial. Doing it wrong can damage your phone. The safest bet is to use disinfectant wipes that contain 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your phone screen.

Drop the window cleaner and counterspray, now.

Derek Poore/CNET

Before the pandemic, we were instructed not to use disinfectant wipes on our phone screens, but Apple says it’s OK to use Clorox wipes and others with comparable concentrations.

AT&T’s cleaning guidelines suggest that you “squirt a non-abrasive or alcohol-based (70% isopropyl) disinfectant directly onto a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe your device with it turned off and unplugged.” Samsung has also said that you can make an alcohol-based solution of 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol, applied with a microfiber cloth.

Another option for daily cleaning is investing in a UV lamp, such as: PhoneSoap. This UV light company claims its product kills 99.99% of germs and expels bacteria. As far as we know, it has not been tested with regard to this strain of the coronavirus.

Remove fingerprints with a microfiber cloth

Fingerprint smudges are hard to avoid because your skin is constantly producing oil. That means every time you pick up your phone, fingerprints are sure to be found on it.

The safest and most effective way to clean your screen is with a microfiber cloth. If the screen needs to be cleaned urgently, use distilled water to dampen the microfiber cloth and then wipe your screen — avoid spraying 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 cleaning sticker that sticks to the back of your phone and can be removed when you need to wipe it off.

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

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dirty phone screen

Remove fingerprints and other grime with these cleaning tips.


Remove sand and fluff with this tape trick

Lint and sand can get trapped in your phone’s tiny ports and in the crevices where the screen meets the case.

The best way to remove sand and lint is tape. You can put it along the folds and the speaker, roll it up and carefully place it in the ports. The stickiness of the tape will remove any lint or sand stuck in your phone.

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

Wipe off make-up with a damp cloth

If you have a full makeup face and need to call, guess what that foundation will stick to? That’s right, your phone screen. And while you can use makeup remover every night to take your makeup off, don’t use it as a screen cleaner because of certain chemicals that can lurk in the ingredients. ( explains the chemicals that may be in your makeup remover.)

Instead, you could give 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 can damage the various screen coatings.

You can also use a damp microfiber cloth to clean the phone – then throw that cloth in the wash. Be sure to use a spray bottle to spritz the cloth, rather than submerging it in water. The less water, the better.

How to clean waterproof phones

If you have a water-resistant phone, suitable for: IP67 and above, you can rinse it with water. Although these phones, like the new iPhone 13 and the Galaxy S phones, can withstand submersion for up to 30 minutes in up to 3 feet of water, it is 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. Be sure to pat all speakers and ports dry.

If you immerse the phone in water or run it under a faucet, water will get into the ports, meaning you won’t be able to charge it until they are dry, which may take some time. Remember, having a water-resistant phone is more about peace of mind in the event of accidents than purposefully taking your phone out for a swim.

person talking on the phone

If you’re calling while wearing makeup, guess what’s 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 a few products you should never use to clean your phone.

Hand Cleanser

Since some hand sanitizers contain 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 are not that effective).

Window washer

You clean your mirrors and windows with window cleaner, and they are spotless, 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 can wear out over time.

Using harsh cleaners can remove 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 cleaning agent containing an abrasive is likely to scratch the surface, so those should be avoided completely.

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Kitchen cleaners

The scratch-resistant properties of a screen are not crushed by cleaning agents, but removing that protective coating is still a problem. That’s why Apple recommends that you don’t use any household cleaners to clean your iPhone, including bleach. For example, Bar Keepers Friend states that the abrasive formula can affect the protective layer. Bon Ami states not to use it on glass with coatings.

Paper towels

They may be the best way to clean your desk, but keep them away from your phone. The paper can shred, making the dirt on your phone much worse. Paper towels can even scratch your screen.

Cleaning alcohol

Since many newer phones have a protective coating, rubbing alcohol can wear it off faster over time, making your phone more prone to scratches. Be sure to check for alcohol in the product ingredients of all “safe to use” phone screen cleaners. Apple says it avoids alcohol when cleaning its devices.

makeup remover

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

Compressed air

Your phone is fragile, so blowing an intense amount of air into the portals can cause damage, especially to your microphone. Tech companies, such as Apple, specifically warn not to use compressed air.

Dishwashing liquid and hand soap

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


This is a no-no. Vinegar will strip the coating from the screen. You could, as Lifehacker suggests, use very dilute 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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