How To Safely Clean Your Smartphone

Man Wiping a smartphone clean with a soft blue cloth

Phones Are Full of Germs

Your hands are filthy.

No, really, they are, as are the insides of your pockets, your car, your desk, your furniture, and just about everything you see or touch in the course of a normal day. The great thing about the human body is that we cope pretty well with dirt, grease and just everyday grime that floats around us for a while and then settles on whatever it touches. The not so great thing about smartphones is that they don’t cope quite so well.

And we’re going to operate a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” approach to the types of bacteria that have been found on smartphones…

Dirty iphone held in hand

How to Clean It?

Fingerprints are an occupational hazard for any smartphone owner, as are those mysterious lumps of gunk that make their way into the seal between the display and the case. So how do you go about cleaning your smartphone, other than the time-honored “breath on it and wipe it on your shirt” approach we all love so much?

Believe it or not, most smartphone displays are fingerprint resistant. Note, not fingerprint proof, just resistant, so you’ll still end up with smears and smudges within a few hours of use. Modern smartphone screens are treated with an oleophobic coating which repels grease and should, in theory, make for quick and easy cleaning. But first, we’re going to tell you what NOT to do.

Rule #1: Be Careful and Do Not…

Don’t use anything but a clean microfiber cloth. Anything else will be like rubbing the display with sandpaper.
Don’t use household glass cleaners. You’re not cleaning glass, you’re cleaning the oleophobic coating, and this really doesn’t like harsh chemicals or even alcohol-based cleansers.

Pouring water over smartphone to clean itDon’t use baby wipes or other hand-cleaning products for the same reasons.

Don’t be impatient. Your smartphone was probably expensive, so you can set aside a few minutes to clean it.

Rule #2: There is a Method to the Madness

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at what you can do to bring your smartphone back to its sparkling best.

Microfiber Cloth

Because of that oleophobic coating we’ve been talking about, and the fact that it repels grease, it means that most dirt and grime are just sitting there and getting in the way. Take your microfiber cloth and gently wipe away the smudges from the screen. Don’t press hard because you shouldn’t need to, and it won’t be good for the display. Try both horizontal and vertical wipes, and use a gentle spiral mode on the stickier marks. That alone should get rid of just about everything you can see.

Cleaning Products for LCD

If it doesn’t clean properly, you do have some options. There are many specialist cleaning products available for LCD and similar screens. They will cost just a few dollars and can easily get rid of even stubborn marks. Just take care not to think cheap is good. Many are alcohol-based if they are intended for TVs etc., which don’t have the oleophobic coating.

Warm Water

Cleaning smartphone with clothEven then, you can save yourself those few dollars simply by using a little bit of plain old warm water on the microfiber cloth. The cloth should be damp, and certainly not wet, and having it warm (not hot) helps to break down stubborn oils that have been deposited on the display.

Then Use a Q-Tip

Once your screen is clean, you can look at the rest of the phone, in particular the edges between the case and the screen. They will harbor just about everything it’s possible to harbor. With the same warm water you used previously, use a Q-Tip with a little of the water to loosen and wipe away the gunge. Then finish it off with a dry part of the cloth or, preferably a second, completely dry microfiber.

All Clean! Although Not So Germ-Free

Cleaning your smartphone isn’t difficult, and not remotely like hard work. So why do we all avoid it for so long? Take a few minutes, because that’s all you need, and your phone will love you for it.

And form your own conclusions about that bacteria…

Rachel C.
Rachel C.
Rachel is the researcher and blog writer for the Mr Aberthon website. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York and eventually made her way to Connecticut in order to become a part of the Mr Aberthon Team. She is passionate about technology and electronics, and nothing gives her more pleasure than discovering insights into the latest gadgets to hit the electronics market.