You spend all day with your phone, setting it down on tables, chairs, public benches, bathroom counters, and even more unsightly places. Then there's the more visible grime that gets on or in your phone from dropping it in the dog park, leaving it in your sweaty jean pockets, or letting your child pour Cheerio dust all over it. Phones get dirty easily, but thankfully getting them clean again can be easy, too, if you know what to use.
Products used in this guide
- All the nooks and crannies: Aneco Cell Phone Cleaning Kit ($8 at Amazon)
- Safe on screens: Zeiss Mobile Screen Wipes ($3 at Walmart)
- Overboard but efficient: PhoneSoap 3 ($80 at Amazon)
What NOT to use when cleaning your phone
Lysol or Clorox wipes might seem like an easy way to clean grime off a phone, but fight this instinct with every phone-loving fiber of your being. Bleach, vinegar, alcohol, and most harsh disinfectant chemicals can clean the sides and back of an Android phone or iPhone, but those chemicals need to stay far away from the glass front of your phone (and glass back if you have one), as they will eat away at the oleophobic coating that your phone uses to help fight fingerprint smudges.
What if my oleophobic coating is already gone? Or I don't care about it? The oleophobic coating wears down naturally over time, so if yours is already gone, then feel free to go to town with some Lysol wipes, just be careful as you do. Make sure you don't let the liquid from the wipe seep into any ports or pinhole mics, and make sure you let the solution dry completely from the phone before you re-apply your case. These chemicals don't play nice with the interior components of your phone, and if they seep in far enough to trip the water damage sensor most phones have these days, you might not be covered for a warranty replacement if something shorts out.
Compressed air can be useful since it blows dust out of hard-to-reach places. However, you need to be very, very careful when using it with a phone as compressed air can damage pinhole mics and other components quite easily with their precise, pressurized air blasts.
How to clean your phone by hand
- Take your phone out of its case. If it's made of safe-to-wash materials like TPU/silicone and hard plastic, give the case a good rinse in warm water and let it air dry.
- Note: If your case is made of leather or other luxury materials, try looking for cleaners specific to your material. The maker of your case will likely have cleaning guidelines on their website or in the box the case came in.
- Using the felt-tipped swabs in the Phone Cleaning Kit (or Q-Tips, if you've got the time to whittle the tips to points) to gently swab around the earpiece, speaker grills, and various ports on your phone.
- Be extra careful when swabbing the USB-C/Lightning port not to leave any fibers behind or dislodge any pieces inside the port. If a swab doesn't fit in your USB-C/Lightning port, use the small brush included in the Phone Cleaning Kit instead (or a small, soft toothbrush).
- Take a Zeiss Mobile Screen Wipe and wipe down the screen and body of the phone. While the Zeiss Wipe doesn't have the harsh chemicals Lysol or Clorox wipes will, its evaporative pre-moistened solution should still be enough to remove the top layer of grime and germs from your phone.
- If any streaks remain after using the Zeiss wipe, use a microfiber cloth (or a clean, non-embroidered kitchen towel) to wipe the screen clear of streaks.
- Once the phone and case are both completely dry, re-apply your case to your phone.
If you don't regularly use your headphone port — or just tend to acquire more dirt and lint in your ports than normal — consider investing in a set of dust plugs to help keep your port clear and clean when not charging. Also, if you'd like to cut down on grime accumulated on your screen/case when you use your phone, put your phone down for a few minutes and go wash your grimy hands before getting back to browsing Reddit. Even a quick wipe of your hands with hand sanitizer can majorly cut down the sweaty, oily, germ-filled streaks on your screen.
Seriously, clean your hands, ya filthy animal!
The easiest way to disinfect your phone
There are solutions you can make by diluting isopropyl alcohol that can disinfect a phone, but again, you generally want to avoid alcohol and vinegar as they'll eat through your oleophobic coating. If that What's a girl to disinfect with instead? UV! Ultraviolet lights can kill bacteria and disinfect your phone with just a few minutes inside a doll-sized tanning bed.
There are a few versions of these UV phone baths out there, but the one I find the most practically sized and long-lasting is the PhoneSoap 3. It's roughly the size of hardback novel, features UV lights in the lid and base, and when you put your phone inside, it bathes your phone in germ-killing UV lights. Then the unit starts cleaning and the lightning bolt on the top of the unit lights up. When the light turns off, your phone is clean and you can take it out and be on your way. If you have a super-sized phone like the new Galaxy S20 Ultra, you'll want to opt for the longer Pro version to ensure your phone fits.
I like to bathe my phone and case separately so that no grime can hide under the cracks and crevices of the case, but you can stick your phone in the case and kill all of the surface bacteria on your phone. If you're someone who tweets on the toilet — or knocks out a few rounds of a match-three game, like me — consider investing in a PhoneSoap and running your phone through it at least once a week. I also run my house keys through it every few weeks.
Cleaning kit essentials
There are a lot of different products out there you can employ to clean a phone, and no one single item is required to clean yours. These are the products that have worked best for us, but you may also have products like these sitting around your house already.
Aneco Cell Phone Cleaning Kit ($8 at Amazon)
The tips on these swabs are shaped to better seek out the dust and grime lingering in the nooks and crannies on your phone.
ZEISS Mobile Screen Wipes (50ct Box) ($3 at Walmart)
I keep a couple of these easy-to-use wipes in my bag for cleaning my screen after it gets all sweaty, grimy, and nasty in the parks. Best of all, these are available for same-day pickup at Walmart.
PhoneSoap 3 UV Cell Phone Sanitizer ($80 at Amazon)
This phone-sized tanning bed uses UV lights to kill the surface bacteria on your phone to keep the germs on your phone from getting you sick.
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