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How to keep your phone looking good inside a case

A quality phone case adds grip, style, and color; it protects my handset even as it shows off the craftsmanship of the device. And a good case doesn't necessarily mean shelling out for an Otterbox or a Trident. A good case is a case that offers the right mix of protection, comfort, grip, and style for the user's situation. Regardless which case you own, be it a Spigen Neo Hybrid case, a Cruzerlite Bugdroid TPU case, or something in between, I've got news for you:

Most of you are using your case wrong.

Buy a phone, buy a case, you're protected. Right?

You buy a shiny, new phone that's worth a good bit of money. You want to protect said shiny new phone, so you buy it a case. That case is supposed to help defend it against drops, dings, and dirt, right? Well, not quite.

Unless you've got a LifeProof or other case made to keep out EVERYTHING (water, dust, sand, poltergeists, etc), your phone probably still has just enough wiggle room to allow gunk to slip in between the case and your phone. Since the debris can't easily escape, that sand or dust is just gonna rub, scratch and otherwise shift about in its confined quarters until you take the case off and liberate it.

Problem is, most people don't regularly take their case off. That bit of sand from your beach vacation last year might still be there, scratching wee little tick marks on the back of your fancy phone as it waits for freedom. So, after two years, the case finally comes off, but lo and behold, your once pristine phone is now scratched, scuffed, and maybe even stained by the case that was supposed to be protecting it.

See this? This is what happens when you don't take your case off often enough. This is also why a lot of people think cases are worthless: because they put a case on their phone and the phone was still scratched to hell while they had it. That isn't (completely) your case's fault — it's yours, too.

We all want to properly care for our precious, precious phones, so that they last longer, look better, and will hopefully fetch more when we inevitably sell them and buy a new one. Here are a few tips for keeping your case from wrecking your phone.

  • Take your phone out of the case regularly. If you're someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, keep your phone in a purse/bag with a lot of other stuff, or you just want to be careful, take your case off once a week to clean it. If you're using a case that's hard to take on and off (which should hopefully get less dirt in it), then do it once a month. If you're lazy/forgetful, do it every time you get your oil changed.
  • Use a microfiber cloth to clean it. If your phone's dirty, you might have an urge to use an alcoholic or Lysol wipe on your phone. STOP. They can eat away at the oleophobic coating on your screen. Don't even use a paper towel if you can help it, you should use a microfiber cloth to gently wipe off smudges and specks. Use the hem of your shirt in a pinch, and if you have tough gunk or sticky stuff on it, put just a little water on the cloth (not on the phone, on the cloth), and gently work out the spots.
  • Use Q-Tips to clean ports and seams. While sometimes you might also need to bust out a toothpick to dig out harder to reach grime, always start with a Q-Tip and remember that if you dig too hard, you could scratch or pop something. Like your microphone. Which would be bad.
  • Wash your case. While we wouldn't recommend washing your phone, you can wash most cases with a light dish soap solution. Considering how many places we set down our phones (dirty counters, public bathrooms, etc), you should consider washing your case once in a while and then letting it air-dry for a few hours before putting it back on your phone. While you can get most water off the surface of the case, letting it air-dry will allow more time for any water that might've seeped into the softer, squishier parts of your case to see themselves out, and it'll give you plenty of time to…
  • Let your phone breathe. After cleaning your phone and your case, just give your phone a little time away from its confines. Let it breathe. If you're cleaning it at night, just let it sit out overnight before re-assembling its case in the morning. (Whether or not it spends its nude night on a cushy pillow/throne is entirely up to you.)

Multiple cases, multiple choices, and multiple changes to keep your phone clean.

It can also help to switch cases every now and again to prevent the colors or patterns of a particular case from slowly rubbing into the phone, especially white phones. However if you've just got your one signature case, you shouldn't run into too many problems so long as you take good care of both the case and the phone.

Just as there are several things you can do right while taking care of your phone, there are some that you can do wrong. Improperly cleaning your phone could destroy the oleophobic coating, blow out your microphones, or break the phone.

Keep these away from your phone.

  • Don't use compressed air or vacuums to clean out the mic holes. Even if you're in the middle of salvaging a phone that took a dive into the pool, be careful using the vacuum to suck out moisture as it can damage the microphones and other components.
  • Don't use harsh cleaners or higher-proof alcohol solutions on the screen. While stubborn, tacky gunk may build up on the trim and around the screen, please don't use cleaning solutions like Windex or rubbing alcohol trying to remove it. Use small amounts of water on cotton swabs, tissues, or microfiber cloths and good old-fashioned elbow grease to work it off the screen. If you need to use isoprophyl alcohol, water it down first and use sparingly. You can also use very tiny portions of stronger cleaners on the back of the phone depending on the material.
  • Don't spray your phone with water or any cleaning agent. Always spray any cleaning liquids (usually water) on your cloth rather than on the device itself. You do not want it getting into the speaker grills, microphones, or any other ports, and you wouldn't want excess seeping into your phone.

Phonesoap smartphone cleaner

If you germaphobes really want to kill the bacteria on your phone, don't reach for the Clorox or Lysol. Invest in a UV smartphone sterilizer, where you can leave your phone to charge overnight as UV lights kill bacteria on the device. It's not something most of us need, but if you do, that's an option.

So, how do you keep your phone clean? Just rub it on your sleeve, or do you have a fastidious cleaning process to keep your phone in like-new condition? Share your cleaning habits in the comments below, and tell us how well your case keeps your phone safe and clean!

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

49 Comments
  • Thanks Ara. Great and helpful article. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Whatever shirt I'm wearing at the time cleans my phone and case. Probably once a month, or when I want to remember how good a naked GS7 feels.
  • Caseless is my dream, but until screens are made of sapphire crystal, or I make enough money not to care about screen replacement, I go with a case. Ringke fusion to be exact.
  • My G4 has been without case for a year. I find that I don't drop it nearly as often as I did other phones with cases. In other words, I seemed to have trained myself to handle it better.
  • I don't drop my phone often, maybe 3-5 times a year. An dim extra careful if it's caseless. It's just, what if that one time ends it lol. It's the American way, living in constant fear.
  • I had a case on the G4 for a few weeks and grew to dislike that.
    Trying my best to be as careful as possible because the G4 looks so good caseless.
  • I use eyeglass cleaning solution on my screen. Any concerns with that and the oleophobic coating?
  • Some glasses have oleophobic coatings, so I'd hope it doesn't hurt it too much, but maybe save it for when your screen is really really dirty.
  • As long as no alcohol in it. Best is from Sunglass Hut and lifetime free refilling. I am a store mgr. Best on the market...for your glasses too. Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • If they made a phone as thick as they become in a case, they could double the battery life and improve drop survivability. And maybe add additional features, like a built-in kickstand and edge knurling, that people buy cases for.
  • For the sake of variety alone, I buy a new case every few months anyway. So this isn't a concern.
  • I switch cases a lot on my GS6edge. One thing I do now is put a clear skin on the phone first, like best skins ever. Then I can swap cases to my hearts desire without the worry of derbis scratches. Also it helps protect the phone on the open areas of the case around the USB port, camera, headphone jack, etc...
  • I use my phones naked :) the case I had on my nexus 6 was too slippery at times and my phone would get VERY hot pretty easily. Also, the glue holding the solid black sides to the clear back comes off easily, so I had to use krazy glue often. I drop this phone a lot less than I did my iPhone 5c (which never had a broken screen but had some undiagnosable problem probably due to a drop) so it's not horrible. However, I did drop it a few weeks ago and it's taking forever to get the screen replaced -_- Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sadly the S7 is a very slippery phone. I'd use mine caseless more often but I'm worried about dropping it Posted via the Android Central App
  • This article was fun to read. Just the right amount of humor mixed in to make it enjoyable. Nice job Ara.
  • Thank you! I try to keep things fun whenever possible.
  • Noted, will be bookmarking this page when I get home today.
  • I use the same case as that one on my Nexus 5X - with a dbrand carbon fiber skin underneath. I also use a Google case, and a Google folio case. The 5X folio case from Google is my favourite - The folio can turn the phone on and off which means you don't need ambient mode, which saves battery. Posted from one of my various Nexus devices.
  • Otterbox for my Moto X ruined the leather back. Left a permanent impression in the leather where the foam padding inside was touching. Posted via the Android Central App
  • For leather phones, you're almost better off just getting a bumper and then carefully cleaning the leather every so often: http://www.androidcentral.com/how-clean-leather-back-your-moto-x-and-make-it-smell-oh-so-fresh I am genuinely curious, why pay extra for the leather and put it in an Otterbox? Hell, I felt bad using clear cases on my MotoMaker X, and that was one of the plastic backs.
  • I really liked the look and intended to carry it without a case, sometimes. However, my job as a firefighter pretty much demands a good case and I had always had good service from Otterbox. I honesty didn't notice it until several months after owning the phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Wow... Never thought that my lens cleaner wipes could hurt the coating. Time for a new approach. I change my cases a ton, so that isn't an issue for me, but I was clearly cleaning it with the wrong thing. -Shawn
    Noting the world one S-Pen at a time
  • Back of my S7 is scratched up, first phone I've had the issue with as well. Kept inside a UAG case, sand or something got into it and ate away at the back. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not sure why you guys are having issues with your glass 7 I've had all there glass phones strarting from last year 6 6+ note 5 and 7 edge not one mark on it and my grandson 6 and wife's 7 is prefect what are you guys doing to your phones . Granted I cases mine Posted via my note 5 are gs7 edge
  • I've had the Note 5 and S7 since they both launched. Not a scratch on the Note 5, a multitude of scratches on my S7. Meanwhile even my Note 3 I had since launch, still use as an MP3 player and casting device for my television and it looks newer than my S7 as far as physical condition/ wear and tear. I must of gotten sand in the case when my phone was under water, it's been submerged in a lake and stream, something the Note 5 never experienced for obvious reason. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a glass screen protector. I usually clean my phone almost everyday with a paper towel and a bit of hand sanitizer. Clean the screen and wipe down the phone (I use a case) or I'll also just clean the screen with a t-shirt. I also have several cases so every once in a while I switch out cases and wash the cases with hot water. I'll them run under water for a minute or two. Don't use soap though, maybe I'll start adding a bit of soap into the mix. *6P 64 gb Graphite (AT&T)*
    *iPad Air 2 64 gb Space Gray (AT&T)*
  • I'm really careful with my phones so I've always been a proponent of going naked (previous phones: Nexus one, Nexus S, HTC M7). That is until I got the Nexus 6p. It's the only phone I've ever felt compelled to put a case on because of it's size and slippery feel. Started with a clear TPU case but couldn't stand the greasy feel that the rubbery plastic took on. Now I rock a rhinoshield bumper with a dbrand skin on the back. It was a good decision because I've dropped this phone twice on concrete (fell out of my pocket when getting out of a car) and it's still in perfect condition! The bumper got scuffed but I was able to smooth it out with some fine grit sandpaper. Now for my cleaning routine: I clean my phone (everything but the display) and the bumper about once a week with alcohol prep pads (great for cleaning all kinds of electronics and getting sticky cannabis concentrates off your fingers). I carry a microfiber cloth to use on the display multiple times a day because I can't stand a smudgy display.
  • My case comes off once a day when I swap batteries. I wipe down the phone and clean the case at least once a week. Only use microfiber and water. Tempered glass screen saver (Luvitt) cleans easily with my shirt. Gotta say though it rarely has fingerprints on it. Phone is an s5 and case is Spigens tough armor. Ive tried other cases off and on but this ones super quick and easy to remove when I need to do a quick battery swap. Phone looks like new still. Living in the desert and having really fine dust here all our electronics (and appliances) require abit of extra care. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I clean my phones daily and pull the cases off and wash them in soapy water a couple of times a week.
    Some cases I've had did more damage than if left unprotected. The Xperia devices seem to be easily scratched by having a case on them.
    My Z1 got a few dings in the back screen protector from grit getting into the back of the case.
    So glad I put a shield on there to protect the glass from damage.
  • I've really only had a problem once, and they was that M8. Really scratched the crap out of it. They make special cleaning wipes and solutions for TVs and other electronics that don't damage the screen. The main thing is that don't contain ammonia, which is the main ingredient in most glass cleaner, which is what damages the screens. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I always have cases, just a single "bad luck" drop from any height could kill most phones. I have started to wonder though whether the cases should have holes in them to allow heat to escape. I wish they were made rugged in the first place so the design would take care of heat and other possible issues.
  • Thanks Ara. I had a CaseMate Barely there on my One M8 which is a hard, clear shell. It took everyday knocks well, but even though I removed it fairly regularly to clean, it did mark the top and bottom of the back. Because it's a hard case, the dirt migrated to the same area each time, and scratched through the coating. With my HTC 10, I've got a clear, softish EasyAcc TPU case which seals the dirt out better. It still gets under the edges by the screen, so I'm making a point to clean the case and phone every couple of days with a damp flannel. That case has micro dots on the inside, which hold it away from the phone slightly. I suspect that should help stop grit grinding in too.
  • One question : did 70% alcohol still safe for the screen coating or not ? I use it since 2009. Thankyou for the answers Posted via the Android Central App
  • Any tips on cleaning the gunk inside the front facing speakers on a Nexus 6P? Haven't been able to find a great way to clean them.
  • Rubbing alcohol should work, or an approved electronic cleaner. Spray some on an old toothbrush and scrub, at least that's what local repair shops do when someone is having microphone/speaker problems. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I keep microfiber cloths available.
    I have a "safe for oleophobic" screen cleaner (from BestBuy, 'Monster' makes it) I use regularly.
    And, I keep one of those tiny little microfiber squares that come with almost every screen protector kit and even with some devices, right in the box, in my pocket. - I snagged a little plastic ball that has slots throughout it amd opens to run those tiny little things through the wash so I can have a clean fresh one for my pocket daily.. (and, since they are so readily available, I have enough to have a fresh one every day for about a week and a half ;-p ) The case comes off about once every 10 days to 2 weeks to wipe it out and, coincidentally, I usually do that before bed and leave it off overnight. It makes me laugh at how much smaller the actual body of tis this without it on.. Posted from the AC App via the SG S5 on AT&T
  • Thank god I've gotten a water resistant phone... Lol.... I just wash up my phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • same here :) i still feel a little dread every time i do it but it's much easier...
    i also have a microfiber cloth to quickly clean the screen,
  • I have that same spigen case from the front cover for the Honor 5x and it wonderful it survived a drop from 20ft up (I was on my roof) Posted via the beautiful honor 5x with Android m ui theme
  • Every night, before hitting the sack, my routine involves washing my hands well, drying them, then re-wetting my right hand and drying it in the same place on the towel four-to-five times to dampen the towel. I then proceed to wipe my device very well. On long weekends, I remove the case for the weekend. I then clean the case thoroughly, while wiping my phone as I always do. I've done this on my BlackBerry Curve/Torch/Z10/Z30/Passport/Note 4 with no issues... only cleanliness! Posted via the Android Central App
  • A case is the reason i was able to sell my 2+ year Nexus 5 for 180$
  • I'm glad someone at android central uses a case and wrote this article. It's quite helpful.
    Not using a case is a luxury that only those who don't have to worry about money can afford.
    For the average user a case and good screen protector is indispensable , protecting a large investment and keeping it safe. even I, someone who swaps phones fairly regularly always use a case, because it protects the phone I'm using, which then enables me to sell the old phone at a higher price on swappa when I upgrade.
    Getting the best price on my old phones helps finance my roughly yearly phone upgrade cycle.
  • I can't even use screen protectors... they don't photograph well...
  • I just don't like them because I don't see the point for one, and two I don't like the feel Posted via the Android Central App
  • Get a tempered glass screen protector, much easier to install and feels just like the normal screen, that's all I use now.
    I've had a few instances where they saved me a scratched or cracked screen protector is much better than a scratched or cracked screen. Posted via the Android Central App
  • But does the glass protector at least protect the screen from shattering. My biggest complaint about the soft ones aside from the feel is that you don't need them. Gorilla Glass doesn't really scratch, so I see no point to using one. Back when smartphones first came out it was more prone to scratching. Posted via the Android Central app on my Nexus 5X with Project Fi
  • Gorilla Glass doesn't scratch, my ass. I got at least two small scratches on my HTC 10 already... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I myself have had glass protectors take the bullet and shatter and prevent damage to the screen. Also gorilla glass will scratch, I've seen plenty of gorilla glass 4 scratched screens.
    You may be very carefully and have been lucky , but believe me you can scratch it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a cheap little Amzer case for my Nexus 5X. I had the official Adopted case, but it stretched out pretty quickly. I'll remove the case once a month to wash it and I just clean the screen off with the shirt I am wearing at the time Posted via the Android Central App