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

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.