Did you know your phone can be one of the dirtiest items you carry with you? Not only do you use it 24/7, you might pop it into a purse or pocket, toss it down on a table while you have lunch, and touch it after you touch a myriad of surfaces. It's no wonder phones, and their protective cases, can harbor tons of germs and bacteria. Thankfully, some of the newest cases come with antibacterial coatings. You can also use a UV-C sanitizer to get rid of lingering viruses and bacteria. But these don't get rid of dirt, dust, and grime in the cracks and crevices, not to mention those pesky fingerprints. So, it's important to give your phone case a quick clean every now and then. But how do you clean your phone case?
First thing's first, make sure to remove your phone from the case before you begin, and wash your hands so they're fresh, clean, and ready to go. Then, follow this guide depending on which type of phone case you have.
How to clean a clear plastic or TPU phone case
If the silicone case has started to yellow — which tends to happen with cases made of polymer after being exposed to chemicals, light, and heat over long periods of time — you can clean it to try to get it back to at least closer to its original state.
Use a mix of warm water and a couple drops of dish soap. Use a soft toothbrush (nothing with harsh bristles) or a soft brush or microfiber cloth to wipe the phone case with this solution, getting into every spot, inside and out. Once done, rinse the case in warm water, then use a soft cloth to dry it. Let it sit for at least an hour until fully dry before placing it back on your phone, especially if your phone is not waterproof.
Getting rid of yellowing and stains
If the stain is really bad, consider using a bit of the most magical cleaner that exists: baking soda. Wet the toothbrush with warm water and scrub the case. You might have to do this a few times. Make sure to rinse all the baking soda off when you're done, then dry it with a soft cloth.
You can also opt for rubbing alcohol or a cleaner like Whoosh! Sanitech, which is designed to clean both phone screens and device bodies. This will help get rid of yellowing and prevent the material from degrading as quickly. Spray it on with a bottle or soak a soft cloth in rubbing alcohol and rub it all over the case. Then, dry it with a clean and dry cloth. Don't put your phone back in right away — let it dry for about an hour. This will not only clean the case but also get rid of lingering bacteria.
For really bad yellowing, consider toothpaste (which is a handy stain remover), and steel wool, then follow the same steps for rinsing and drying. But keep in mind harsh steel wool could lead to scratches. If the case is bad enough, you might be better off tossing it and buying a new one.
How to clean a leather phone case
Leather phone cases are different. While they won't yellow, they can pick up dirt and grime more easily, particularly if it's a textured finished with lots of grooves. Thankfully, they are a bit easier to clean. Real leather will naturally change its look over time, developing a nice patina, which is all part of its elegant appeal.
You can use warm water and a soft microfiber cloth, like one of the best microfiber cloths for phones and laptops we have highlighted, and wipe the case down as needed. Do this every few days or once a week to keep it in pristine condition. To maintain the case, since leather absorbs moisture and thus can dry and crack as it ages (though the distressed look is kind of "in" right now), you can also consider adding some leather condition or mink oil to it every couple of months. Test the solution first on a small section of the case before using it all over to make sure it doesn't discolor it. One like the TriNova leather cleaner comes in a small, convenient spray bottle along with a microfiber cloth. And it's safe to use on leather as well as faux leather, which you'll commonly find in many phone cases as well.
Since leather attracts moisture, you should also wipe it dry any time it's exposed to water, like while walking in the rain or snow. If spots develop, use a soaked sponge or towel and rub gently around where the spot is so rings don't form once the water droplets dry.
If it's a really icky stain or caked on dirt after you went four-wheeling in the desert, you can try adding a bit of mild detergent or even use leather cleaner on a damp cloth, rubbing in a circular motion. Just make sure to wipe it down with warm water after, and then let it dry and sit for an hour before putting the case back on your phone.
How to clean a wood phone case
If you decided to splurge and get a more expensive wood case for your phone, you'll need to clean it a different way. It's important to dust the phone like you would any other piece of wood furniture in your home, which will remove dirt, dust, and debris, which could end up scratching the case.
As with leather cases, if it gets wet, make sure to dry it off immediately using a dry microfiber cloth (don't use abrasive tissues, dishtowels, or paper towels), going along the grain as you clean. The Awesome Screen Cleaning Ball is a neat option with two sides: an ultrafine side and terry microfiber side, and its circular design makes it great for cleaning both the phone's screen and the case's back and front, in a consistent, circular motion. If necessary, add a bit of water to the cloth to remove tougher stains, but never apply the liquid directly to the case. As with the others, let the case dry for about an hour before putting it back on your phone.
What not to use to clean your case
An important thing to be mindful of when looking at how to clean your phone case is to never use any type of harsh chemicals on your phone case, nor the phone itself or the screen. Sometimes, all it takes is some warm water and a soft cloth to keep your phone case in pristine condition. But if it's particularly soiled with tons of dirt and grime, you can use a solution that's safe and natural to get into those hard-to-reach places. Once you're done with the case, check out our guide on how to properly clean and disinfect your Android phone itself.
Products used in this guide
WHOOSH! is one of the most respected brands when it comes to tech screen cleaners, and the company has expanded its line-up to include other products, including this disinfectant and surface sanitizer for electronic devices. EPA-approved, you get a 32 oz. bottle of solution along with a cleaning cloth. It's odorless and eco-friendly without any added dyes, VOCs, or fragrances, so it's safe to use on screens and more.
Good for leather cases
Complete with a microfiber cloth, test this leather cleaner out on a small section of your leather or faux leather phone case. The small 18 oz. bottle is perfect to keep on your desk or with cleaning supplies to use as needed. It both cleans and conditions, helping the case last for a long time.
Large cleaning cloths
Unlike other microfiber cloths designed for cleaning phones that tend to be super-small, this one is larger at 12 x 12 inches, making it ideal to use for a larger phone case or even a tablet. You can wet them and they dry easily, plus are gentle on surfaces. As a bonus, you can use them to clean a variety of other items, too, from your eyeglasses to your gaming controllers. Since there are four in a pack, you can wet one to clean and use a second to dry off.
Wax on, wax off
These balls are fun for cleaning both your phone's screen and its case, measuring 2.5-inches each with two sides: one terry cloth microfiber for removing stains and the other ultrafine for shining and polishing. Add some liquid cleaner and scrub, then wash the balls to re-use again.
Christine Persaud is a freelance writer for Android Central who has been writing about tech since long before the smartphone was even a "thing." When she isn't writing, she's probably working on her latest fitness program, binging a new (or old) TV series, tinkering with tech gadgets, or spending time with her school-aged son. A self-professed TV nerd, lover of red wine, and passionate home cook, she's immersed in tech in every facet of her life. Follow her at @christineTechCA.
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