How to Clean Your Phone and Screen

Clean, sanitize, and disinfect without causing any damage

If you're concerned about staying healthy, properly cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing your phone can help prevent infection from viruses, bacteria, and germs. As a bonus, your device will look great and function at its best. Here's what you need to know about cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing your phone and its screen, along with guidance on how not to clean your digital device.

The best way to keep your phone, tablet, and other digital devices clean is to wash your hands properly before use. Get in the habit of washing your hands before picking up your device to keep it as germ-free as possible.

Hands cleaning a smartphone.
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Cleaning: How to Clean Your Phone

Before you take any cleaning measures, disconnect your phone from its charger, or remove it from a wireless charging pad, and turn off the device. This will show you how dirty the screen is, along with preventing you from accidentally calling someone or opening an app.

Use a Microfiber Cloth

Your first line of defense is a microfiber cloth. You likely have a few of these lying around, as these cloths usually come with purchases of screen protectors, sunglasses, or regular glasses. These cloths are readily available at local retailers if you don't have one handy. Here's how to use a microfiber cloth properly to clean your phone.

Never use bleach, ammonia, abrasive powders, or undiluted alcohol to clean your phone. For a more comprehensive list, keep reading.

  1. Place the microfiber cloth on the phone screen and gently move it in a horizontal or vertical direction repeatedly.

  2. For tough dirt or sticky spots, dampen a corner of the microfiber cloth with a bit of water (nothing else, only water) and gently move it in a horizontal or vertical direction on the phone screen repeatedly until the dirt is gone.

  3. Use a clean, dry corner of the cloth (or another microfiber cloth) to remove any excess moisture from the screen.

If you don't have a microfiber cloth, use a strip of adhesive tape (or a sticky note). Stick the tape to the surface of the screen and peel it off gently to remove dirt and grime. Repeat as necessary, gently, to clean the entire screen.

Use a Cleaning Wipe

Pre-moistened cleaning wipes that are made specifically for phones are a convenient way to clean your screen on the go. There are a variety of brands, including iCloth and Well-Kept, that are handy to keep in a travel bag, car, or office desk.

Make sure whatever brand you select has a low or zero alcohol percentage to keep the screen safe. Cleaning wipes differ from disinfecting wipes (see below).

Disinfecting: How to Disinfect Your Phone

There are a few easy ways to disinfect your phone. Use specialty wipes or solutions, or make a safe disinfecting solution with distilled water and white vinegar or isopropyl alcohol.

According to the CDC, cleaning means removing dirt, germs, and impurities. Sanitizing refers to lowering the number of germs on a surface to a safe level, while disinfecting refers to killing nearly 100% of germs on surfaces or objects.

Disinfecting Wipes and Solutions

While cleaning wipes remove dirt, grime, fingerprints, and other residue, disinfecting wipes or solutions disinfect surfaces. Disinfectant products that are safe for phones and screens contain a diluted amount of isopropyl alcohol, so there's enough to kill germs but not enough to damage your phone.

A good example of a safe premade phone disinfectant is Whoosh, which is a device and surface disinfectant and sanitizer.

Distilled Water and White Vinegar or Rubbing Alcohol

To save money and create your own disinfectant, use a diluted solution of water and white vinegar or isopropyl alcohol. This not only gets rid of oily fingerprints and sticky spots but also kills germs on the surface. Make sure to use distilled water since tap water might have impurities and other minerals that scratch the phone screen.

Diluting either the vinegar or rubbing alcohol is critical because stronger concentrations can damage the coating manufacturers put on phone screens. Vinegar and rubbing alcohol can also damage screen protectors.

  1. Prepare a mix of 50% distilled water and 50% white vinegar in a spray bottle. Alternatively, use a one-to-one ratio of distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol.

  2. Give the bottle a good shake.

  3. Spray a corner of the microfiber cloth until it's slightly dampened (but not soaked).

  4. Gently move the cloth in a horizontal or vertical direction on the phone screen repeatedly. 

  5. Use a dry, clean corner of the cloth to remove any excess moisture from the screen and give it a final once-over.

Sanitizing: Sanitizing Your Phone

Sanitizing your phone and screen lowers the number of germs to a safe level, lowering the risk of spreading infections. Ultraviolet sanitizers are unique devices into which you place a phone. These sanitizers use special bulbs that emit the right amount of UV-C light needed to kill more than 99% of germs on a phone.

The best phone sanitizers are easy to use, destroy germs and bacteria, and can charge a phone during the disinfecting process.

What Not to Do: How Not to Clean Your Phone

Now that you know how to clean, disinfect, and sanitize your phone and screen, it's time for a reminder about what not to use when cleaning your phone.

You may be tempted to use some of these cleaners and items if you don't have the proper tools handy, but resist this temptation at all costs. Even with a screen protector, these cleaners can cause unrecoverable damage to a phone if the liquid gets inside.

Avoid the following at all costs:

  • Window cleaners or household cleaners
  • Compressed air (for the speakers and ports)
  • Aerosol spray cleaners
  • Harsh solvents such as acetone, lighter fluid, and gasoline
  • Dish soap
  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Undiluted alcohol-based cleaning liquids
  • Abrasive powders
  • Hydrogen peroxide