How to Clean Your Smartphone or Tablet Device Screen
Reduce your risk of coronavirus with these steps
En español | While you should be heeding the call to wash your hands often and avoid touching your face to reduce the odds of catching or spreading the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also is urging individuals to regularly clean high-touch surfaces.
Along with door handles and countertops, high-touch surfaces include our technology: computer keyboards, e-readers, mice, tablets like an iPad, TV remotes and, of course, your smartphone.
It's estimated we touch our phones an average of 2,617 times a day, says dscout, a Chicago-based market research firm. That includes every flick, scroll, pinch, swipe or tap.
Because the CDC says the virus can live on glass and plastic surfaces for up to three days, it's critical to keep your phone as clean as possible. Not to mention that health care experts say a typical phone is up to 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Ewww.
The following is a simple walk-through on how to properly clean your phone — and what to avoid doing so you don't damage it.
You can clean your devices, such as touchscreen smartphones, in several ways. Most of the advice that major manufacturers like Apple and Samsung give can be summarized as follows:
1. Turn off the device before you clean it and make sure it's unplugged from the wall. This way, you're avoiding a potential short circuit, you can better see the surface you're cleaning and you won't accidentally call or text someone.
If the phone is in a case, remove it first and wipe down the case, too.
2. Use a lint-free microfiber cloth, such as a lens cloth for your eyeglasses or sunglasses, to gently wipe the screen down with fluid (see step 3.) Do not use a tissue or paper towel because both can leave a residue on the screen or worse — they might scratch away the screen's protective coating.
3. Use a small amount of spray with 70 percent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol or use warm, soapy water to wipe down the phone from top to bottom while holding it on its sides. Then wipe down the sides and back, too, while being careful not to get any fluid into ports such as the charging port or headphone jack.
Even if your phone is waterproof, it's recommended never to submerge it.
4. Alternatively, use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes or Clorox disinfectant wipes to effectively clean your phone. Phone makers say to avoid using products like bleach, hand sanitizer and products such as Lysol sprays because those can damage the screen.
A few other thoughts on keeping your phone and other tech clean:
• A phone case not only protects your device from accidental drops, but viruses do not live as long on the back of silicone or leather cases compared to an all-glass or plastic phone back. Still, phone cases need to be cleaned with nonabrasive sprays or wipes to help you keep the back of your phone virus free.
• A screen protector is a good idea to reduce the odds of scratches or cracks on a smartphone screen. It also can guard the screen from acidic sprays or wipes, which can damage the glass.
You can buy these online. They're relatively affordable, usually $5 to $10 for a pack of three, and come with instructions on how to apply them to avoid air bubbles.
• Several good YouTube videos on how to properly clean your phone are online now. If you're a visual learner, this is highly recommended. You can pause the instructions, too, to follow along closely at your pace.
• The process to clean your smartphone is identical for e-readers and tablets. As you wipe down the screen with a little bit of fluid and a microfiber cloth, make sure no moisture gets into the charging or headphone ports.
This story, originally published on March 23, 2020, has been updated with the AARP Top Tips video.
Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast, Tech It Out, aims to break down geek speak into street speak.