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How to Clean Your Smartphone and Other Device Screens

A proper cleansing helps keep bacteria and other germy substances at bay


spinner image a person uses a cloth to clean the screen of a smartphone on a wooden surface
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If the pandemic taught us anything about healthy living, it’s the importance of keeping our hands clean.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says clean hands can prevent 1 in 3 gastrointestinal illnesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. And just as wiping down door handles and countertops is critical — they’re some of the worse culprits for germs — the same goes for high-touch surfaces on your devices: computer mice, e-readers, laptop or stand-alone computer keyboards, smartphones, tablets and TV remotes.

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U.S. adults checked their phones about 350 times a day on average in 2022 and about 150 times a day this year, according to three surveys. Dynata, a market research firm in Plano, Texas, polled almost 2,000 adults in March 2022 for tech repair and insurance company Asurion, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Reviews.org, a private-company website based in Salt Lake City, surveyed 1,000 adults twice, in early 2022 and 2023, and saw similar usage last year and a sharp drop-off this year. But even with the lower number, you or a family member are likely touching a phone nearly 10 times every waking hour. That’s a lot of surface contact.

That’s why cleaning your phone and other high-contact technology daily is important. The key is to not damage what’s probably the most expensive device you carry with you as you’re removing its grime and hidden germs.

Video: How to Clean Your Phone

Step-by-step instructions

1. Turn off your device and make sure it’s not plugged into the wall. This way, you avoid a potential short circuit, see the surface you’re cleaning better, and don’t accidentally call or text someone. If you use a case, remove it and give it a thorough cleaning too.

2. Gently wipe down the screen with a lint-free microfiber cloth, such as the lens cloth you use for your eyeglasses or sunglasses. Avoid using a tissue or paper towel, because both can leave a residue on the screen or scratch a screen’s protective coating.

3. Use either a small amount of spray with 70 percent ethanol or isopropyl alcohol or 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. Be careful not to get fluid into the openings, such as the charging port or, on older models, the headphone jack. Even if your phone is waterproof, don’t ever submerge it in water or other liquid.

4. Alternatively, use 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes or disinfectant wipes to clean your phone. To avoid damage to the screen, smartphone manufacturers caution against using products like bleach, hand sanitizer or chemical-based sprays.

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Other ways to keep your devices clean

  • A phone case not only protects your device from accidental drops; viruses don’t live as long on silicone or leather as they do on glass or plastic. Still, phone cases need to be cleaned with nonabrasive solutions or wipes to help you keep your device virus-free.
  • Screen protectors are a great way to reduce scratches or cracks on a smartphone screen. They also can protect the screen from acidic sprays or wipes that can damage the glass. Screen protectors are relatively affordable, usually $5 to $10 for a pack of three, and come with instructions on how to apply them to avoid air bubbles.
  • Specially designed keyboard brushes get into the nooks and crannies of your keys. They come in a variety of sizes and look like small feather dusters.
  • Canned air can blow out the wedged-in gunk that often accumulates after months of eating at your desk. The cans typically come with a strawlike tube that lets you direct the compressed air between and under the keys.
  • Several good YouTube videos give instructions on how to properly clean your phone and other devices. If you’re a visual learner, this is a great way to follow along and pause as needed.
  • The same cleaning process works for e-readers and tablets. Just avoid getting cleaning fluid into the charging or headphone ports.

This story, originally published March 23, 2020, has been updated to reflect new information.

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