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June 2, 2022  |  Electronics

How to clean and sanitize your phone

Why you need to clean and sanitize your phone

When’s the last time you took apart your phone case? If it’s been more than a few weeks, you’ll find pocket lint, dirt, grime, and more. Worse, if you inspect the screen — you don’t even need a forensic light — you can probably see oils from your fingertips and dried saliva flecks on the screen.

It doesn’t matter how vigilant you are about washing your hands, the instant you touch your phone, your fingertips are covered in germs again. At some point, usually within a few minutes, your hand will unconsciously brush your face, giving those germs access to your body. That’s why the FCC recommends sanitizing your phone at least once each day.

How dirty is your phone?

A review of 56 studies from 24 countries published on PubMed documented that “mobile phones represent a pathway for microbial transmission.” The review found such undesirables as bacteria, fungi, RNA viruses, staphylococcus, E. coli, and more were commonly found on cell phones. This means your phone is pretty dirty — dirty enough to make you sick.

How can my phone make me sick?

Phones collect germs everywhere you go. If you pay for your vanilla latte and a grilled cheese on sourdough at Starbucks, then pull out your phone to scroll through your social feed while waiting, every pathogen you touched at the popular coffeehouse chain has just been transferred to your phone. If you check your phone again while eating lunch — even if you’ve just vigorously washed and sanitized your hands — all those germs will be on your food, and eventually in your mouth.

Cleaning vs. sanitizing vs. disinfecting

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are often mentioned in the same breath, like they’re interchangeable, but they are not. They are three distinct processes that each target a different type of contaminant in a specific way. 

Cleaning

Cleaning removes solid, visible particles such as dirt and grime. When you clean your phone, it looks nicer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier.

Sanitizing

When you sanitize your phone, you’re targeting pathogens. The goal is to lower the count of these pathogens until they reach safe levels.

Disinfecting

Disinfecting doesn’t involve removing dirt or pathogens. It’s a very specific process that uses chemicals to kill germs. Disinfecting is similar to spraying weed killer in your garden as opposed to physically removing the offending plants.

How to clean and sanitize your phone

Unplug your phone and remove the case

The first step to cleaning and sanitizing your phone is preparing it. To do this, make sure it’s unplugged, then carefully remove the protective case.

Brush away dirt and debris

Before using sanitizer, take a moment to remove all lint, dust, dirt, and debris. This should be done using a dry lint-free or microfiber cloth.

Apply sanitizer

Use a sanitizing spray that’s 70% isopropyl alcohol or a disinfecting solution that the manufacturer has declared safe for your phone’s finish. Apply this solution to a lint-free or microfiber cloth — never directly to the phone. Gently but thoroughly wipe down all parts of your phone and case. Pay particular attention to the areas where grime builds up, but be careful not to get any cleaning solution inside your phone via its ports, microphone, or speakers.

Let dry and reassemble

When you’re satisfied that you’ve cleaned all the areas that need cleaning, let your phone air dry for a couple minutes before reassembling it.

Repeat daily

You should repeat this process at least once each day to keep your phone clean.

Hygiene tips to remember when using your phone

Don’t bring your phone into the bathroom

While many of us enjoy the privacy, bringing your phone into the bathroom is one of the best ways to give it a fresh coating of bacteria and fecal matter.

Wash or sanitize your hands before using your phone

To reduce the germs you spread to your phone, wash and dry your hands before using it.

Wash or sanitize your hands after using your phone

To reduce the pathogens you get from your phone, wash and dry your hands after using it.

Refrain from touching your face after using your phone

Believe it or not, your hands are pretty tough. They can (and do) collect a lot of harmful bacteria that won’t get you sick. The instant you touch your face, however, all those germs have free access to your body. If you can’t wash your hands every time you use your phone, refrain from touching your face until you can properly sanitize. 

Don’t take your phone out at meals

For the same reason you don’t want to touch your face after using your phone, don’t keep your phone out while eating.

Don’t share your phone

While it may seem like you’re being rude, the moment anyone else touches your phone, all the germs on their hands transfer to your most personal possession. Unless it’s an emergency, refrain from sharing your phone with others. 

Establish a regular daily cleaning routine

Just like brushing your teeth, once you establish and settle into a schedule, cleaning and sanitizing your phone will be second nature.

FAQ

Q. Can I use bleach or hydrogen peroxide to clean my phone?

A. Bleach is highly caustic and can damage the finish and delicate electronic parts of your phone, so that’s a hard no. While some laud hydrogen peroxide’s abilities, others don’t recommend the product. Apple and Verizon, for example, strongly advise against using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning your phone.

Q. If a 70% sanitizing product is good, is one with 100% alcohol better?

A. More is not better. A higher percentage of alcohol may damage your phone’s finish.

Accessories needed to clean your phone 

Sanitizer

Spray dispenser

To sanitize your phone, you need a 70% solution of isopropyl alcohol. If you purchase it in a convenient spray dispenser, it makes your cleaning tasks even easier.

Microfiber cloth

Microfiber cloths are lint-free cleaning tools that are not only ideal for your phone, but they solve many household cleaning problems. 

Smartphone sanitizer

If you’d like to try a high-tech method of cleaning your phone, consider a smartphone sanitizer. This device bathes your device in UV-C light to kill germs in just a few minutes.

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.