Guide to Cleaning Your Smartphone


According to the CDC’s Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting, routinely touched surfaces, such as your smartphone, heighten the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. To combat that risk, the CDC recommends regularly cleaning and disinfecting those same surfaces—including your phone. To guide you through the cleaning process, we’ve put together a general walkthrough that will illustrate all the dos and don’ts of how to properly disinfect your phone.

Before You Disinfect

Before cleaning your phone, there are a few precautionary steps you should take. First, wash your hands with soap and water. By now, we all know the drill: the coronavirus can live on your hands, and washing them with soap and water is paramount if you want to kill the virus and stop its spread. Second, turn off your phone. The less electricity there is coursing through your handset, the less likely it is to be damaged.

Disinfecting Your Phone

Now, to disinfect to your phone, some companies, like Apple, recommended using either 70-percent isopropyl wipes or a similar, alcohol-based mixture with a microfiber cloth. Applied correctly, this concentration should help kill the coronavirus and prevent it from spreading.

If you are using a mixture instead of the 70-percent isopropyl wipes, be sure to use it only with a soft, lint-free cloth, like the one linked above. These types of cloths pick up dirt and oils instead of spreading them around and are gentle on your display. Paper towels and tissues are a bad idea because of their scratchy fibers, as are dirty fabrics of any kind. When using a microfiber cloth, you’ll want to move the cloth in even motions, side to side or top to bottom. Think “paint the fence,” not “wax on, wax off.” Lastly, make sure your isopropyl mixture is the correct concentration. Too much alcohol will literally strip the protective coatings right off your phone, potentially damaging or breaking it.

In addition to alcohol-based disinfectants, some companies claim that UV light can sterilize devices from many contagions, including coronavirus. The HygenX Vray Portable UV Sterilizer, from HamiltonBuhl, is one such device. According to HamiltonBuhl, the HygenX Vray can kill 99.9% of bacteria that lives on everyday items, including coronavirus.

HamiltonBuhl HygenX Vray Portable UV Sterilizer

Removing Unsightly Marks

Of course, the coronavirus isn’t the only reason for cleaning your smartphone (although, it’s probably the best one). You can take care of unsightly marks, as well. To erase blemishes, dampen your microfiber cloth with distilled water. Take care not to get the cloth too wet—you don’t want water making its way into ports, speakers, or microphones. Also, be sure to avoid using harsh cleaning solutions like window cleaners, soaps, and other abrasive solvents. As we mentioned above, these concentrations can remove protective coatings that your phone needs.

If water alone doesn’t work, try the same isopropyl mixture you used for disinfecting your phone. To make that mixture on your own, use one part isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol with two parts water. Dab your cloth in the mixture and gently wipe away those marks. Again, take care to be gentle. Even when properly diluted, alcohol can have a negative effect on oil-resistant screen coatings if you scrub too hard.

For most of your phone, a microfiber cloth will work fine. However, for harder to reach spots, a cotton swab is your friend. Dip it in your isopropyl alcohol solution, give it a squeeze to prevent drips, and work it into the gaps in the bodywork and other crevices that attract gunk.

For phones that still feature a headphone jack, cleaning is relatively easy. A pipe cleaner with the end folded over (to avoid sharp points) works, but a better option is an interdental brush. If you’ve had braces, you probably used these to clean out those hard-to-reach spaces. Find one that’s about the same size as the headphone plug, insert it into the headphone jack, and move it up and down in circles.

If that doesn’t do the job, dip it in rubbing alcohol (over 70% strength is ideal) and shake it off to remove drops before insertion. If you’re concerned about the water damage to the sensor, hold your phone so the headphone jack is facing down and try to keep the cleaner from reaching all the way in.

Charging ports take a little more precision. They’re larger and have more nooks and crannies for debris to hide out, not to mention more opportunities for damage. You’ll want something thin, like a sewing needle, toothpick, or even the SIM tool that came with your device. Having a look with a powerful flashlight may help you identify spots with packed-in lint (usually in the back corners) so you know where to concentrate your efforts.

Finishing Up

Once you’ve completed any/all of these steps, double-check to make sure that your phone is completely dry and power it back on. If all went well, you should be looking at a shinier and more sanitized smartphone. Do yourself a favor and wash your hands one more time—in case some of the bacteria that was on your phone got onto your hands—and then you’re all set. Remember to perform these steps daily to help limit your exposure to the coronavirus and hopefully prevent its transmission.


What about Clorox wipes (which do not contain bleach.) Can these be used on the cellphone instead of 70% alcohol?

Clorox wipes will also work. Take care not to saturate the surfaces excessively.  A little goes a long way.

I would not recommend Clorox wipes or their equivalent.
They are sort of soapy and have a tendency to leave a residue and you're supposed to wear gloves when using them!
I used to work at a farm market store and we had a wood top bench for sorting that was painted, and after a year or two they had to repaint it because it was stripping the paint off!
This wasn't due to sliding the boxes of apples and crates of peaches, it was due to wiping it down twice a day with exclusively Clorox wipes.

We had one employee who went over kill with bleach and subsequently her daughter was highly allergic to bleach. So bleach was sort of being phased out rather than used in the proper amounts. I say that because I would use bleach water solution and a rag to wipe things down whenever possible as I was having a reaction to the wipes well not wearing gloves. It was at this point I decided to poke around the packaging label and it was “You better not touch this with your bare hands” type of disclaimers.

Hi Mark,

Apple actually says you can use Clorox Disinfecting Wipes per their support page or a simple 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe, though I would still limit the number of times and how often you perform this cleaning to only essential moments. 

didn't know I got a reply.

thanks I didn't know they officially approved that. I know that they came out and approve the alcohol. I switched to isopropyl alcohol a few years ago and haven't had any issues other than when I was spraying directly onto my screen. I have since switched to using a cloth and wetting it with isopropyl alcohol. On my original MacBook Pro 5,3 I started noticing the rubber around the edges of the screen disintegrating and since switching to the wet cloth approach it hasn't deteriorated as much. And it's not nearly as harsh on my hands granted it'll dry them a little. The Clorox wipes I will not use, they have something in their formula that's more than just bleach.

I was watching a documentary on public TV a few years back talking about the superbug and the growing bacterial resistance to antibacterial cleaners and the lack of pharmaceutical ( oh the other words in a blacklist, or if you're politically correct with everything deny list ) companies for profit developing new antibiotics because they're not profitable. I don't remember if it was the same thing or something else was talking about how the porous nature of plastic is hard to disinfect. I'm fascinated by transfer and my whole family got Mercer one year. all three of us got it in sequence and we don't know if that was from the house in/on the polluted Potomac river or from the hospital. Was not a fun experience. my mom was first and was in for three days or something like that, my dad was second and his hand swelled up like a baseball glove but because he works in the hospital as a cook he got to stay the whole week. When it came around to me it was thankfully just a small spot on my face that left a scar, but having no insurance and not being capable of getting any and having been through it already i went the self-medicating approach. After all this I keep coming back to good old soap and water, it worked for how many decades and yet we through the baby out with the bathwater for antibacterial everything.

I hope things are improving up there in New York I used to live near Syracuse, I'm now in West Virginia where things are spiking.... Between the cabin fever and the don't believe it exists'ers.

Oh now I can them to my cart what?  Thanks a lot

Click on the blue, elliptical "Add to Cart" button.

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