How to properly clean and sanitize your smartphone

Your phone goes everywhere with you. Do you have any idea how many germs are crawling all over that thing?

Years ago, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 92 percent of phones tested had bacteria on them. It sounds frightening, but that’s par for the course for being a bunch of evolved animals with gadgets in hand. That’s also why I sought to find out how the heck to properly clean a smartphone. Here’s a couple of tips I learned along the way.

Make a habit of wiping it down

cleanyourscreen 2910 Florence Ion

A sampling of what you’ll use to clean your phone.

This is an obvious thing to do but it bears repeating: you should wipe down your phone as often as you can. I love pre-moistened anti-bacterial wipes like Wireless Wipes or these stylish screen cleansing towelettes from Sephora, but you can also buy full size screen cleaning and microfiber phone cleaning kits to keep at home. 

Alternatively, you can make your own screen cleaning solution from scratch. All you need is a small spray bottle, 8 ounces of 70 percent rubbing alcohol, and 8 ounces of distilled water. (Make sure that it’s distilled water. Tap water can leave behind a residue.) A 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and distilled water also works, if you want to keep things organic and don't mind the odor.

Bust out the Q-tips and toothpicks

cleanyourscreen 2904 Florence Ion

When it comes to cleaning crevices and cracks, these tools are your best friends.

Those tiny crevices in between the glass covering the display and the rest of the chassis store lots of gunk. My Dad’s favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is go through and pick at them with a plain wooden toothpick. It’s pretty disgusting to see what he excavates from the cracks in his smartphone, but he’s a contractor and that’s the only way to ensure his device stays relatively clean.

cleanyourscreen 2907 Florence Ion

Get in there and get that grime out!

Try this yourself and, when you’ve finished, run through the cracks again with a dry cotton swab to clean out any residual dust. For tougher jobs, you can take a fresh cotton swab, dip it in cleaning solution and swirl it around on the camera lens and other parts of the smartphone chassis. Be thorough, but also be gentle; you don’t want to accidentally scratch anything.

Consider investing in a UV sanitizer

easycare

You can nab a UV sanitizer to sanitize your devices with light!

If you’re really a germaphobe, you can invest in a device that kills off germs with a UV light. Try out CellBlaster’s Universal UV Cell Phone Sanitizer, or the Easycare Portable Multiuse UV Sterilizer. But honestly, killing germs with UV light is sort of hit-and-miss and you still don't get the crud off.

Don’t forget to wipe down your headphones, too

earbuds Thinkstock

If you opted for the UV blaster mentioned above, you can simply drop your earbuds in and take care of business that way every few days. If not, you can wipe each bud down with a soft cloth dampened with a bit of mild dish soap and water.

Headphones are a bit trickier: you’ll want to use same dish soap solution to wipe them down in their entirety. If the headphones include silicon covers, you can remove those and clean them separately with a toothbrush. Anything more serious, and you’ll want to dip a cotton swap in rubbing alcohol and give it a thorough once-over. Then allow the headphones to dry completely before using them again.

Related:

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter

Comments