The Right Way to Clean Your Cell Phone

wiping a cell phone with a microfiber cloth

The Spruce / Julieanne Browning

Overview
  • Total Time: 5 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

We all rely heavily on our cell phones and need them to work efficiently every day. For most of us, the first thing we think about when someone asks, "have you ever cleaned up your cell phone" is how to remove junk files and the hundreds of bad photos to gain some storage space. 

But the first thing that should come to mind about cleaning a cell phone is removing the potentially deadly microbes and bacteria that are covering your phone every day. Each time you touch your phone, you transfer bacteria to and from your hands, face, and every surface that the cell phone has touched. Ever drop your cell phone in a public restroom? Yuck.

While there are some ultraviolet light sanitizing devices available to buy, you can clean your phone with supplies you have on hand.

Warning

Never use the following items to clean a cell phone:

  • Window or household cleaners
  • Compressed air
  • Aerosol spray cleaners
  • Harsh Solvents (acetone, benzene, toulene)
  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Abrasive powders
  • Hydrogen peroxide

It is essential to avoid excess moisture when cleaning, which can damage interior electronics. Most cell phone screens, especially smartphones' glass surfaces, have an oleophobic coating that repels oils from hands and fingers. The coating's effectiveness will lessen over time but using anything abrasive on the glass will hasten the loss and scratch the surface permanently.

supplies for cleaning your cell phone
The Spruce / Julieanne Browning

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Lint-free microfiber cloth

Materials

  • 1/2 cup Distilled water
  • 1/2 cup Isopropyl alcohol, 70%
  • Cotton swabs or wooden toothpicks

Instructions

  1. Unplug Your Phone and Attachments

    Earbuds or chargers should be cleaned separately. Turn off the phone. 

    be sure to unplug all accessories prior to cleaning your phone
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  2. Remove Cases or Covers

    To effectively clean your phone, remove any protective case or cover. These should also be cleaned separately before reinserting the phone.

    remove the cover prior to cleaning your cell phone
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  3. Mix Distilled Water and 70% Isopropyl Alcohol

    In a small spray bottle, mix a one-to-one ratio of distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol. The distilled water is essential if you live in an area that has hard water, which is filled with microscopic minerals that can scratch the glass on the phone. Give the bottle a good shake.

    adding a solution of alcohol and water into a spray bottle
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  4. Spray Microfiber Cloth

    Lightly spray a lint-free microfiber cloth with the water and isopropyl mixture. Never spray the phone directly. Do not over-wet the cloth.

    spraying a lint free microfiber cloth
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  5. Wipe Down the Phone

    Use the microfiber cloth to wipe down the entire phone. Be sure to clean both the front and back

    wiping the front and the back of the cell phone
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  6. Clean Small Areas

    If small areas like the space around the camera lens, attachment ports, or buttons show signs of gunk build-up, gently use a dry cotton swab or wooden toothpick to clean those areas. Once any build-up is removed, wipe down the area again with the slightly damp microfiber cloth.

    use cotton swabs to clean crevices in your cell phone
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning
  7. Allow the Phone to Air Dry

    Allow the phone to air dry completely for at least 15 minutes before reinserting it into its case.

    leave your cell phone out to dry before reinserting it into the case
    The Spruce / Julieanne Browning 

These thorough cleaning steps should be done weekly to keep a phone relatively germ-free.

Cleaning a Cell Phone Case

There's not much benefit to cleaning your cell phone if you are going to reinsert it into a dirty protective case. Whether made from silicone, hard plastic, or leather, most cell phone case models have textured edges to provide a better grip on the phone. Take a look at those edges. They are probably disgusting.

Once the phone has been removed, silicone cases can be completely submerged and washed in a solution of warm water and a bit of dishwashing soap. Use a soft cloth to gently scrub the textured edges. Rinse well and allow to air dry completely before reinserting the phone. For daily cleaning, wipe down the case with a microfiber cloth dampened with the distilled water and rubbing alcohol solution. 

For hard plastic cases, remove the phone and wipe down the entire case with the distilled water and alcohol solution on a lint-free cloth. Use a cotton swab dipped in the water/alcohol solution to clean the small button and lens opening areas. Dry with a clean, lint-free cloth and check that the case is completely dry before reinserting the phone.

After removing the phone, leather cases should be cleaned with a saddle soap formulated specifically for leather and then treated with a leather conditioner. Allow the case to dry completely before reinserting the phone.

submerge your case into a soapy water solution
The Spruce / Julieanne Browning

How to Clean Cell Phone Accessories

Use the one-to-one distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol solution and a microfiber cloth to wipe down earbuds, chargers, and other cell phone accessories. Remember to mist the cloth lightly–never over-wet–and allow the accessories to air dry completely before using.

clean cell phone accessories with a microfiber cloth
The Spruce / Julieanne Browning

Tips to Keep Your Cell Phone Cleaner and Germ-Free

  • Clean your cell phone immediately if it comes into contact with anything that might cause stains like make-up, ink, dye or sticky foods.
  • Wash your hands more often and consider skipping bathroom texting. The cleaner your hands, the cleaner your phone.
  • Use an antimicrobial cover. They are readily available to fit most phone brands.
  • Consider investing in a small ultraviolet light sanitizer. There are several on the market that will hold your phone, car keys, and other small items that you use every day. The ultraviolet light kills bacteria without using excessive heat or moisture that could damage electronics.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USGS. Hardness of Water. Water Science School