You stuff it in your pocket or purse, slide it down the couch cushions, drop it on the floor, take it in the bathroom, spill lunch on it, stab it with your finger (which has been everywhere), hold it up to your mouth, and breathe on it. Is it any surprise your mobile phone is filthy?
On the other hand, we really do know better than to plunge that expensive cell phone into a sink full of soapy water or run it through the washing machine hidden in the pocket of our jeans. Those tricks we save for the accidental, stupid, self-inflicted cell phone drownings.
So what is a good yet safe way to clean a cell phone—to get rid of both the fingerprints and the bacteria? Studies have found that hand-held devices such as cell phones and tablets can be coated with germs that could communicate illness. So it makes good sense to keep portable electronics as clean as possible, particularly if you’re considering upgrading and reselling down
Devices that zap bacteria
If you want to try a high-tech approach, you can purchase an electronic sanitizer that uses pulses of ultraviolet light to sanitize cell phones by killing bacteria. Some models are hand-held wands; other models are boxes that you insert the phone into and then close the lid while it cleans. A can of compressed air can also be used to blow away debris from tight spaces.
How not to clean your mobile phone
Let’s start with what not to do. Don’t use cleaning solutions with harsh chemicals, such as window cleaners or other products with ammonia—they can harm the coating on the surface of the phone. Don’t spray cleaners directly onto a cell phone. You’re better off to lightly moisten a cleaning cloth and gently wipe the device. Use a soft cloth (such as an old clean T-shirt) or lint-free microfiber cloth, not a rough paper towel, which can scratch the surface. Use foam swabs for hard-to-reach spots; they’re considered better than cotton swabs for cleaning phones. The rule of thumb is to be gentle.
Some companies market cleaners specifically designed for cell phones and tablets. For a less expensive substitute, try a 60/40 mixture of bottled or distilled water to isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), dispensed onto a soft cloth with a spray bottle. (Full disclosure: Apple does not recommend using cleaners with alcohol in its products—although the last time I was at the Apple Store the technician cleaned my iPhone with eyeglass cleaner, which may have contained alcohol.)
Consider applying a screen protector; that makes it easier to wipe away the gunk.