Here’s one for the Hall of Ironies: I stand in my just-cleaned-by-me house, proudly snapping a pic of the spotless interior. But did I clean the phone I took the picture with? I did not.
And that thing – according to the experts – is the dirtiest thing in here. “The layer of grime on your smartphone harbors more bacteria than toilet seats or the bottom of your shoe,” says Todd Gabel, CEO and Founder of smart-phone accessories company Toddy Gear.
My phone, they say, is even dirtier than it looks. I can see it is covered in greasy fingerprints, makeup, and…who knows what that is? (Hopefully food.) But it’s the stuff I can’t see that is truly gross. “I tell my 16-year-old that the nasty bacteria on her iPhone is why she should not touch it while eating,” says John Christopher of Drive Savers, a company that rescues data from damaged gadgets.
Why? Becauase even when our hands have been to the toilet, picked up raw meat at the grocery, or been playing with kittens, we handle our phones with them. We wash the hands. But we rarely wash the phone – or the remote, keyboard, or tablet.
Let’s fix that. I asked these experts how to do it right. Here are their Dos and Don’ts.
- Do a quick wipe of a phone screen – with a microfiber cloth – anytime, even while talking on it. “A high-quality microfiber is meant to absorb the dirt and oils without spreading the germs around.” says Gabel.
- For more serious cleaning, turn the gadget off – just in case – and spray a gentle cleaner such as Woosh Screen Shine onto a microfiber cloth (not directly onto the screen) and wipe the gadget thoroughly, front, back, and sides.
- Woosh or iKlear are safe for screens, resist fingerprints, and come in travel-friendly packaging. But you don’t need to spend your hard-earned on this. Your phone likely came with an inexpensive microfiber cleaner. Mix one part rubbing alcohol (or vodka or white vinegar) and one part water into a spray bottle and spray that on it. Or get the microfiber cloth barely damp with a very, very small amount of dish soap and water. The thing is to be careful not to damage the special coating on the screen.
- Use a Q-Tip if there are bits that are hard to reach – between keys on a keyboard, for instance.
- Use a can of compressed air to get crumbs out of your keyboard, dog hair away from the intake fan on your computer, and gunk from between the buttons on your remote control.
- If your keyboard is greasy because you can’t kick that nasty potato-chips-while-typing habit, try a Clean Magic Eraser. Be gentle, though, or it might shed itself into those hard-to-clean keyboard crevices.
Don’t Do This
- Don’t use harsh household cleansers, such as 409, bleach, or even those gentler, natural, cleaners. They might harm the finish or scratch that highly-specialized screen.
- Don’t spray anything directly onto the screen or – especially — into any ports or plugs on your gadget. You don’t want to get it wet. And you certainly don’t want liquid inside it. Many cell phones have a moisture sensor so that if you kill it with liquids, the manufacturer will know. That voids your warranty.
- Don’t use anything paper-based, like paper towels, Kleenex, or toilet paper. It can scratch the screen and leave residue behind.
- Don’t press too hard or scrub too fast, especially on screens, where you can damage pixels. New touch screens are accustomed to being touched and poked. But some older computer monitors are very sensitive to touch.
- Don’t go overboard. You don’t have to do anything more than a quick wipe, most of the time. Most of the deeper cleaning – especially if you are getting out the Q Tips and compressed air – should be occasional, depending on your own hand-washing and food-handling-while-computing habits. Turning your phone off to give a damp-cloth wipe down is something you might want to do once a week.
- Do NOT vacuum anything electronic. The suction can create an electrical charge and cause your device to crash – for good.