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16 Mar 2020

Five ways to safely clean your mobile phone

While keeping your hands clean is relatively straightforward, a mobile phone is a different matter. We walk you through your options

For many of us, our mobile phones are stuck to our hands throughout the day on our commute, at work and at home. But if we're cleaning our hands more often, shouldn't we be doing the same with our handhelds?

As Covid-19 continues to spread, health officials are placing increased emphasis on ensuring your tech is as clean as possible to reduce the spread of the illness.

Mobile phone manufacturers have previously been reluctant to advise owners to use antibacterial products on their phones. However, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google have updated their advice to say that 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes are safe to use for disinfecting your phone.

But with cleaning supplies in high demand, you may be stuck for ways to clean your phone if you don't have wipes to hand.

Luckily, these aren't your only options. We've shortlisted the best ways to clean your phone and some things to watch out for to make sure you don't damage it.

Thinking of upgrading your mobile phone anyway? We'll tell you how to buy the best mobile phone in our guide.

  • You can keep up to date with our latest advice on the coronavirus outbreak over on our coronavirus advice hub.

Video: how to clean your phone

Watch our video for quick tips on phone cleanliness - and find out what not to do to avoid damaging your device.

Five ways to safely clean your mobile phone

There are a few ways to ensure that your phone is as clean as your hands while avoiding any unnecessary damage to the device.

Before cleaning, always start by turning your phone off, and ensure you leave it to dry once before turning it back on. It's also advised that you clean your phone daily.

1. The safest option is wipes

As advised by brands such as Apple and Google, using a 70% alcohol wipe is the best option for cleaning your phone. These wipes can be used on all the exterior surfaces of the phone such as the display and rear casing, avoiding any openings on the phone (headphone ports, speakers, etc).

However, as you might have noticed if you've checked your local supermarket or looked online, these wipes are not easy to find at the moment, certainly at a reasonable price.

2. Use mild soap and water as an alternative

This method might not be as good for germ-busting as alcohol wipes, but if all else fails, with some soap on hand you can get rid of some of the grubby bacteria that's hiding in plain sight on your phone.

Start by making a mixture of dish soap and water. All advice points to avoiding dunking your phone in soapy water at any cost because this can seriously damage its internals. Instead, dip a microfibre (and preferably lint-free) cloth into the solution. These cloths are much less abrasive than towels or tissues and are less likely to damage the protective, scratch-resistant layer on your phone's display.

Ensure that the cloth isn't dripping wet either. It should only be damp so that no excess water gets into the phone, especially if it's not waterproof.

3. If all else fails, give it a light rinse - but only if it's waterproof

This tip is strictly for those whose phones are certified waterproof. And not just any IP waterproof certification either - IP67 and up.

IP (Ingress Protection) ratings certify your phone against dust ingress and contact with water at varying levels, depending on their rating number. If your phone is IP67 certified your phone can withstand immersion in up to 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes, while IP68 certified phones are fine in up to 1.5 metre of water, although this can vary by manufacturer so it's always best to check.

For example, the Apple iPhone XS can be immersed in up to 2 metres of water for a maximum of 30 minutes, while the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10 can be immersed in up to 1.5 metres for the same amount of time.

If you don't have any wipes or dish soap to hand, you can rinse your phone in fresh water to clean it. Again we would caution against dunking it into water with any added cleaning products as this could seriously harm the internal components and get into the openings of the phone. Beware if you have any cracks on your phone as well, as water can inadvertently seep into the phone more than you hope for it to.

Be sure to leave your phone to dry for at least five minutes if you use this method.

Want to get rid of those annoying cracks and dents in your phone? Our guide on how to repair your smartphone tells you how much those repairs will set you back.

4. Don't use household cleaning products like bleach

If you're struggling to get your hands on some wipes, you might be tempted to mix up your own concoction using some trusty cleaning supplies under the kitchen counter.

Manufacturers, such as Apple, have warned against doing this as the harsh chemicals in these cleaners can wear down the protective layer of your display, especially if you're using it consistently over a long period of time. Always avoid using products like bleach anywhere near your phone.

Another thing in your cleaning arsenal that you should also keep away from your phone is kitchen roll, which can often be abrasive.

Recently, tips from companies such as AT&T has changed to reflect the fact that even tissue can be harsh on your phone's display, possibly leaving scratches, especially if used several times and with excessive force. Leave the kitchen towels for wiping your hands and opt for a gentler microfibre cloth instead.

5. Don't forget to clean your phone case

Cleaning advice doesn't just go for those that are getting hands-on contact with their smartphone. If you're using a phone case to cover your precious handset, you should be just as diligent with cleaning it, particularly if your phone case doubles as a purse to store your cards and money.

On the whole, the same tips apply to your case as your phone, but in some cases, you may have a bit more freedom. Ensure that you always remove the phone case from your phone before cleaning it.

Cleaning advice varies depending on the material of case you have. We've given some tips below so that whether you're clutching a leather, wood or silicone-coated smartphone, you're keeping it germ-free:

  • Leather - To clean these types of cases, use a damp cloth with a mild hand soap and water solution on it. You can also use a mild cleaner with the cloth to get stubborn stains out.
  • Plastic, rubber and silicone - Soak the case in a solution of dish soap and warm water for a few minutes. If you have any stubborn stains, you can gently scrub a toothbrush on them to try and get them out. Dry the case with a microfibre cloth.
  • Wood - Contact with water can deteriorate the wood over time so use a dry microfibre cloth regularly to wipe these cases down.