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Watch: How to clean your mobile phone without damaging it

Find out how to get the best results, and which cleaners you need to avoid to prevent damage

For many of us, our mobile phones are stuck to our hands throughout the day on our commute, at work and at home. But how do you clean your phone thoroughly without damaging it?

Mobile phone manufacturers have previously been reluctant to advise owners to use antibacterial products on their phones. However, following 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 these aren't your only options. We've shortlisted the best ways to clean your phone and its case, and some things to watch out for to make sure you don't damage it.

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The best ways to clean your smartphone

You might be surprised to know that it's advised that you clean your phone every day. But don't worry, there are a few ways to ensure that your phone is clean while avoiding any unnecessary damage to the device.

Before cleaning, always start by turning your phone off and unplugging any cables, and make sure you leave it to dry once before turning it back on. It's important to always avoid getting moisture in any openings like charging and headphone ports. 

The safest option is wipes

cleaning phone iPhone with wipe

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).

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.

You can 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, Apple states the iPhone 13 can be immersed in up to 6 metres of water for a maximum of 30 minutes, while Samsung claims its Galaxy S22 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.

Don't use household cleaning products like bleach

If you don't have wipes to hand, 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 because 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. Also, never spray a cleaner directly on to your phone.

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. Opt for a gentler microfibre cloth instead.

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.

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