Back in 2016, Initial Washroom Hygiene took swabs from phones and found on their surfaces as much as seven times more bacteria than a normal object.
And that simply confirmed what we had suspected all along: people are disgusting. A recent YouGov survey revealed that over 50% of Brits admit to using their phone on the toilet, and that is undoubtedly contributing to the findings from the Initial tests.
With Coronavirus currently focusing our minds and governments hastily putting together posters telling us how to wash our hands properly, it’s a good time to learn how to correctly clean your phone and the other gadgets that are probably riddled with pathogens and bacteria.
As well as invisible germs, there’s the all-too-visible grime that blights keyboards, screens and any other surface that gets touched. If you keep your smartphone in your pocket, the ports and connectors are likely filled with dust and other detritus which isn’t just unsightly, it might cause all sorts of problems.
How to sanitise a phone (or tablet)
It might seem a bit patronising to be told how to wash your hands, but good hand hygiene will lead to a cleaner phone. And, obviously, break that habit of using Instagram in the bathroom.
However, you’ll still need to clean your phone from time to time and it’s crucial to use the right products in order to avoid damaging your delicate electronics.
Most touchscreens have an oleophobic coating which repels fingerprints. These are easily damaged by harsh cleaning agents such as ammonia, alcohol and other solvents. So put away your bleach and vinegar.
Instead, use a product designed to be safe for screens and the glass on the back of many phones such as Muc-Off Device & Screen Cleaner.
This won’t kill viruses as it’s alcohol free, but it will get rid of virtually all bacteria. As a reminder, do not use alcohol-based cleaners unless you don’t care about damaging that oleophobic coating.
The best way to remove general grime and grease from your phone is a microfibre cloth. You can pick up a pack of 12 cloths from Amazon or just about any supermarket.
Microfibre cloths are better than other material because the tiny, split fibres lift the dirt and retain it, as well as absorbing liquid. This means they don’t leave lint on your screen or simply spread the dirt around. You can dampen a micro-fibre cloth with water if the screen is particularly dirty.
You’ll find that a microfibre cloth will also effectively clean the rest of your device, including metal and plastic parts.
For ports and connectors, use a dry brush – a small paint brush is ideal – to gently remove dirt. Don’t use a can of compressed air, as the force is likely to damage the delicate components including microphones and speakers.
If grime is stuck in the speaker or microphone grilles, a good trick is to use a cocktail stick or toothpick to clear individual holes in the grille. A pin or needle is also good, if you’re careful.
Phone cleaning kits
There are many cleaning kits available for smartphones and tablets, but they tend to be over-priced for what they are. Some include a miniscule amount of liquid and a small microfibre cloth; others provide the spray bottle, and you provide the water.
See our separate round up of the best phone cleaning accessories.
What you should look for is a cleaner that will kill germs but is free from alcohol and ammonia. Examples include Whoosh! Screen Shine, Eco Moist Screen Cleaner and Muc-Off’s Device and Screen Cleaner, mentioned above.
Alternatively, you could buy a UV steriliser. These tend to be used for beauty or pet-grooming products but can equally clean your smartphone, tablet or other small gadget. You simply pop your device in, leave it for 20 minutes each side and the UV light will kill all bacteria and viruses without any chemicals or liquids.
There are various models available, but if you buy a clamshell-style one, make sure your phone will fit in it.
How to clean your phone case
Most people protect their smartphone and tablet using a case, so it’s worth bearing in mind that you should clean that as well as your device. If it’s made from plastic you should be able to clean it with a standard kitchen or bathroom disinfectant spray.
Some plastic cases (and screen protectors, for that matter) have an anti-microbial coating, and while its effectiveness is questionable, it’s certain to be a better choice than a case with fabric on it. Fabric is difficult to clean and disinfect, and will also harbour bacteria. Our advice is to avoid such cases.
And if you have a leather case, don’t use water which will damage it, but use an appropriate leather cleaner instead.
How to clean your screen
You can use non-alcoholic (or a cleaner with no bleach or vinegar) to clean most screens, including laptops regardless of whether they have a matt or glossy finish. You can spray directly on to a screen, but try not to let drops run down into the casing at the bottom.
Again, microfibre cloths are ideal for cleaning a screen as it helps to avoid streaks and is effective at removing dust and fingerprints. Use a little water if marks are hard to shift, but be careful not to press hard on a laptop screen as you can easily damage the LCD panel.
For more, check out our guide on how to clean your laptop. Alternatively, we have a separate article on how to clean a keyboard.
If your laptop or PC isn’t running smoothly, then a spring clean could be in order. Our tips for speeding up Windows will help you get it performing at its best again.