Your hands touch everything, from shopping carts to public door handles — which could be harboring viruses and bacteria. And without thinking, you touch your phone’s screen right after. Not to mention, your fingers leave an oily residue on your phone, causing the screen to get smudgy. Fortunately, there are several techniques to get your phone’s screen clean again — and the best approach will only cost you a few bucks.
On the flip side, there are the cleaning agents and techniques that you never want to use, because — although you might initially see good results — they can be too harsh and damage the screen you’re working so hard to protect.
We’re going to tell you which products to avoid, and the best ways to clean off fingerprint smudges, sand and lint from the ports, tenacious makeup off the screen (hint: never with makeup remover) and even how to disinfect your phone. We also tell you how to care for phones rated for water-resistance.
Note that while keeping your phone screen clean goes a long way, remembering to wash your hands is also an important step to keeping your phone clean.
9 things you should never use to clean your phone
We’re not here to shame you, but drop that bottle of Windex, stat. This is how not to clean your screen.
You clean your mirrors and windows with window cleaner, and they’re squeaky clean, so it must be OK to use on your phone? Wrong! Some newer phones, such as the iPhone XR ($749 at Amazon), have a protective coating that resists water and oil, which can wear out over time.
Using harsh cleaners can strip the coating and could leave your phone more vulnerable to scratches. James LeBeau, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, told us that any cleanser with an abrasive agent will likely scratch the surface, so those should be avoided entirely.
A screen’s scratch-resistant properties won’t get ground down by cleaning agents, but stripping that protective coating is still a problem. That’s why Apple also suggests not using household cleaning products to clean your iPhone. Bar Keepers Friend, for example, states that its abrasive formula may harm the protective layer. Bon Ami states not to use on glass with coatings.
They may be the go-to for cleaning your desk, but keep them away from your phone. The paper can shred, making the debris on your phone much worse. Paper towels can even end up leaving scratches on your screen.
Since many newer phones have a protective coating, rubbing alcohol can wear it away quicker over time, causing your phone to be more prone to scratches. Make sure to check for alcohol in product ingredients on any “safe to use” phone screen cleaners. Apple says to avoid alcohol when cleaning its devices.
Some makeup removers may have chemicals that can be harsh to an electronic screen. LeBeau suggests avoiding makeup remover and instead use a soft cloth with a little bit of water.