Tech Magazine

Your smartphone is dirtier than a toilet seat. Here’s how to disinfect it.

Yuck! Yuck!

Image: Getty Images / fStop

Yep, you read that right: There are 10 times more germs on our smartphones than on a toilet seat. So unless you’re regularly cleaning your lil’ portable germ box, you’re not really doing that good a job of protecting yourself from getting sick. In fact, we should all be making a habit out of cleaning that damn thing, with or without the new coronavirus outbreak as motivation.

Apple offers a very detailed cleaning guideline for iPhones, as does Google for Pixels. Samsung, though, doesn’t offer much for its Galaxy phones. But, it’s safe to assume that they all can be cleaned in the same way because their surfaces share similar features: glass screens and/or casings with oil-repellent (oleophobic) coating, and some degree of water resistance.

That means two things: It’s okay to clean your phone with a damp cloth and you should stick with mild cleaning solutions to avoid damaging the glass coating. So, unless you have a fancy UV light to sanitize your phone, here’s how you can get it done the old-fashioned way.

What you need

1. Two lint-free cloths 

Avoid using paper towels as the rough surface might wear down the glass coating and scratch your screen over time.

2. Mild hand soap  

Oleophobic coatings are sensitive. Avoid household cleaning products and abrasive solutions. If you really, really want to, you can use disinfectant wipes at your own risk — although Apple would probably caution you against that. 

3. Water 

To mix with your soap.

4. Toothpick or Q-tip (optional) 

In case you want to clean your SIM-card holder.

How to do it

1. Make sure you know exactly how water-resistant your phone is. That way you can be mindful about how much water you’re using. It’s better to err on the side of caution and just use a damp towel, though. Here’s a list of phones, from the least to most water-resistant:

  • Safe with spraying water (IP53 rating): Pixel

  • Safe with 1-meter immersion for up to 30 minutes (IP67 rating): iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR; Pixel 2

  • Safe with 1.5-meter immersion for up to 30 minutes (IP68 rating): iPhone XS, XS Max, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max; Galaxy S7, S7 edge, S8, S8+, S9, S9+, S10, S10+, S10e, Note 8, Note 9, Note 10, Note 10+, Fold; Pixel 3, 4

2. Unplug any cables and turn your phone off. Remove any accessories. Be careful to not damage your phone — or worse, hurt yourself.  

3. Mix hand soap with water. Use your best judgement to determine the soap-to-water ratio.

4. Dip one of the lint-free cloths into the soap solution. You want a damp cloth, so make sure you wring it to remove any excess water. 

5. Wipe your phone with the damp cloth. Make sure you get the front, back, and the sides. Never dunk your phone into the solution, even if your phone is water-resistant. 

6. Use a dry lint-free cloth to wipe your phone down. Again, avoid using paper towels if you can. 

7. Optional: Remove your SIM-card holder. Might as well get that cleaned, too.

8. Dip a Q-tip into the soap solution. Squeeze it dry with your finger tips.

9. Use the Q-tip to gently clean the tray. Use a toothpick to get to the nooks and crannies, if you need it.

10. Wipe the tray down with a dry cloth. Then stick it back into your phone — and voila, you’re done!