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How to Clean and Sanitize Your Smartphone, and Touchscreens

The internet and smartphone technology are key to the way I connect with others. I can't imagine life without them.

Smartphones are in constant use. Their touchscreens should be sanitized regularly.

Smartphones are in constant use. Their touchscreens should be sanitized regularly.

How to Clean and Sanitize Your Smartphone or Tablet

The cheapest way to remove grease and dust from a computer or phone screen is to use a microfiber cloth and some clean water. Before you start, make sure the tablet or cellphone is switched off and unplugged from the mains. Water and electricity are not a safe mix.

Start by using a dry microfiber cloth to remove any surface dust by gently wiping the display screen. If you use an anti-static cloth it will help to reduce future dust deposits. To remove stubborn marks and greasy smears you need to dampen the cloth with a little water. Don’t spray the liquid directly onto the screen. Instead, spray a little water onto a cloth and then use the dampened cloth to wipe the screen.

Don’t use abrasives or scourer pads on the touchscreen as it can be easily damaged. When you have removed the smears, leave the screen uncovered and the power off for at least an hour. This will allow it to completely dry, and be safe to reconnect to a power source.

As well as removing dirt from your screen, you should regularly sanitize it. This can be done using antibacterial wipes. Be careful that the wipes are not too wet, as it is all too easy to damage your device. I use a tablet screen cleaner to overcome this problem. This is a quick and effective way to clean and disinfect a touchscreen, and does not saturate the screen. Also, because your hands don’t come into contact with the screen cleaner pad, it prevents oils from your fingers contaminating the cloth and causing new smears on the screen.

The Safe Way to Clean a Touchscreen

  1. Turn power off. Unplug device if wired.
  2. Use anti-static microfiber cloth. Rub screen gently, do not use force.
  3. Dampen cloth to remove difficult marks. Distilled water is recommended.
  4. Use microfiber cloth to apply water. Spray onto cloth, do not spray directly onto screen.
  5. Allow to air-dry. Make sure device is dry before turning power back on.

How to Clean Your Phone Screen (and Some Products to Avoid)

What Cleaning Materials Shouldn't Be Used?

Touchscreens are simple and intuitive to use, but they are also easy to damage if cleaned incorrectly. Avoid using anything that could scratch or over-wet the device.

  • Reusing old rags to clean your screens may sound environmentally friendly, but you risk having to replace the touchscreen if the material used is even mildly abrasive. Stay safe and use only new, soft microfiber cloths or pads.
  • Water and sanitizing solutions should be used sparingly. They cause short-circuits and warping of the device. If you need to use a liquid to get rid of tougher smears, always spray onto a cloth first, rather than direct onto your cellphone or laptop.
  • Don’t use alcohol or ammonia-based cleaners.
  • Don’t press the screen too hard when cleaning or you will wear out the pressure sensors.

Germs, Bacteria, and Diseases on Your Phone

Bacteria, Greasy Smears, and Fingerprints

Touchscreens are found everywhere; smartphones, computers, cars, and restaurant ordering screens. Have you ever thought about how often the screens are cleaned and sanitized? The swab results from a recent survey of touchscreens at may disgust you.

Researchers from London University took bacterial swabs from self-order touchscreens at eight McDonald's restaurants in England. Every single touchscreen they sampled had fecal matter on it. McDonalds said the screens were cleaned frequently with a sanitizer solution. But you only need one person to use the screen whose personal hygiene is not as good as your own, for the screen to contaminate your hands.

How often do you wash your hands after using one of these screens, and before eating your takeaway meal with your fingers? Fecal matter contains bacteria that cause food poisoning, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Touchscreens are popular, but people leave their mark (literally) on the screen. A buildup of smears and germs can be bad for your health. You should clean and disinfect touchscreens regularly to keep them hygienic and free from bacteria and viruses. This is especially important now that coronavirus is spreading.

How to Avoid Germs When Using Public Touchscreens

Unless you’re a hermit, you'll encounter public touchscreens every day. You can’t clean these yourself, yet you can’t avoid using them. So, how can you keep you and your family safe from the bacteria that are on them?

  • Rub the screen with a disinfectant wipe before use. These are cheap to buy and discreet to carry.
  • Try to touch the screens as little as possible. Use your thumb or “pinkie” finger to select your onscreen choice.
  • After using the public touchscreen either go to the bathroom and wash your hands with soap, or sanitize them with a disposable wipe.
  • If you are eating afterwards, haven’t washed your hands, then eat using a napkin instead of your fingers to hold the meal.
  • Talk to your children about why you are doing these things. Help them protect themselves by getting them in the habit of always washing their hands after they’ve been to the toilet.
  • If you have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. This will minimise the chance of you spreading the germs; you could have a serious viral infection.

Safety Information From WHO on the Coronovirus (COVID-19)

What is a "novel" coronovirus?

A novel coronavirus is one that has not been previously identified in humans. The new, or “novel” coronavirus, now called COVID-19 had not been previously detected before the outbreak reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

How dangerous is it?

Infection with COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. It can be more severe for some people and lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Protect yourself from the coronavirus

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty. When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, and clean your hands afterwards. Keep at least 2 metre (6 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, or sneezing.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Liz Westwood from UK on January 18, 2020:

This is an issue that I have been aware of for a while. Hand sanitiser is ever present in my bag and I tend to use it before eating anything, especially after using my smartphone. You give useful advice in this article. TV remotes are also high on the list for harbouring potentially harmful bacteria.

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