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How to keep your phone or tablet screen clean and hygienic

Phone screens are high-touch surfaces. We spend hours on our phones and tablets each day and often neglect to clean these devices. Bacteria and germs can get on your phone screen when you use your device, and spread between users.

You should clean your phone and screen tablet regularly to prevent germs from spreading. Unfortunately, most people neglect cleaning their phone or tablet screens. If you haven’t cleaned your screen in a while, these techniques and affordable products work. 

UV light

Obviously, if you’re looking to sanitize your phone, water will only get you so far. Since alcohol-based cleaners may damage your phone, they’re out of the question, but UV lamps can get the job done when necessary. The HoMedics UV-Clean Sanitizer has two UV-C lamps that produce a specific wavelength of light, which penetrates the cell walls of bacteria and viruses, destroying them. Just flip your phone to clean either side, and your phone could be sanitized in no time.

The downside of this particular option is it’s unlikely to fit tablets and some of the largest phones. While we haven’t had chance to check, the internal measurements mean the iPhone 11 Pro Max should fit — just — but the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra won’t. But if you have a smaller or averagely sized phone, this is an excellent sanitizing option, and it’s good for traveling too, thanks to the portable size.

Cleaning kits

All-in-one cleaning kits come with everything you need to keep your phone reasonably clean, and even come with tools to keep it clean on-the-go too. This kit from Tech Armor does just that, and includes a microfiber cloth, two cleaning solution sprays in different sizes (one for home, one for away), and a set of 20 double-strength cleaning wipes.

Tech Armor claims the cleaning solution is completely free of alcohol and ammonia, so it shouldn’t damage your screen during use, and the soft microfiber cloths are good at picking up any bits of dirt left over from the cleaning cloths, or wiping up the cleaning solution. Use the big bottle while you’re at home, and pack a few wipes and the smaller bottle into your bag just in case you need to give your device a refresher during the day.

A protective case

Tech21 has a number of cases with antimicrobial properties

You may not know this, but some cases have antimicrobial properties that can help to keep your phone clean. Tech21 specializes in this form of case, and it has a number of cases for a range of phones that claim to reduce microbes by up to 99.99%, as well as insulate against drop damage. Best of all, they’re currently 20% off.

But you don’t have to pick an antimicrobial case, as normal cases still help. By keeping your phone’s body or screen from touching dirt, grime, or fingers, you can stop it from being marred, and many cases come with additional benefits, like raised edges to elevate your phone from surfaces. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve written case guides for a ton of phones, but the best place to start is probably our guide on picking a smartphone case.

An antimicrobial screen protector

You get your fingers all over your device’s screen and then raise it to your face, so it makes sense that area is one of the worst places to accumulate bacteria. Thankfully, there’s a protective option that guards against germs and other microbes. InvisibleShield has added antimicrobial properties to its screen protectors, and it claims the treatment kills 99.99% of bacteria and inhibits the growth of algae, mold, and mildew. That’s a lot of awful stuff you don’t want near your fingers, never mind your face.

InvisibleShield’s screen protectors don’t just add resistance to muck though — adding one of them to your device’s screen will also add protection against other damage, like scratches and bumps. InvisibleShield has a number of different protectors for a variety of phones, so if this interests you, check them out. However, they’re not cheap.

Liquid screen protector and cleaner

Over the years, we have seen some liquid solutions that are designed to clean and protect screens. Shark Proof is one such example, one that you can apply to your screen in a few easy steps. You can think of it as liquid glass for your smartphone or tablet. The good thing about this nano-coating solution is that, once applied, it hardens and can repel both liquids and fingerprints. Shark Proof is scratch-resistant and antimicrobial, too, and the company guarantees this coating will protect your device from scratches and germs for up to two years. It’s also safe to use on fingerprint scanners, including the in-display ultrasonic fingerprint scanners on the Galaxy S20 range.

Microfiber cloth

The easiest and cheapest way to thoroughly clean your device’s screen is with a microfiber cloth. Unlike paper-based towels, microfiber cloths gently clean the sensitive glass on your smartphone or tablet without the risk of scratches. Microfiber also attracts and removes unwanted oils and dust, whereas other products can simply spread them around.

Clean phone

We recommend stocking up on plenty of these, as they work wonders for cleaning and buffing literally any surface — lenses, computer screens, TVs, and anything similar. Some things, like eyeglasses, come with a microfiber cloth, so you likely already have a number languishing in drawers.

To clean your display, turn off the screen as this allows you to see the dirt and grime better. It’s also mandatory if using water (see below). Move the cloth in a horizontal or vertical direction repeatedly. Once you finish an area of the screen, move on to the next dirty area, and continue to wipe until the surface is completely clean.

For dirtier jobs, or those that require more than a microfiber cloth and a little elbow grease, consider using a minimal amount of water. First, turn off your smartphone and remove the battery (if possible). Next, wet one corner of the cloth with water — do not use soap of any kind while doing this — and clean the surface of the screen in a similar fashion to the method outlined above. Once done, use a dry part of the cloth to remove some of the water (you can also let the screen air dry).

Additionally, we recommend keeping the microfiber cloth clean so that you avoid rubbing the dust and grime you’ve already picked up back on the display. To clean the cloth, simply soak it in a mixture of warm water and soap, rinse the cloth completely, then air dry it fully before using again.

Scotch tape

When a microfiber cloth is out of the question — and you need to clean your screen quickly — a strip of Scotch Tape (or another type of adhesive tape) can work wonders. Just stick the tape to the surface of the screen and peel it off to remove any unwanted dirt and grime. Repeat as often as necessary to clean the entire screen. For this trick, wide body tape works best. It’s a simple trick, but it works well.

Things to avoid

Not every cleaning method is created equal, and there are some methods that initially seem obvious, but should absolutely be avoided. Here are a couple of those.

Alcohol-based cleaners

No matter how appealing or appropriate it might seem to use a product like Windex or some other form of cleaning solvent, never resort to using these to clean the screen on your smartphone or tablet. Cleaners such as these have a tendency to damage the protective coating found on most devices, and have the potential to ruin your phone.

However, a simple Google search yields thousands of specialty solvents or cleaners which are capable of properly cleaning your device’s screen. Still, more often than not, these are just glorified versions of alcohol and water. There’s no sense in spending $60 or $70 dollars on a “smartphone screen cleaner,” when using a little water and a microfiber cloth works just as well (if not better).

Of course, if you’re worried about germs and want to sanitize your device, some suggest mixing a touch of alcohol with water to clean your screen. However, the diluted mixture may still harm your phone, so we don’t really recommend it.

Paper-based wipes

Never wipe or clean your smartphone screen with paper towels, facial tissues, or coarse cloths, as these have a high risk of scratching the surface. These scratches can build up over time and may render your touchscreen non-responsive or useless down the line. Again, a microfiber cloth is the only type of cloth you need to clean a smartphone’s screen the correct way.

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