Phone Hygiene: How to Keep Your Phone Germ-Free and Clean

We give basic advice on cleaning your cell phone and more advanced tips on how to get rid of even the toughest germs.

Björn GreifEditor

We are all especially encouraged to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly these days. The World Health Organization (WHO) gives clear instructions for this. But what good is all this washing and disinfecting if we then immediately grab our phone again which is usually brimming with germs? That’s why cell phone hygiene is as important as washing your hands.

This also reduces the risk of smear infection with the new coronavirus. According to first studies, SARS-CoV-2 remains infectious on surfaces for several hours or even days. On stainless steel, glass or plastic surfaces it can survive up to nine days.

We explain how to remove even such persistent germs and keep your phone clean for as long as possible.


  • Switch off your phone before cleaning and disconnect any cables
  • Use a soft, lint-free cotton or microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Remove coarse dirt such as crumbs or other hard particles before wiping
  • Always apply cleaner only to the cleaning cloth (moisten slightly)
  • Wipe the entire device (screen, sides and back) plus cover if used
  • Remove germs with isopropyl alcohol (follow the cleaning instructions of the device manufacturer!)
  • Consider the use of a screen protector and phone cover that can be cleaned without worries and replaced at low cost
  • Only use your phone with clean and dry hands


  • Never spray cleaner directly on your phone
  • Don’t apply too much pressure when wiping
  • Don’t use paper towels for cleaning
  • Don’t use compressed air as it can blow liquid or dirt into the device
  • Don’t use aggressive cleaners such as glass cleaners as they can damage surfaces
  • Never use your phone in the bathroom or while eating

Basic Cleaning Tips

When it comes to phone hygiene, you should follow some basic tips to avoid damaging your device. Always turn off your phone before cleaning and unplug any cables (charger, headset, etc.). Use a soft, lint-free cotton or microfiber cleaning cloth which you should change and wash regularly. Paper towels are not recommended as their fibers can scratch surfaces.

Never apply the cleaner directly on your phone but only on the cleaning cloth to prevent liquid from seeping through openings (e.g. microphone, speaker, ports) into the device. Moisten the cloth only slightly and don’t apply too much pressure when wiping. Remove coarse dirt such as crumbs or other hard particles before wiping. This will avoid ugly scratches in which germs can get stuck in again. In addition to the screen, also wipe the sides and back of your phone thoroughly. And don’t forget to clean your phone cover if you use one.

Alcohol Neutralizes Germs

Most phone manufacturers give clear instructions on how to clean their devices and which detergents should not be used. Aggressive cleaners such as glass cleaners are generally not recommended because they destroy the grease-repellent coating of the touch screen in the long run.

On the occasion of the corona crisis, Apple has recently updated its cleaning instructions. According to the iPhone manufacturer, it is “OK” to use disinfectants for cleaning. Specifically, Apple mentions using 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (available in drugstores) or disinfecting wipes to gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your device. But don’t use bleach.

Apple's additional cleaning instructions for iPhones (Source: Apple)
Apple's additional cleaning instructions for iPhones (Source: Apple)

Samsung gives similar instructions for cleaning the glass, ceramic and metal surfaces of Galaxy phones.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends in terms of phone hygiene:

If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids.

If you’re concerned that alcohol-based cleaning agents will damage the screen of your phone in the long term, or if you prefer to play it safe, you should equip your device with a screen protector. You can safely wipe it off with alcohol and replace it at low cost if necessary.

Additionally, manufacturers such as PhoneSoap or Homedics offer special cleaning devices that work with UV-C light. They promise to remove up to 99.9% of all germs from the surface of a phone within minutes. However, it’s not clear whether they are also effective against the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

How to Keep Your Phone Clean as Long as Possible?

To prevent your phone from becoming a germ incubator in the first place, you should follow some simple rules of conduct. The basic rule is, never use your phone in environments where you come into contact with dirt and germs. Don’t use your phone in the bathroom – especially not in a public one! Nor should you use your phone while eating.

Also make sure that your hands are clean and dry before you pick up your phone because dirt and grease residues are an ideal breeding ground for germs.

Always remember: the cleaner your hands are, the cleaner your phone is – and vice versa. By the way, this is not only true in the time of coronavirus and COVID-19.