How to Clean Your Cell Phone

By: Dave Roos
Woman bathing with cell phone.
Yes, there are more effective ways to clean your cell phone than this.
TIMLI/Getty Images

You can still remember the day your iPhone 4 arrived in the mail. As you lifted the stunning smartphone from its minimalist packaging, you ran your fingers along the sleek, glass-coated LCD display. You delighted in the cold weight of the new stainless-steel band and marveled at the efficient design of the phone's tiny microphones and built-in 5-megapixel camera with LED flash.

Then your toddler found it.


Could that really be Cheetos dust lodged in the microphone? Why is there a fluorescent blue Play-Doh crumb in the headphone jack? And why do all of your photos look like they were taken from the inside of a Vaseline jar?

Cell phones, particularly the new touchscreen models, are notoriously filthy. Fingerprints, dust, earwax nuggets (!) and other visible grime are only the tip of the icky iceberg. According to a widely publicized, semi-scientific study by a British cell phone retailer, cell phones are home to more potentially harmful bacteria than doorknobs, computer keyboards, and yes, even toilet seats [source: Dial-A-Phone]. Doctoral students at Stanford University further warn that infectious microbes on the surface of a smartphone -- including staph bacteria and the seasonal flu -- have an excellent chance of making their way to your eyes, nose and mouth [source: Calvan]. Lovely.

Cleaning a cell phone can be intimidating at first. Can you crack open the case without voiding your warranty? Should you spritz a smudged LCD screen with Windex or is a dry cloth the way to go? And what about those bacteria? Before you attack your $200 BlackBerry with a can of Lysol or invest in a stylish surgical mask, read our tips on the safest way to keep your cell phone spotless and sanitary.