Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ask Deemable Tech: How Can I Clean My Smartphone?

Shaundra writes, "I was letting my 3-year-old play with my iPhone when she spit up all over it. Eww. I need to get it clean. Like, really clean, not just 'dab-it-with-a-lint-free-cloth clean'. It’s a phone, you put it up to your face! And I just know it's crawling with germs now. How can I disinfect my iPhone?"

Oh, that is gross! However, even if your kid hadn't aimed for your iPhone, a couple of recent studies have shown that even cell phones that haven't been victims of 3-year-olds are “veritable reservoirs of pathogens.” A sample of smartphones showed abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination. So, with that in mind you’ll definitely want to clean your phone. A lint-free cloth and some alcohol should kill 99% of bacteria.

However, certain touch-screen smart phones, including the iPhone, have an oleophobic coating on them to protect them from smudges and fingerprints. Apple specifically warns not to use any product with alcohol in it to clean the iPhone or iPad screens, because using cleaners with alcohol will wear down that coating.

Now, anecdotal evidence indicates that an occasional light cleaning with alcohol doesn’t seem to have much ill effect on an iPhone, but you use it against the manufacturer’s recommendations and at your own risk. Be sure to test any cleaner you try before use. Dab a small amount of it on the corner of your phone’s screen. It's better to damage a small piece of your screen than the entire thing.

However, most phones can be cleansed with just a small amount of mild soap and a little bit of water. Make sure that the rag is just a little wet (don't use one that's so wet it's dripping water). That will get rid of most germs. It won't kill the germs, but it will get them off your phone, which is all that really matters, right? You'll have a phone with hardly any germs on it. Of course, you'll want to consult the manual for your device before trying this at home.

If you’re truly obsessed with keeping your touch-screen germ-free, and you don’t want to abrade or damage the finish in any way, you can always try UV light. The VIOLIGHT UV Cell Phone Sanitizer claims that it will not only charge your cell phone, but destroy 99% of all bacteria in the process. It’s $49.99.

Or, you could just save some money and head to the beach. Good old-fashioned sunshine also produces UV rays. Normally we would tell you to keep your smart phone out of the sun, but if you want to disinfect it, try leaving it in the sunshine for a few hours. Just make sure that it doesn't overheat. The UV rays will kill just about anything that's still left on it. Plus, you can work on your tan while you wait.

For more great tech advice, listen to Deemable Tech's hour-long show on

Ray Hollister can be reached at, 904-358-6341 or on Twitter at @rayhollister.
Tom Braun is a writer living in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to writing about tech and co-hosting WJCT’s Deemable Tech, he writes content for websites and blogs, ghostwrites ebooks, writes short fiction and has written a woefully unpublished dystopian young adult novel that is no doubt his ticket to fame and fortune. Before realizing his true calling as a writer, Tom worked for over a decade as a software developer. He enjoys board games and traveling and once spent a year living in The Netherlands.