Like most people, I carry my cellphone pretty much everywhere. I drop it on the ground, rest it on dirty tables, and, yes, carry it into the murky depths of public restrooms—only to hold it against my face moments later. Yuck.
And don’t even get me started on the remote control: A recent study found that television remote controls are among the filthiest items in hotel rooms. Researchers found fecal matter and harmful bacteria on 81% of the samples. And while I certainly hope the remote control in my own home is not nearly that disgusting, it does spend evening after evening being passed about by grimy, potato chip-crusted, teenage hands.
The more I think about it, the more I can’t believe I don't clean these items on a regular basis. This obviously has to change. I recently made it my mission to research the safest way to clean your cellphone, remote control, and smartwatch. You’ll need:
- A soft, microfiber cloth, not an abrasive paper towel that can scratch your screen.
- 70% isopropyl alcohol, commonly known as good old-fashioned rubbing alcohol.
- Distilled water, which is less likely to leave mineral deposits and stains than regular tap water.
- A small spray bottle or bowl.
- Cotton swabs to reach into tight corners.
Note: Do not use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners. They could ruin your screen and make you sad.
How to clean your cellphone
The first step in cleaning your cellphone is to remove it from its case. I recommend doing this over a raised, flat surface like a kitchen counter because phones out of their cases are more susceptible to damage if dropped.
Blow into the portholes of your cellphone to dislodge any stuck dust or dirt. Then, mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and distilled water in a small spray bottle or bowl.
Dampen a small part of the cloth with the water/alcohol mixture. Don’t spray the mixture directly onto your phone, or it could seep beneath the glass screen or into the portholes and cause damage. Wipe all areas of your phone thoroughly, including the screen, taking care to trace any crevices. Lastly, wipe your phone dry with the remaining part of your microfiber cloth.
Last but not least, you'll want to clean your case. If it's the sturdy plastic variety, you can clean it using the same materials you’ll use for cleaning your cell phone (below). If you’re the fancy type and your case is bedazzled with rhinestones or made of something more delicate, wipe it with a damp cloth and a tiny drop of dish soap or gentle cleanser appropriate to the material.
How to clean your smartwatch
You can (and should) clean your smartwatch using the same methods and materials as above: the rubbing alcohol mixture will clean, disinfect, and remove any icky deposits of skin cells and body oils.
First, make sure to remove the band. If the band is made of plastic or metal, you can clean it with the same rubbing alcohol/water mixture. But if it’s made of leather, use a leather cleaner instead.
Dampen your microfiber cloth with your mixture and rub it gently over your smartwatch, taking care to clean any grooves or knobs. Dry your watch with the remaining part of your microfiber cloth and reassemble the watch.
How to clean your remote control
It’s time to focus on your disgusting, germy remote control. First, open the remote control and remove the batteries. Then dampen your microfiber cloth with the alcohol/water mixture. Thoroughly wipe down the remote control, including the battery cavity.
Dip a cotton swab into the alcohol mixture and use it to clean the sides of the buttons and the spaces between them. Dry the remote, and replace the batteries. Your remote control is now clean and sanitary—at least for now. Repeat at least once a week.