As smartphones become even more important and present in our daily lives, the act of keeping them clean is starting to have the same amount of social impact as a cared-for vehicle, a groomed appearance, table manners, and other important aspects of general etiquette. Combined with the fact that cell phones are characteristically a hotbed for unwanted germs and bacteria in the first place, this leads millions of smartphone owners to wipe anything on hand across their greasy screens in the hopes of doing a little spot cleaning.
While there are many ways to safely keep your smartphone shiny and germ-free, there are a few things that you’ll always want to keep away from your trusty device, no matter how tempted you are to quickly wipe out a few finger smudges before handing your phone to a co-worker or friend. So the next time you’re looking to stash a few smartphone cleaning items in your glove compartment, here are 3 things you’ll definitely want to avoid:
The cheapness, wide availability, and general use as a cleaning cure-all makes rubbing alcohol a common item to reach for when you want to make a surface germ-free. But despite its effectiveness as a sterilizing agent, the last thing you want to do is soak a cloth in alcohol and rub it over your smartphone. The main reason for this is the oleophobic coating that is commonly used on glass-based smartphone screens: the coating helps repel dirt and oil, but rubbing alcohol can quickly weaken and eat away at its protective layer, leaving your screen more vulnerable, and—just like the effects of alcohol on people—subject to premature aging.
Common Household Cleaners
Aerosol sprays, window cleaners, ammonia-based fluids, and many other bottles you have under your sink are best left for your kitchen and bathroom, not your $600 pocket computer. In addition to being too harsh on the oleophobic coating on your screen, these agents can damage the finish on your smartphone casing, even leading to a permanent, rainbow-like stain that resembles an oil slick on the road. Glass cleaner in particular can be a very tempting agent to use, especially considering how many smartphone screens are made of glass, but a good rule of thumb is to never use something to clean the outside of your smartphone that you wouldn’t use on its insides.
T-shirts, Paper Towels, And Other Impromptu Rags
Many of us have a few retired shirts that mainly see service as a polishing rag for automobiles, guitars, furniture, and anything else that needs a smudge-free surface. There’s nothing wrong with doing this with a few cared-for rags—the problem comes when you absentmindedly use the shirt you’re wearing, or a piece of paper towel from the dispenser in the break room, or anything else in a spur of the moment urge to get your smartphone screen back to its out-of-the-box shine. Dirt, lint, and countless other bits of barely noticeable debris are commonly found on these items, and it only takes a few swipes to inadvertently leave a streak of pencil-fine scratches across your smartphone screen, giving your beloved device an unfortunate, cracked-windshield appearance.
There are a wide variety of hand wipes, microfiber cloths, and less-abrasive sprays that you can keep on hand for the times when you’re desperate to annihilate the earwax smudges that your boss left on your iPhone. Just remember to keep untested cleaners and rags away from your sensitive screen, and you’ll go a long way towards keeping your phone neat and pristine.
John is a blogger who always grabs a ragged strip of paper towel to clean any of his various screens, and is finally starting to understand that it’s actually possible to not have fine scratches on everything you own. He writes for protectyourbubble.com, an Internet insurer that can help protect your smartphone—including Samsung’s new Galaxy S4—from theft, damage, defects, and more.