6 Cleaning Mistakes that Could Ruin Your Phone (and Other Electronics)

updated Feb 3, 2020
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You’ve probably heard your iPhone is ten times dirtier than a toilet, and if you’re not washing your hands constantly, your laptops and remotes probably aren’t too far behind.

Still, even with your iPhone’s germ-ridden screen or your laptop’s dusty, grimy keyboard, it’s better to be dirty than useless: Some cleaning methods can permanently damage your device (maybe even render it unusable), so you need to know what not to do.

Curious what not to use when you’re sprucing up your phone, tablet, or computer? Here are a few things to avoid:

Don’t submerge devices in water

This goes without saying, but never submerge your phone or any other device in liquid (or even hold it under running water). While newer models can technically be water-resistant — meaning they may be salvageable if they get splashed with liquid — they aren’t totally “waterproof.”

Don’t spray anything directly on a device

The same principle holds true for spraying liquid on a device. If you don’t wipe the spray immediately, the liquid could leak behind the screen or into the device itself, causing issues with the speaker, keyboard, or charging port. Also remember it can be dangerous to charge your device if any part of it is still wet and you don’t know it.

Don’t use abrasive cleaners

Apple specifically recommends against the use of abrasive cleaners like ammonia, window cleaner, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, compressed air, and hydrogen peroxide on devices. While it may be tempting to wipe your phone’s dirty screen down with a Clorox wipe, over time, these types of sanitizers can scratch the glass and remove the phone’s oleophobic coating, which helps protect the glass from fingerprints and other oils. It’s better to use a special tech cleaner, when you can. Or even invest in a UV cell phone sanitizer device.

Don’t use alcohol on glass

While alcohol is generally touted as a broad solution for dirty devices since it dries quickly, doesn’t streak, and kills germs, it should be avoided altogether, especially on more sensitive areas of your device. For example, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) can be safe in very small amounts if it’s diluted on a lint-free cloth and immediately wiped, but it should never be used on your phone’s glass. Some users report the solvent can seep into the cracks and dye the inner screen.

Credit: GBALLGIGGSPHOTO/Shutterstock

Don’t use liquid near openings

Because even residual moisture can do unseen damage to your device’s USB/charging port, speaker, or microphone, be extra careful when you’re cleaning your devices with water or diluted alcohol.

Don’t clean when it’s plugged in

It may seem obvious, but always make sure your device is unplugged (and ideally turned off) before cleaning it with any kind or liquid or damp tool, even if the liquid is on a cloth. Electricity and moisture don’t go well together.