That thing you're constantly holding to your cheek and tapping away at-has 18 times as much bacteria on it as a toilet seat. Since we're in the process of spring cleaning our homes, we decided now was the perfect time to de-germ our phones, too.
• First things first. Before you get into cleaning mode, research your phone. "It's always a good idea to do a quick search for cleaning instructions for your model with the cellphone manufacturer," says Lori Philbin from republicwireless.com. "Some companies, like Apple for example, use glass on both sides of the device, so you wouldn't want to use alcohol to clean it." You should also turn off your phone, remove the case and the battery if you're able to before cleaning. And if your phone is cracked, you shouldn't attempt to clean it yourself, since you could permanently damage it.
• Make a DIY cleaner. Do you have a phone with a keypad? (If so, lucky you-they're much easier to clean than touch screens!) David Bakke, a tech expert from moneycrashers.com suggests making a DIY cleaning formula of one-part water and one-part rubbing alcohol, then dipping a Q-tip in the mixture to lightly clean the keys. You can use that same formula to wipe down a plastic cellphone case. "Rub the area where your battery sits, as well as the battery cover, with a dry cotton swab," says Bakke. "You can use a water-dampened cotton swab to clean your camera lens, as well." In a pinch, a piece of tape is also handy for removing dust, crumbs or fingerprints from your keypad and other crevices on the device.
• Prevent germs from taking over in the first place. You probably received a microfiber cloth in the box when you first bought your phone-use it to quickly erase fingerprints and smudges. If you lost yours, there are plenty to be found on Amazon (here's a two-pack for $5.49). PhoneSoap also makes an antibacterial polish ($14.95 at phonesoap.com) that prevents new germs from growing on your screen, so you won't have to wipe it down as frequently. Bonus: It also makes your phone crazy-shiny!
• Protect your touch screen. Since you're constantly touching your phone's display, it gets dirtier than any other part of the device. So using a screen protector is just as important for protecting against germs as it is for unsightly scratches. Look for one with an Olephobic layer, which repels oil and makes cleaning easier (try Ballistic Glass screen protectors, $15.95 for iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Nexus at techarmor.com). We've also found inexpensive screen protectors on Amazon and eBay, where they frequently sell for just a few dollars each.
• Clean your touch screen. Screen protectors are great, but if you've already been using your touchscreen without one, you need another way to de-germ it. Luckily, several companies make smartphone cleaners that are designed specifically for touch screens. Tech Armor sells a cleaning kit that includes pre-moistened cleaning wipes and a gel screen cleaner ($12.95 at techarmor.com) and iKlear has non-toxic cleaning products for a variety of electronic devices (prices start at $9.95, iklear.com). If you have a household of gadgets that need to be cleaned, you could save money in the long run by investing in a UV cleaner. While pricier, Phone Soap's UV Charger kills all the bacteria on your phone in five minutes ($59.95 at phonesoap.com) and Verilux makes a portable UV wand that can be quickly swiped over your device to sanitize it ($39.95 at verilux.com).