How to clean every kind of smartphone case

March 5, 2020
Posted in Tech
March 5, 2020 Tumelo Moloi

Let’s be clear about one thing: Your phone is F-I-L-T-H-Y. It carries 10 times the number of germs a toilet seat does, so don’t expect your phone case to be any cleaner. With flu season in full swing and the new coronavirus spreading, it’s better to take precautions than to fall prey to sickness. 

So please, clean your damn phone case already. 

If you’re looking for a basic wipe-down, Apple has a cleaning guide for its cases. But if you need something more robust, we’ve got you. Here’s how you can disinfect that nasty, yellowing case that stares you down every time you look at your phone.

Plastic

Germs live here.
Germs live here.

Plastic is relatively durable compared to other smartphone case materials, so it will survive tougher and more effective cleaning solutions, like bleach. If you’re uncomfortable working with that, though, feel free to use dish soap instead. (For a bleach-free method, follow the instructions for rubber and silicone cases.)

What you need:

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Water
  • Sponge, cloth, and/or toothbrush
  • Dishwashing gloves

How:

  1. Bleach can irritate your skin and lungs, so put on dishwashing gloves and open your windows for good air ventilation.
  2. Mix one tablespoon of bleach for every cup of water you have. That’s one part bleach to 16 parts water, if you want to do it in larger quantities. To avoid injuries, be careful not to splash the liquids.
  3. Completely soak your case in the solution for 5 to 10 minutes. If your case has a stubborn stain, feel free to soak it a bit longer or until the stain is gone.
  4. Give your case a good scrub with a sponge or cloth to get rid of any grime, dirt, or stain. Use a toothbrush to get to hard-to-reach spots.
  5. Rinse your case thoroughly to remove the bleach solution. Pat it dry with a (paper) towel and let it air dry for about half an hour before you put it back on your phone.

Aftercare: Wipe your case down with a disinfecting wipe weekly and repeat this routine once a month.

Rubber and silicone

No matter how pretty the case, it's still covered in bacteria.
No matter how pretty the case, it’s still covered in bacteria.

Rubber and silicone are a bit more delicate than plastic, so you’ll have to use a milder cleaning solution. But that also means you might not be able to get all the gunk out in one try. In any case, start by using a dish soap solution, and if stains and yellowing persist, try baking soda after.

What you need:

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Sponge, cloth, and/or toothbrush
  • Baking soda (optional)

How: 

  1. Add a moderate amount of dish soap to a bowl or a bucket of hot water and mix well. How much soap? Use your best judgement.
  2. Submerge a sponge or cloth into the solution and use it to scrub your case. Use a toothbrush to get at every nook and cranny. 
  3. Optional: If the stains and grime weren’t already lifted after the last step, sprinkle some baking soda on top of them and scrub with a wet toothbrush. For big stains, mix one part warm water with three parts baking soda to form a paste. Apply it to the affected areas, let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then scrub.
  4. Rinse your case thoroughly until it’s free of soap and/or baking soda. Pat it dry with a (paper) towel and let it air dry for about half an hour before you put it back on your phone.

Note: Don’t boil your silicone case or stick it in a dishwasher, as you might with silicone cookware. It could shrink the case. 

Aftercare: Wipe your case down with a disinfecting wipe weekly and repeat this routine once a month.

Wood

Your wood case will need a bit of TLC.
Your wood case will need a bit of TLC.

Liquid can cause some wood and wood finishes to shrink or expand. But this vinegar solution is generally safe to use on all types of wood and finishes — just be sure not to soak your case in it. 

What you need: 

  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Dish soap (optional)
  • Spray bottle
  • Cloth

How:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with two parts water and one part vinegar, and mix well. Feel free to add a few drops of dish soap to the solution if you feel that the stains on your case call for a cleaner with a bit more strength.
  2. Spray the solution onto the case and wipe it down with a damp cloth. Again, be careful to avoid drenching your case in the solution.
  3. Wipe it again with a paper towel or dry cloth to remove excess moisture.

Aftercare: This solution functions as an all-purpose, everyday wood cleaner. Save whatever you have left of the solution and repeat this routine weekly.

Leather

High maintenance AF
High maintenance AF

Leather is the snowflake of all these phone case materials — it’s sensitive to oil, dyed materials, makeup, sunlight, heat, and humidity. Once you stain it, there really isn’t an ideal way to address it. It’s best to use a leather cleaner and follow the instructions there, but this works as a cheaper alternative, too. Just be mindful that the leather might slightly change color with whatever solution you choose to use.

What you need:

  • Water
  • Mild hand soap
  • Cloth
  • Leather conditioner or mink oil (optional)

How:

  1. Mix warm water and hand soap in a bowl. Use your best judgment to determine the proportions.
  2. Never apply the solution directly onto the case since leather is susceptible to water stains. Dip a cloth into the solution and wring it until it’s damp. Wipe your case down with the damp cloth. 
  3. Use a dry cloth or a paper towel to remove excess water.
  4. Optional: Use a leather conditioner or mink oil to keep your case in good shape for the future. Follow the instructions on the label.

Aftercare: Keep your case out of direct sunlight, heat, humidity, and anything else that can stain it. Repeat this routine once a month — or more frequently if you prioritize cleanliness over preventing leather discoloration. 

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