• How do I disinfect my iPad, iPhone, Droid, cell phone, touchscreen, etc.?

    A back-story, followed by my answer to the question posed in the title. If you just want the latter, skip to the part that begins “So, here’s what I did” (in bold). 

    Oh internet, how you’ve failed me. There I was, entertaining my sick four-year-old at home by letting her play her favorite games on my iPad. Not to get too graphic about it, let’s just say that lots of stuff flowed and/or was ejected at high velocity from her face. A good deal of it landed on my iPad screen, and then was smeared around by her cute little fingers. She didn’t care. I sure did.

    No problem, I thought. I’m sure there is a way to disinfect the screen. Why, I’ll just ask the internet. As she played, I whipped out my Droid and searched for the wisdom from the collective.

    Turns out, nobody seems to agree on how to disinfect a touchscreen device. Oh sure, everyone can tell you how to “clean” it. Just wipe it with a lint-free cloth, maybe with a dab of water. No big deal.

    But ask the hive mind how to disinfect a touchscreen and you’ll get a load of snark. Why do you want to disinfect it? Are you some kind of germ-a-phobe? Don’t you know the germs came from your hand anyway? Just wash your hands you moron!

    Well, no. Turns out touchscreens are everywhere, including hospitals and doctors’ offices. Plus, if your device is a phone, you put it to your face. Maybe you lend it to people, like four-year-olds who think snot is a suitable finger lubricant. I would not rub my four-year-old’s snot on my face, not without a really good reason anyway. I’d rather do a bit more than just smear my daughter’s effluence around the screen. I don’t think adding water and mixing is sufficient.

    So, there are legitimate reasons to want to disinfect touchscreens. But what product may I use that will not damage the device?

    Many online tech forum participants recommend rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol. Just as many say it’s a bad idea. The thing is though, the ones who recommend it have actually used it and do not report any ill effects. The ones who say it is a bad idea don’t say it ruined their device. They just worry. Worry is not evidence!

    So, here’s what I did. I roughly followed the advice at wikiHow. I bought the highest concentration rubbing alcohol available at my local drug store (91%). wikiHow recommends 97% or higher, but that’s for cleaning the electronic innards, as well as the screen. The concern about cleaning the inside with lower concentration product is that it might act as a conductor and short the device. I do not care at all about disinfecting the inside of my device. (Seriously, that’s nuts!) I also bought some cotton pads, the type people use to remove makeup (I guess). I poured a bit of the alcohol on the pad, rubbed my touchscreen, then wiped it down with a lint free cloth. My screen looks awesome and clean. I see no problems, but I will report them if any occur.

    Oh, one more thing, the cotton pad I used to disinfect my iPad screen came up filthy. I don’t mean just a little dirty, I mean really grimy. Even though I do wipe it with water pretty regularly (I hate smudges!), my screen was disgusting. This is not surprising, given how it is used. (Same goes for my Droid.) I am glad I cleaned it with more than a bit of water.

    As for all you tech forum participants who had nothing to contribute to this problem other than to ridicule those who asked a legitimate question, you made the internet look bad (low bar, I know). Because of all the dust you kicked up on this, it was surprisingly hard to find an answer to this question that I felt I could trust. It’s a good question. It deserves an answer. Now you have one. You’re welcome, internet. You may now return to your regularly scheduled snark.

    UPDATE: A reader writes, “According to Apple, [a]lcohol should not be used on an iPad. iPads have an oleophobic coating which repels oil. Each application of alcohol will cause significant degradation of the oleophobic coating. For more information, see:  http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3226

    At the link it also says, “The ability of this coating to repel oil will diminish over time with normal usage, and rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch your screen.” Maybe alcohol will accelerate the degradation somewhat. But, occasional disinfecting may be worth that trade-off to you. As I wrote above, nowhere have I seen anyone complaining that use of alcohol damaged their device. Also, nowhere at the Apple link will you find any advice on how to disinfect your touchscreen. There is information on disinfecting your keyboard, trackpad, or mouse. So, this is not very helpful.

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    • Thanks for this! My screen develops places that look like someone sneezed on it. I don’t–I swear! They are hard to clean off with just water, so I’ll be trying the alcohol method.

    • Everclear has a 105% concentration of alcohol and it won’t kill you if you drink it (by accident).

      • @Rlangg
        I was in a frat in college and was something of an Everclear expert (as a pledge, I knew where to get cheap trash cans and purple cool aid on sale). It is 190 proof, which I am fairly sure means 95% alcohol. And actually, if you get into too much of it, it will kill you….

    • According to Apple, Alcohol should not be used on an iPad. iPads have an oleophobic coating which repels oil. Each application of alcohol will cause significant degradation of the oleophobic coating. For more information, see: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3226

      • Thank you. The post has been augmented with an update at the end. There, I write that at the link it also says, “The ability of this coating to repel oil will diminish over time with normal usage, and rubbing the screen with an abrasive material will further diminish its effect and may scratch your screen.” Maybe alcohol will accelerate the degradation somewhat. But, occasional disinfecting may be worth that trade-off to you. As I wrote above, nowhere have I seen anyone complaining that use of alcohol damaged their device. Also, nowhere at the Apple link will you find any advice on how to disinfect your touchscreen. There is information on disinfecting your keyboard, trackpad, or mouse. So, this is not very helpful.

        • Austin,

          Thank you for your reply and the update.

          I totally agree with you that for some people it’s worth the trade-off. Also, for people that have had their devices for quite some time, the coating is likely already gone, so it wouldn’t even matter in those cases.

          Alcohol will not damage the screen itself, so outside of degrading the oleophobic coating, it’s perfectly safe.

          I will note that personally I use Monster ScreenClean. I’ve seen them both sold in and used by the Geniuses in Apple Stores. It’s a bit pricey, but it does clean and disinfect without abrasives/alcohol:

          http://www.monstercable.com/screenclean/monster_screenclean.asp

          • I don’t understand how alcohol is “abrasive”. It certainly isn’t, by itself, physically abrasive. Is it chemically abrasive in some sense? What are the active ingredients in the product you recommended, if you know?

            • Alcohol is not abrasive; It will not itself scratch, etch, or otherwise damage glass. Alcohol can damage plenty of things, but glass is not one of them.

              Insofar as more details on Monster ScreenClean, the ‘Technology’ tab on that page has more information on “Aegis”, their antimicrobial technology. I don’t know anything above and beyond that.

          • I looked at the info on the Monster ScreenClean site and it seems to claim that the cloth it provides is antimicrobial. I’m not sure that means that it removes bacteria from the touchscreen, but only that the cloth won’t harbor bacteria as readily. So, I’m not totally convinced it disinfects the touchscreen.

            I’m not trying to be difficult. I just don’t want to buy a product that doesn’t actually serve the purpose I’m interested in. At least I know isopropyl alcohol disinfects, albeit with some degradation of the coating.

            This thread illustrates how frustrating this is. I wish Apple would just come out and endorse a disinfecting product that is fully safe to use.

            • Anything with “Monster” in it’s name is usually vastly overpriced. I presume it’s probably a nice smelling alcohol based cleaning solution sold with a microfibre cloth and nothing more.

    • I agree – it’s crazy how many conflicting opinions are out there about using alcohol. I travel for work with a software company and am frequently using someone else’s mouse or touchscreen device. I bought a box of individually wrapped biodegradable lens wipes from Costco and people are always shocked at how filthy they are after I wipe off the mouse, screen, keyboard, etc.

    • Higher concentration does not necessarily mean it’s a better disinfectant. With EtOH for example, 75% works better (and is cheaper) than 95%. A lower concentration solution may have a greater aqueous portion, but I can’t imagine that it would matter for the outside of electronics.

    • ps. if cleaning it with water doesn’t short it (think of the salt left on the screen from sweat), then I don’t see why lower concentration alcohols would…

    • I use the little alcohol pads that are prepackaged. You know, the ones used clinically to disinfect prior to a needle stick. Your way is probably cheaper, though.

    • I use a product called “Wireless Wipes” to disenfect my cell phone, computer screen, and keyboard.
      They actually come in 3 different scents.
      I purchase mine online at:
      http://www.wirelesswipes.com

    • Man, just as the world figured out that microwaves don’t have enough energy to cause cancer and we all thought it was safe to use cell phones again, the germ theory raises its ugly head. Life’s a bummer.

      So, thanks but no thanks; I’ll remain cell-phone free. (Just joking: but I actually am cell-phone free: I work at home and when I go out, I’d rather not be bothered by customers.)

    • To Mark: if you would have clicked on the link for monster you would have read that the Monster Screen Clean is amonia/alcohol free, therefor it is a seperate gel like substance used to clean the screen. Monster’s electrical products are more than worth their cost even with the markup if you understand technology, and one such as you should not be as much as BOLD to make a statement without doing the research. That also means that your opinion here was not needed. Thank you to the creator of this thread, however, as it has helped me solve a riddle for myself. We have an iPad here at a children’s hospital and have rental laptops for people to check out. This helps out quite a bit as I’m sure the Sani-Wipes we use on the PC’s probably adversely affect touch screen devices.

      • Alex, I can smell the ammonia in a lot of “ammonia-free” cleaners. My nose is an expert in that. And tech experts who don’t work for Monster generally agree that Monster products are insanely overpriced and don’t work any better than significantly cheaper products.

    • Thank you, thank you for this post! I have a new iphone and 3 children who are constantly touching it. I’m sure it’s the dirtiest thing in my house. I’ll definitely be using rubbing alcohol to clean it.

    • The CDC website says that the noroviruses can live on surfaces for up to a month in ideal conditions and the only way to disinfect the surfaces are with bleach.

      If laundry has been contaminated with a norovirus, how can I disinfect it? I can’t use bleach on the clothes, so what should I do?

      • Even though the norovirus post has nothing to do with the original blog post, I figured I’d reply: Wash the clothes in hot water (normal amount of detergent), then dry the clothes on high heat until clothes are extra-dry. The key is high heat and very-dry clothes. This method is used in my hospital.

    • Never use chemicals on your iPad or any electronic devices, the chemical will strip away the protective coating and will ultimately damage your screen. Instead use a microfiber cleaning cloth like the ones sold at http://www.kbcloth.info and slightly wet it and wipe your iPad screen clean. Make sure that the cloth is only damp and not wet. This is the best way to clean your iPad.

    • I used one of those little individually packaged alcohol prep pads to clean my iPhone and immediately after the receiver (aka the speaker that you put up to your ear…not the speaker that is used for speakerphone or listening to music aloud) no longer worked…at all…ever again. I did not soak the thing. I just gave it a quick wipe-down, and that was enough to short-out the receiver. I had to use the speakerphone to make/receive calls for more than a month until I was able to save up enough money to get a new one.

      Conclusion: using alcohol or alcohol based cleaners on your iPhone is not a good idea.

      • Was your phone off when you did that? Electronics are usually ok with even being dunked in water provided they are off, and then 100% dry when you switch them on again (don’t actually try this though :P ). I remember seeing a Tom’s Hardware where they ran a whole PC immersed in distilled water, and it ran fine for quite a while, and even when it stopped working once they dried it out and switched it on again it continued functioning normally.

        So I guess a supplementary comment to everyone would be to make sure the device is off and give it enough time to properly dry before switching it on again…

        • PLZ DO NOT ATTEMPT WATER TESTING ON ANY DEVICES ! Idk… About MOST FOLKS BUT I DO KNOW MY IPAD DID NOT FARE SO WELL. I think it’s gone. Basically. Man, that one was a keeper TOO. I was uncharacteristically CARELESS AND IRRESPONSIBLE. I’m greatly disappointed. Anyhow, it’s been a couple months. From time to time I take a moment to check it out, hoping it’ll just miraculously work again. Perhaps it’s time I accept the fact that this IPAD ISN’T GOING TO MYSTERIOUSLY SELF-HEAL.
          DARN the luck….
          It really is a big loss for me.

      • I used an alcohol wipe out of one of those little pop up tubs from cvs to clean my brand new iPhone 4s about 3 minutes ago, just made a call from it after reading this post and my speaker is fine. Of course, I turned my phone off before wiping it down, and wiped it dry with a clean dry towel afterward before turning it back on. I’m posting just so that the next person who reads your post doesn’t have a heart attack thinking that they killed their iPhone like I did.

    • I can’t believe no one has mentioned that most people put a plastic screen protector on their iPad. It can be replaced periodically. Won’t the screen protector keep the screen from loosing the oleophobic substance if it is cleaned with alcohol?

    • I can’t believe how many people on the posts online question the need to disinfect the touchscreens. A study came out that showed that cell phones are 5 times dirtier than your toilet. That’s pretty disgusting to shove in your face all day……just sayin.

    • Thank you. Sick kids all week entertaining themselves on the iPad, and just sat down to google disinfecting the screen. I’ll try the alcohol. I’m pretty sure this is a bed of infection right now…..going to wash my hands momentarily.

    • Thanks to you i just ruined my new iphone screen—it ruined the coating on it. please dont publish you can use alcohol on iphone. they are EXPENSIVE and now mine is ruined.

    • Thank you so much ! Before I had an iPhone which I just got recently, I had a blackberry and I used to use those packaged alcohol wipes on the whole thing esp the keyboard and on my computer keyboard. Now I use those and/ or Clorox wipes (squeezed out). I can hear the gasps. I live in nyc where you use your phone on or after being on the subway and having touched the subway polls etc. Germ central. Gross. I disinfect my entire iPhone often. Think about it. Touch nasty things all day. Then touch your phone. Then touch your face eat. Apply lipgloss. If I don’t clean my phone, I might as well lick the subway poll. I’m not sure it’s safe for my phone but so far so good. Occasionally the touch screen does not respond right away but doesn’t an iPhone do that anyway?

    • Apple now sells Baush & Lomb Clens cleaning kits for iPads etc. This product claims to not hurt the oleophobic coating on the screen yet it contains isopropyl alcohol. Looks to be about a 12% solution from the material data sheet.

      Interesting that Apple hasn’t updated its knowledge base article that says that alcohol will damage the coating.

      • I have…oops HAD 2 iPads and including kiddos we have 5-10/12 devices…electronic , that is. I’ve always used an old fashioned cloth diaper(unused by baby of course) and contact lense cleaning solution for the screens. Currently one I’m using is the Equate brand MultiPurpose Solution For Soft Contact Lenses. I had some non prescription color contacts used for theatrical effect and I had the idea. If it’s good enough to clean something that helps a person actually see the world, without causing injury to ones sensitive eyes, then surely it would be DEVICE-SCREEN-APPROPRIATE,
        Just my personal opinion though…..

    • I work in a school library that loans out 3 iPads to teachers for classroom use. At the end of the week, they can be taken home by any adult for the weekend. Each one has a screen protector. I disinfect them every Friday. I turn them off and thoroughly wipe them with a disinfectant wipe: screen, back, and rubberized cover. If you think that’s dirty, do you borrow library books? Not much you can do about the pages, but I do disinfect the plastic covered areas of books I take home.

    • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I know this is an old post, but even now, the same banter and ridicule is going on for the same question (with the same results). My reason for doing the search was the same as yours (only my daughter isn’t quite 2, and my iPad just happened to be in the trajectory path. . .). With schools now having BYOT, everyone sharing everything, I would hope for a little more clarity on what seemed like a very basic question. So I am going to try the rubbing alcohol/cotton pads and hope that my daughter’s symptoms and fever don’t transfer to me (because plain ole’ water certainly doesn’t kill germs)!

    • My son is almost 5 years old and plays games on my Iphone a lot. He would get a head cold and next thing you know I would get it. We figured the cellphone was where we were transferring “germs”. I was also unable to find a way thru the internet to clean/sanitize my phone, My husband said why not try the SaniHands for Kids. They are moist antibacterial wipes. If it kills 99.99% of germs on kids hands, surely it would help with clearing the germs on the phone. My advice is to be sure not to get any liquid in the earpiece or anywhere liquid could get inside.

    • I have used alcohol on the ipad and it seems fine also and that’s fine for common colds but we have the stomach flu going around and the CDC says alcohol doesn’t kill the stomach flu virus (noroviurs) and you should use bleach. Has anyone ever tried bleach?

      • Hee hee..I took a BLEACH BATH! Yup, believe this- I was TRIPPIN when my dermatologist said ‘BLEACH bath’! If wanna hear about it… Lemme know! I’ll bookmark this page for a few days!
        Oh and pun intended… HAND! .
        That is…. Have A Nice Day.
        ✌️

    • I use rubbing alcohol for all my other electronics and am glad to hear someone has tried it out with the iPhone. To be honest, with the touchscreen it sure isn’t something I’m going to be doing on a regular basis but if it seems to be necessary (like now with the incidents that seem to be most commonly referenced) I’m going to go ahead and do it.

      To the person with the speaker issue: the wipe was too wet, you got a drop of water either in the speaker (shorted it) OR in the headphone jack. Happened to me a week after I got my iPhone – I got stuck in the snow and used my iPhone to call for help – while standing in the snow. One tiny snowflake fell directly into my headphone jack and killed the sound. Checked for a red LDI and sure enough… so to me, your problem sounds like moisture damage. It goes without saying if you are cleaning a device 1) turn it off. 2) let it dry completely before switching the device on. 3) remove as much moisture as possible before touching your device. In my case, after the phone adequately dried out, the speaker began working again just like magic.

    • Useful posting. Rubbing alcohol was my first thought, but it was easier to try it once I heard others had done successfully.

      Agreed – I too ran into lots of idiocy when researching how to ‘disinfect my ipad’.

      “Why do you need to do that?” and “There is no need” are typical answers. In programming, that is generally the sign of an ignorant individual who can’t admit his lack of knowledge. Therefore, they resort to invalidating the question. As I wrote to one such ignorant poster on another forum: How about being silent and letting those who can answer be heard (like this poster). You might learn something (as we did here).

    • Just because it was brought up several times, I thought I would chime in. I am not advocating this in any way, BUT, I did have to use bleach wipes on my iPhone several times, and it did not seem to have any adverse effect. I was in the hospital, visiting a patient under isolation due to infection of c-diff.

    • Thanks so much for this information. I was extremely annoyed with the official Apple responses which just said, “get over your germaphobia”, “use a clean dry cloth”, and other non-responsive or rude comments. Thanks again! I”m going to try the rubbing alcohol.

    • IMHO, all you really need is the lint free cloth, I have NEVER needed alcohol to clean my iPad and I use it HEAVILY it is covered in marks and smudges all the time.

      All I do is moisten the lint free cloth (moisten, with a tiny amount of water) til its a little damp then I rub across the screen side to side all the way down and then up and down from side to side. This gets rid of everything for me and leaves the screen looking new..

      I don’t get how you’re getting marks on your iPad that require alcohol to remove, it should only be the oil from your fingers which is leaving a mark which is always removable by water.

      Apple says the screen is ‘oil-repellant’ or whatever, it’s pretty obvious your fingers are still leaving traces of oil, or else there would be no marks.

      LONG STORY SHORT – Lint-Free Cloth + a dab of water (also the direction you wipe the screen and the amount of pressure you apply is important, read my whole post for that).

      • You missed the part where it’s not an issue of smudges, but of germs from a sick kid. The iPod is not magically antimicrobial.

    • Forgot to mention, I have seen an iPad and the screen had become very bright, like colors looked really oversaturated and glaring and it was hard to see blacks.

      This was my friend, he was using the rubbing iso alcohol (95% i think) ever since he first got it and he’d had it for around 2 years when the screen went all messed up. Far as I know every time he cleaned it he used alcohol, but I guess it takes alot over a long span of time to damage the screen. But I still think it’s a bad idea, if Apple even recommends against it why would you?

    • Just to clarify can i do this to my lenovo laptop touch screen?

    • I’ve been using a solution of 50/50 distilled water/vinegar for an occational through cleaning with no ill effects. If you use a screen protector there’s not much to worry about unless you soak the device while cleaning it. If the screen protector gets messes up then you just get a new one.

    • When a touch screen has been contaminated with a bacterial/viral pathogen, and the user of that touch screen is immune compromised, by all means don’t hesitate to use rubbing alcohol. After that, protect it from those who are ill so that you can maintain the best possible health status for yourself.