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  • Smart Choices

It's Time to Clean Your Smart Phone

Photo of cell phone and cleaning cloth.

Our smart phones are an essential technology in our lives, accompanying most of us wherever we go. As such, it’s critical that we care for them to keep them clean, safe, able to hold a charge and up to speed.

First and foremost: Back up your phone to the cloud so that if anything goes wrong, you still have access to your data. Knowing your phone is backed up will ensure peace of mind if you find your phone is lost, stolen, or incapacitated. In the meantime:

Keep it clean A study in the journal Germs notes that up to 17,000 germs were recorded on the outside of phones. Another study by the University of Arizona claims that phones can carry more germs than a toilet seat. Besides the “ewww” factor, some of those germs may be dangerous.

There are ways to safely wipe down a dirty phone but the technique varies by phone brand, so be sure to check with your manufacturer before swiping yours.

  • Keep your hands clean so you don’t transfer dirt, grime and germs to your phone. In the same vein, don’t set your phone down on dirty countertops or other potentially contaminated surfaces. Never carry your phone into the restroom because of course there is a huge potential for germ pickup there, too.

  • Wipe your phone down daily. In most cases, using a microfiber cloth is not damaging, and because microfiber can eliminate bacteria, that may be enough cleaning. If you are able to use a cleaning spray (such as 70% isopropyl alcohol or a fast-drying disinfecting wipe) safely, occasionally spray it on the cloth and clean your phone rather than spray directly on the phone. Avoid getting any moisture in the charging ports.

  • If you have a hard case on your phone, periodically remove it and wash with mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse and air-dry completely before replacing it on your phone.

Refresh and purge If you have experienced a short battery life, slow uploads and downloads, or frequent crashing, it’s probably time to clean up your phone’s performance.

  • Delete that mountain of photos from your phone; uploading them into the cloud frees up lots of storage space. From now on, have the photos automatically back up to the cloud so you can delete photos from your phone safely as soon as you are done sharing recent pics of your cute kids or grandkids with all your friends.

  • Delete old text messages and change settings to auto-delete after a certain time frame. Memes, videos, gifs and similar icons take up space, so delete those as soon as you read them; look for any you still have and delete them now. Go through your contacts list and delete those you are unlikely to get in touch with again.

  • Check out all of the apps on your phone. First delete the ones you aren’t currently using; you can always add them back if you need them later. Then, organize the remaining apps into folders so you can find them easier. Next, figure out which apps are tracking you and deny permission for them to keep tabs on your position. These geo-location services that run in the background slow down your phone. (On an Android, turn off geo-location in Settings>Apps, then tap on the app, then Permissions. On an iPhone, it’s in Settings>Privacy>Location, then choose the app.) The exceptions to location services are ride-share and similar services that must know where you are. If you don’t use them often, turn them off when you aren’t using them.

  • Download updates for greater security and to get bug fixes, along with new features.

  • Change your password to protect your phone from cyberattacks.

  • If you have severe slowdowns and battery depletion, you may want to take the drastic action of clearing your history and cookies. It may make opening apps slower for a while after this action, but it will clear out a lot of “junk” from your phone.


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