Apple now says it’s okay to use disinfectant wipes on iPhones. Previously, Apple recommended not using disinfectant wipes on its products, while the CDC said it was a good idea to protect yourself from COVID-19.
Why has Apple recommended against disinfectants?
Traditionally, device manufacturers like Apple recommend not using harsh disinfectants because they can remove the oleophobic coating from your smartphone screen. It is a water-repellent coating that prevents fingerprints and stains from sticking to the screen of your smartphone.
This coating wears off naturally and slowly when you use your phone, but harsh cleaners can wear it down faster.
How to safely disinfect an iPhone with a wipe
Specifically, Apple says you should use “a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox disinfectant wipes”. Do not use anything with bleach.
Apple recommends disinfectant wipes, not disinfectant sprays. If you have a spray bottle, you should spray it on a soft, lint-free cloth (such as a microfiber cloth) and use it to wipe your iPhone or other Apple product rather than spraying it directly. Apple says you should “avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, or the like.” Never immerse your equipment in a cleaning solution.
With your wipe, “you can gently wipe the hard, non-porous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the screen, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces.” In other words, take your iPhone out of its case and wipe its exterior: the screen, back and sides.
Be sure to wipe gently and “avoid excessive wiping” to protect the coating as much as possible. A single wipe with a disinfectant wipe should do this.
When wiping, be sure to “avoid moisture in the openings”. Do not allow any cleaning solution to drip into a speaker rack or iPhone Lightning port, for example. This can damage your phone’s hardware.
Apple cautions against using cleaning solutions on fabric or leather surfaces. For example, if you have an Apple leather case for your iPhone, you should avoid using the disinfectant wipe on it. This can damage the material. However, if you have a case that can handle the disinfectant wipe – a plastic or silicone case, for example – you should also wipe it down.
While you’re at it, be sure to clean your AirPods regularly too.
What about the oleophobic coating?
The disinfectant solution probably wears a little on the oleophobic coating of your screen. But everything does. It wears out slowly over time when you use your finger on the screen of your smartphone.
With this update, Apple recognizes that disinfectant wipes are a good way to clean up dirt from your iPhone. Don’t overdo it. You don’t need to wipe it over and over.
A soft, damp cloth without any cleaning solution is safer on the screen, but a disinfectant wipe will kill more dangerous bacteria and viruses. Remember to skip the disinfectant wipe when you do not want to disinfect your phone.