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phone cleaning guide
© Roman Krasnytskyi |
Kim's column

Phone cleaning guide: Get more years out of your iPhone or Android

The difference between a new tech gadget and an older one often feels like night and day. It’s common for a computer to start losing its pep over time. Startups take longer, the browser drags, apps take longer to open, or the system freezes for no apparent reason. Tap or click for five quick ways to speed up your PC.

Of course, your Wi-Fi could be the problem. I get more calls and emails than I can count about bad internet connections. Tap or click for 10 ways to boost your speeds.

When it comes to your phone, a thorough cleanup inside and out can do a world of good. Protect that expensive gadget; follow this list next time yours needs a refresh. Today would be a good day.

Start with the outside

Keeping your phone clean isn’t hard with the right supplies and a little bit of elbow grease. Set down the paper towels and follow these simple steps for cleaning your screen, ports, and case.

Cleaning the screen

First, remove your phone’s case and accessories. You want to reach every nook and cranny.

A microfiber cloth works for wiping away smudges and grease, but I prefer screen cleaning wipes designed for smartphones. They’re just so easy. Skip paper towels. They’re too rough for delicate jobs like this.

I have purchased this 210-pack of screen cleaning wipes from Care Touch time and time again. Use them on smartphones, tablets, monitors, TVs, and remote controls. They’re scratch-free and made with anti-static tissue that cleans without leaving behind streaks or lint.

Don’t forget the ports

Your phone’s ports collect dust, grime, and dirt. Avoid using cotton swabs, which leave behind fuzz and could leave you worse off than when you started. Toothpicks can work if you are very gentle, but breaking off the sharp end inside a port is easy.

I prefer tools made for the job. It helps that these are cheap.

This Skylety 17-piece phone cleaning kit is under $10. The kit includes anti-static brushes, nylon brushes, cleaning cloths and a de-dusting film. You can use them to clear the gunk out of your ports gently.

Scrub your case

If you keep your phone in a case, I bet you’re shocked every time you take it off and see all the grime collected inside it. You don’t need to be quite as careful with your case as your phone’s screen and ports.

  • For plastic, rubber, and silicone cases, grab an old toothbrush and a bit of warm, soapy water. Use the toothbrush to reach all the corners and crevices. Rinse it thoroughly.
  • Very lightly dampen a microfiber cloth with water and a mild soap for leather cases. Lightly rub the case in circular motions.

After it’s clean, let your case dry thoroughly before you put it back on. Need case recommendations? I share some here, along with my favorite screen protector. This has saved me from cracking my iPhone several times.

Now that your phone is bright and shiny on the outside, let’s dive into the inside.

RELATED: Smartphone tricks to never miss an important call or text notification again

Make your phone faster and more secure

Cookies, location services, and ad networks can slow you down and even pose privacy and security risks. It only takes a few minutes to clear out the junk bogging you down.

Delete apps you don’t use anymore

It’s smart to inventory what apps are on your phone now and then. Delete what you don’t use regularly. Delete or close down the account associated with the app before you remove it. Tap or click here for steps to do that the right way.

You can also take care of that on your computer. This digital tool shows you the best ways to delete unwanted accounts from almost every online service. Tap or click here to see how to delete your unwanted accounts.

On your iPhone, open the Settings app, tap General, then iPhone Storage. Scroll and select the apps you want to delete. Tap Delete App and Delete App again to confirm.

On Android gadgets, go to Settings, then tap Apps. A list of the apps on your phone will appear. Select the app you want to delete and tap Uninstall. (Note: Your exact steps may differ depending on the device’s manufacturer.)

Check your permissions

Most apps on your phone collect info to learn more about you. This data can be used for targeted advertisements, marketing, and improvements to systems like search engines and voice assistants.

Give your phone a privacy checkup by reviewing the permissions you’ve given your apps. You might be surprised at which ones use your camera, microphone, or location data.

On your iPhone:

  • Open the Settings app. Scroll down and tap the Privacy icon.
  • Select a tool on which you want to check permissions, like Calendars, Location Services, or Camera. A list of apps that have access to these tools will appear.
  • Choose which apps can access these tools on your device and remove permissions from apps you don’t want to collect data.

On Android:

  • Open the Settings app > Privacy.
  • Tap Permission manager to see a list of permissions and the apps granted those permissions. You will see Body sensors, Calendar, Camera, Location, Microphone, and more.
  • Click an app to change its permission settings.

Clear the cache

Your phone’s browser stores tiny files that help sites load faster and collect lots of data. You can wipe that out.

To delete the cache from your iPhone’s Safari browser, follow these steps below:

  • Open Settings, scroll down and select Safari.
  • Under the Privacy & Security section, tap Clear History and Website Data. This will remove browsing history, cookies, and other site data.

You can clear the cache from other apps, too. Tap Settings, General and iPhone storage, and scroll through your apps. They are listed by the amount of space they take from most to least.

If an app uses a ton of space, like more than 500MB, it’s a good idea to uninstall and reinstall it later. You won’t lose any personal information, but you may need to re-enter your login details.

To delete the cache from the Chrome browser on an Android phone, follow these steps below:

  • Open Chrome.
  • At the top right, tap the three-dot icon.
  • Tap History, then Clear browsing data.
  • At the top, choose a time range. To delete everything, select All time.
  • Check the boxes next to “Cookies and site data” and “Cached images and files.”
  • Tap Clear data.

Clearing the cache from your apps can improve performance and give you more room for photos, videos, and new apps.

  • Open the Settings app, then tap Storage.
  • Tap Apps to see a list of your installed apps.
  • Find the application you want to clear the cache of and tap it. Tap Clear Cache to delete the app’s cache.

Android also allows you to free up space by deleting infrequently used apps and files. To access the Free Up feature, follow the steps below:

  • Tap Settings, then Storage.
  • Tap Free up space.
  • Your phone will recommend junk files, duplicates, memes, screenshots, blurry photos, and more for removal. Choose a category and tap Select files.
  • Choose each file you want to remove. At the bottom, select Move (number) files to Trash.

Update your operating system

If you want to protect your phone, you must keep its operating system and apps up to date with the latest versions.

To get the latest iOS updates on your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > General and then tap Software Update. If you’re already running the most recent update, you will see “Your software is up to date.”
  • If an update is available, tap Download > Install. You can also tap Later > Install Tonight or Remind Me Later. If you tap Install Tonight, your device will update automatically overnight.
  • If asked, enter your passcode.

To get the latest iOS app updates:

  • Open the App Store.
  • Tap your profile icon at the top of the screen.
  • Scroll down to see pending updates and release notes.
  • Tap Update next to an app to update only that app or tap Update All.

To get the latest Android operating system updates:

  • Open your phone’s Settings app.
  • Navigate to System > System update.
  • You’ll see your update status. Follow any steps on the screen.

To get the latest Android security and Google Play updates:

  • Open Settings, then tap Security.
  • To check if a security update is available, tap Security update.
  • To check if a Google Play system update is available, tap Google Play system update.
  • Follow any steps on the screen.

There you have it. Your phone is like new again. Now the hard part: Keeping it that way. I recommend doing this cleanup a few times yearly for the best performance.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

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