A man wearing an activity tracker on his wrist while sleeping in bed.
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Washing your hands is an important part of personal hygiene, but what about the gadget on your wrist? Everywhere you go, it goes, too. You probably also use it with dirty hands while you’re out and about.

The coronavirus can live on a smartphone for up to 96 hours. Your smartwatch or wearable could also be a vector for disease, unless you clean it regularly.

How to Clean and Disinfect Your Smartwatch

Your smartwatch is a fitness tracker, communication device, and can even replace your bank card for contactless payments. Going to the gym, accepting calls, and touching payment terminals can contaminate your wearable. If you touch your watch without cleaning it properly, you could be transferring germs.

Microorganisms that cause the flu and COVID-19 have been found to live on hard metal surfaces for up to three days, so cleaning everything regularly is important to avoid getting sick.

An Apple Watch being rinsed under running water.

Apple recently updated its cleaning guidelines, recommending people disinfect their gadgets with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol of around 70 percent concentration, or with disinfectant wipes that contain the same. Rubbing alcohol kills most microorganisms on contact, and then evaporates, leaving a clean and smudge-free surface.

While the guidelines for cleaning your Apple Watch are specific to Apple products, most manufacturers use similar materials, including glass, stainless steel, and nylon. This suggests Apple’s guidance can be applied to similar products. Just remember, if you break something by not following the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, your warranty will be void.

A hand wiping an Apple Watch with a cloth.

You should be mindful of the instructions provided by your smartwatch manufacturer when cleaning it. Water isn’t sufficient if you want to properly sanitize your watch. Apple’s guidelines reiterate that alcohol shouldn’t damage glass, metal, silicon, or many plastics. It’s a decision you’ll have to make yourself.

With that in mind, cleaning your smartwatch is pretty straightforward. First, remove the watch band from the main unit. Assuming the watch is water-resistant, rinse the watch in warm water to remove as much dirt and grime as possible before you disinfect.

Dirt can trap germs and other harmful microbes, so you want to be sure to remove it all, and then disinfect afterward. You can saturate a cotton ball in isopropyl alcohol to spot clean any particularly stubborn grime.

Next, use rubbing alcohol or similar wipes to disinfect the watch all over. Clean the band according to the manufacturer instructions—take care to spot clean leather without saturating it. If possible (and if you’re comfortable doing so), disinfect the band with isopropyl alcohol.

Metal, silicone, and plastic watchbands are unlikely to be damaged by isopropyl alcohol. Nylon bands are also unlikely to be damaged, although Apple recommends against using rubbing alcohol on any of its fabric bands. We recommend performing a tester on an inconspicuous spot first.

Finally, allow the alcohol to evaporate before reassembling your watch. All done!

RELATED: How to Clean and Disinfect Your Apple Watch

How to Clean Your Fitness Tracker

Fitness trackers are a lot like smartwatches, except they’re usually designed to be worn for longer periods of time. Fitbit has specific recommendations for cleaning its fitness trackers. Like Apple, this includes using isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to disinfect devices.

Further, Fitbit recommends avoiding soap-based cleansers and other products that can get trapped in the band and cause skin irritation. Instead, the company recommends soap-free cleansers, plus a good rinse to make sure any dirt is sufficiently washed away.

A man charging a Fitbit Charge 4.
Fitbit

Fitness and activity trackers are designed for exercise, so, of course, they get sweaty. A quick rinse in the shower is a good start, but it won’t kill germs or remove more stubborn, stuck-on grime where harmful microorganisms can live.

That’s why you should take care to remove and clean your fitness tracker regularly—especially after you work out.

Cleaning your fitness tracker is just like cleaning a smartwatch. You’ll first need to remove the band from the unit, if possible (Fitbit owners can follow the company’s official guidelines to do this).

Assuming the tracker is water-resistant, rinse it under a tap to remove as much dirt as possible. If you see dirt remove as much of it as possible. Spot clean any stubborn patches with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab to loosen it up.

When the tracker is visibly clean, thoroughly disinfect it with rubbing alcohol or similar disinfectant wipes. Clean the band according to manufacturer’s instructions (again, Fitbit has official guidelines). Disinfect the band with isopropyl alcohol or disinfectant wipes, if possible.

After the alcohol evaporates completely, reattach the band.

Don’t Forget Your Other Wearables

Smartwatches and fitness trackers aren’t the only wearables you need to clean regularly. Anything you wear out of the house is exposed to potentially harmful germs. This includes jewelry, badges, wearable cameras, and headphones and earbuds.

You should also sanitize regularly anything you touch a lot, like your smartphone, keyboard, mouse, and any other gadgets.

RELATED: How to Clean and Disinfect All Your Gadgets

Tim Brookes Tim Brookes
Tim Brookes is a technology writer with more than a decade of experience. He's invested in the Apple ecosystem, with experience covering Macs, iPhones, and iPads for publications like Zapier and MakeUseOf.
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