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Apple says you can clean your device with disinfecting wipes - but be careful

While disinfecting wipes can damage a display's oleophobic coating, Apple appears to have changed its tune on them.

Apple on Monday updated a support document to say that that it's safe to use certain disinfecting wipes on its products, but you should still be careful and not get in a habit of doing so.

It's long been a best practice to avoid using any kind of harsh chemical or solvent on smartphones and other devices. For decades, Apple's recommendation has been to use a damp, lint-free cloth but not cleaners.

But amid a worsening global coronavirus outbreak, Apple has updated its guidelines to say that certain chemical wipes are safe to use. Apple's support document actually recommends using "70 isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes" to "gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces."

Apple's updated cleaning guidelines apparently okay the use of disinfectants.
Apple's updated cleaning guidelines apparently okay the use of disinfectants.

The use of bleach, as well as submersion in cleaning products or getting moisture into any openings, is still to be avoided, per the updated guidelines. Apple also says not to use cleaning wipes on leather or fabric.

While Apple has updated its own recommendations, continued use of solvents on your display will wear down its oleophobic coating and may result in permanent damage.

Much of AppleInsider's staff has worked in device service in the past. We have seen the damage that can result from solvent application to screens, including alcohol over time. We don't recommend using these cleaning wipes on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro screen at all. This all said, we've got some sacrificial devices lined up, and will report back at some point in the future.

It isn't clear how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces. The Center for Disease Control has confirmed that it can be transmitted through that vector if the deposited liquid holding the virus is relatively fresh.

In 2021, Apple introduced its own Apple polishing cloth. While roundly mocked for its $19 price tag, it immediately sold out — and is good for cleaning screens.