Fitness trackers and smartwatches are designed to be worn for more extended periods and for exercising. So, no surprise here, they get sweaty.
A quick rinse in the shower is a good start, but that won't kill germs or remove more stubborn dirt and stuck-on grime where disease-causing microorganisms love to take up residence.
That's why you should clean fitness trackers regularly.
Fitbit offers specific recommendations for cleaning its fitness trackers, and like Apple's, these recommendations include using isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the devices.
Fitbit also recommends avoiding soap-based cleansers that can get trapped in the band and cause skin irritation. Instead, the company recommends soap-free cleaners and thoroughly rinsing the devices to wash away surface dirt.
A smartwatch is a sort of mini-computer at your fingertips. It is a fitness tracker and phone and can even replace your bank card for contactless payments.
Going to the gym, taking a call, and touching payment terminals can contaminate your wearable. And if you touch your watch without cleaning it, you could be transferring germs to other surfaces, or transferring germs from different surfaces to yourself.
As a result, your smartwatch has the potential to harbor disease-causing microorganisms.
Not surprisingly, really, any item worn close to the skin for long periods is likely to host a variety of skin bacteria. But it does highlight the importance of keeping it - and anything else you regularly wear - as clean as possible.
So, how often should you clean your smartwatch? It's a matter of personal preference. But the longer you wait between cleanings, the more cumbersome the job will likely be. I wipe down the screen daily, wipe down the band once or twice a week, and do a deep clean at least monthly.
You don't have to be so finicky. Let's get started!
To clean, first remove the watch band from the main unit to clean it separately. With the band removed, cleaning your smartwatch will be much easier.
Smartwatch screens require little more than a surface wipe with a dry microfiber cloth.
If you don't have a microfiber cloth or a lot of dirt and grime isn't coming off, you can use a new coffee filter lightly dampened with water.
Don't use a paper towel; these can leave lint on the screen. Gently wipe the screen with the filter, and fingerprints or grime should come right off.
Pay close attention to where the heart-rate sensor touches your skin; dirt and oils can build up here relatively easily and quickly. To remove the gunk, use a wooden toothpick or a toothbrush to nudge it out.
If all else fails, add 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to 1/2 cup of water; dip a microfiber cloth, coffee filter, or soft-bristled toothbrush in it; and gently wipe the screen again.
Make sure to rinse the seating area where the watch band normally sits. Avoid any holes or openings on your watch; liquid that gets inside could harm the device. And never use chemical solvents on your electronic screens. No Windex. No 409 spray.
If your watch is water-resistant, you can get it wet to clean it, even dunk it in a very diluted bath of water and liquid soap (about one drop of soap per cup of water).
Blot-rinse with water and a clean cloth or rag to remove any soapy residue. Then dry with a fresh cloth or rag.
How you clean your band depends entirely on the material of which it is made. But for all band types, start your cleaning routine by wiping the band lint-free with a lightly dampened cloth.
SILICONE, NYLON, AND METAL WATCH BANDS can be submerged in water for cleaning. Put a small amount of soap (dishwashing or handwashing) into a bowl or stopped-up sink of water.
Use your fingertips to work out any dirt or lint. Metal watch bands can be harder to clean because they have many chain links and other crevices where grime can hide.
However, you have options. For stubborn grime or dried-on dirt, a quick pass with a soft-bristled toothbrush or wooden toothpick will help loosen and remove the gunk. Rinse the band in water and let it air-dry.
To sanitize these types of watch bands, dampen a microfiber cloth (or use an alcohol-based disinfectant wipe) with an electronic screen cleaner and thoroughly wipe down both sides of the watchband.
Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly, so there's no need to rinse the band when you're done. The alcohol kills the bacteria that can cause your watch band to smell and any other microbes that could make you sick.
LEATHER BANDS are far more finicky and shouldn't be submerged in water. Apple recommends spot-cleaning leather with a soft, damp cloth and then letting it dry completely. Of course, water won't disinfect a leather watch band (or anything else).
While you can't disinfect it, you can clean it with a leather cleaner and conditioner. Conditioning does double duty - it both cleans and protects it.
I use a brand called KIWI Outdoor Saddle Soap. It's ideal for removing dirt and grime on all leather types. Always treat a small part of the leather first with the conditioner to ensure it doesn't cause any color changes.
Remove surface dirt with a brush or cloth. Then apply a small dab of leather conditioner to a cloth or sponge. Rub it on the surface, wait a few minutes for it to dry, then buff the same spot with a clean cloth or sponge. If you don't see any color or texture changes, clean the rest of the band the same way.
When your smartwatch is clean and dry, wash your hands up to the wrist, just above where the watch rests, and dry them. Now you're ready to reassemble your wearable tech and put it back on.