How often should you clean your smartwatch?

Here’s how to avoid bacteria build-up on your wearable

Woman cleaning smart watch with antibacterial wet wipe at home.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re an Apple Watch fan, a Pixel-toting Android user, or someone taking their first few steps with a Fitbit, there’s never been a better time to buy a fitness tracker or smartwatch.

While they range in terms of features, compatibility, and price, the kinds of sensors and tracking capabilities that were once solely in the realm of $500 devices have been democratized down to much more affordable alternatives. And, with better battery life on many of them, it’s understandable that you want to wear them more often.

That comes with some sanitation concerns, though, as wearing a tracker on your wrist for days on end can lead to some issues, making cleaning them a priority for all users.

Here’s how often you should clean your smartwatch and how to do it safely.

Why you should clean your smartwatch

After a run, a gym workout, or anything in between, the first thing most of us likely do is hop in the shower to clean off the sweat, dirt, and anything else.

The trouble is, with a device as personal as a smartwatch or fitness tracker, you may not take it off for days afterwards. That’s multiple days of sweat, bacteria, and more that’s lingering on your device and its strap, and while it can be harder to notice on silicone options, cloth ones can soon start to smell, too.

A study conducted by Florida Atlantic University revealed that Staphylococci, Pseudomonads, and Enterobacteriaceae are the most common pathogens found on smartwatch straps. Many of the associated bacteria on display during the test can be linked to blood clotting, urinary tract infections and more, underlining the need to keep your fitness tracker clean.

Close up of a woman cleaning smart watch with fabric on street background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How often you should clean your smartwatch

It’s entirely a personal choice, but in our opinion, we’d recommend taking off the watch at least once a week to give it a once-over, especially if you’re a fitness junkie that works out with any degree of regularity.

Doing it more often makes each cleaning less of an arduous task. Depending on your fitness tracker, you may be able to associate the need to clean it with charging.

For example, this writer has an Apple Watch Ultra, and while I do a more thorough clean once a week, I tend to do a quick wipe of the display daily and clean the underside every few days when it’s charging time.

Polar launches Vantage V3 multisport watch and debuts new sensing platform called Elixir

(Image credit: Polar)

How to clean your smartwatch

Smartwatches and fitness trackers are more durable than ever, but there are still things to consider when giving your tracker a wash.

For one, if there's any hint of physical damage that may have exposed the inner workings, you're better off avoiding water - although, in that instance, we'd usually recommend booking a repair or replacement if possible to prevent further safety issues.

Apple recommends not using "soaps, cleaning products, abrasive materials, compressed air, ultrasonic cleaning or external heat sources" to clean your Apple Watch. Instead, the company suggests wiping your Apple Watch clean with a non-abrasive, lint-free cloth. If necessary, lightly dampen the cloth with fresh water.

Not surprisingly, Google advises you to follow a similar treatment when caring for your Pixel Watch. Instead of using soap or other chemicals, Google says you should use 'fresh water' and a 'soap-free cleanser to clean the band'.

Fitbit says you should only use "fresh water and a soap-free cleanser (like Cetaphil) to clean the band." Interestingly, Fitbit suggests using fresh water and a toothbrush to clean the charging contacts on the back of its fitness tracker "to ensure they stay bronze or gold in colour."

Conversely, Garmin advises against using a toothbrush to clean crevices on its watches, especially on devices that have cavities for speakers and microphones. Instead, the wearable giant suggests using water to rinse excess dirt or a dampened, lint-free cloth for cleaning. 

Samsung went for a more ambiguous option by suggesting you clean your wrist and the watch strap or band after exercising or sweating with a "soft, lint-free cloth, and dry it thoroughly."

Here's the best way to clean your smartwatch's various pieces:

Garmin Forerunner 265 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)


As you would with your TV, phone, or tablet, grab a microfiber cloth and gently wipe down your display. Similarly to any other device, avoid anything chemical on the cloth, too.

Apple Watch Series 9 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)


Many trackers have detachable bands/straps now, and that makes things a whole lot easier. Once detached, you can clean silicone bands with water and a small brush (or a spare toothbrush) to help you clean out the notches you use for fastening it.

For leather straps, you’ll want to look into more specific solutions, but depending on the type of leather, there are plenty of cleaning products out there.

Google Pixel Watch 2 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)


Under the watch is where you’ll find the majority of the build-up of dirt, sweat, and more. For the most part, you can clean your (waterproof) smartwatch under running water, using a soft bristle toothbrush to loosen dirt.

Lloyd Coombes
Freelance writer

Lloyd Coombes is an experienced freelancer from Essex, UK, specialising in consumer and fitness technology. His work can be found across the internet, including TechRadar, iMore, and plenty of other Future sites. A keen weightlifter, he's also editor-in-chief of GGRecon by day. When he's not writing or working out, you'll find him spending time with his son or playing Magic The Gathering.

With contributions from