Apple's $19 Polishing Cloth.

Apple’s most anticipated 2021 products are now available, including the iPhone 13 in all its iterations, Apple Watch Series 7, iPad Mini, iPad, AirPods 3 and new MacBook Pros. Yet, remarkably, it’s the simple and affordable Apple Polishing Cloth that is most consistently sold out.

Of course, this isn’t the first cleaning cloth to be released. There are quite literally hundreds of alternatives, without a long delivery window. After several weeks of use, our verdict: Though you might want to show it off, you likely don’t need it. For most people, we’d recommend the Amazon Basics microfiber cloth.

Is it worth it?
Made of nonwoven microfiber designed to clean displays, the Apple Polishing Cloth has been backordered since it was released. Though it gets the job done remarkably well, you're just as well off with cheaper options like the Amazon Basics microfiber cloth.

A high-quality cloth at a price

Apple Polishing Cloth

Apple’s Polishing Cloth is housed in an unassuming box — like other Apple product packaging, you pull the tab to remove a thin line of tape and slide it open. Inside you’ll find the cloth itself and a piece of cardstock with detailed usage instructions.

The square cloth measures 6.3 inches by 6.3 inches and is soft to the touch yet firmer than some other comparable products. The folks over at iFixIt tore one down and it turns out that the cloth is two pieces stitched together, which makes it markedly thicker. The double design doesn’t make a huge difference since almost all microfiber cleaning cloths offer two different sides, yet it does add weight, making it easier to maneuver on a variety of devices.

The material itself is nearly identical to the inside of both a smart cover for an iPad or that of a silicone iPhone’s case inside. The Apple website calls it “soft, nonabrasive material,” which makes sense since it’s made of microfiber. We noticed that it also happens to have a smaller footprint than a typical cloth as well as an Apple logo stitched into the bottom left corner.

So how does it work in use?

It works surprisingly well, gliding easily on the screen of an iPhone, MacBook, iPad or Apple Watch, and it definitely removes those nasty smudges, even when they’re caked on. For larger devices like a Mac or iPad Pro, you will need to wipe a few times given the size of the cloth, but it still feels effortless. With a $19 price point for a single cloth, it ain’t cheap, though we imagine it will clean up your screen for at least several years.

This Polishing Cloth was originally designed to clean Nano-Texture Displays and was included with the Pro Display XDR. Now that Apple is selling it as a stand-alone product, it makes sense that the list of compatible devices is substantially longer.

For those Apple users who want to stick with the company’s $19 high-end polishing cloth, this option accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. But for those looking for more bang for their buck or maybe a solution in bulk, we found some excellent alternatives.

For wiping down gadgets of all sizes before photo shoots and video shoots, our trusted go-to cleaning cloth has been the Amazon Basics microfiber cloth. We also use these anytime we need our products to look presentable or while we’re on-site at events. For under $14 you can get 24 of these in blue, yellow and white.