Make your home phone last years longer

Phones need little maintenance beyond keeping them clean. Often when they stop working, there is a simple reason. Here's how to keep connected.

Make your home phone last years longer

Clean and disinfect a phone

  • Make sure to occasionally clean and disinfect the phones around your home. Pour a little isopropyl alcohol onto a soft cloth (never apply the alcohol directly to the phone), and wipe both the receiver and the base.
  • Try testing the alcohol on an inconspicuous area of the phone first, just to make sure it won't react with the plastic. Then, wipe all parts of the phone with a dry cloth.
  • If you don't mind trading a little more cost for a little more convenience, you can clean and disinfect your phone with premoistened towelettes that are especially made for cleaning phones.
  • You can buy them at many office-supply stores.

Replace a worn cord

  • Static on the line of your wall or desk phone might not be due to a bad connection, or even the phone. You might have a worn-out or faulty handset cord.
  • Over time, phone cords — especially coiled cords — may get tangled, and the wires inside loosen or become frayed.
  • Replacement cords are inexpensive and are readily available at electronics and department stores, and even many pharmacies.

Hang on to your old phone

  • Did you just replace your trusty old push-button or perhaps even an ancient rotary-dial phone with a new cordless or digital model?
  • Don't toss that reliable old phone. It could come in quite handy the next time you have a power outage.
  • Those newfangled cordless phones become useless the moment power is cut to their stations.
  • But corded phones draw their power from the phone line and will continue to work during a power outage.

Restore the tone to a phone

  • For some inexplicable reason, all the phones in your home work except the one in your master bedroom.
  • First check that the phone cord is solidly connected, both in the wall phone jack and in the phone itself.
  • If that doesn't solve the problem, switch the phone with one of the working ones in your home.
  • If you hear a dial tone, you need a new phone.
  • If not, the problem is either in the phone jack or in the line coming into the room.
  • Remove the cover from the jack and make sure that all the wires are properly connected. (If you have only one line, only the red and green wires need to be attached; the yellow and black combination is for a second line.)
  • If all appears to be in order, you may want to try replacing the jack anyway before you call for repair.
  • Also, trace the line coming into the room to make sure that it is not damaged or somehow disconnected.

Put the charge back in a cordless phone

  • The battery packs inside many cordless phones are notorious for rapidly losing their charge as they get older.
  • Before you head out to the store to buy a new cordless, first check with the manufacturer to see how much a replacement battery will cost — or stop by a local electronics store to see if they carry a compatible pack.
  • Sometimes it's cheaper to replace the battery; sometimes it's cheaper to replace the entire phone.
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