Not too long ago your phone, that was once shiny and new, was a beacon of perfect; scratch-free, smooth, clear. But, like all things, it’s picked up some scratches, dings, scars, and perhaps a few cracks. Sure, you could take it to a professional to have the screen replaced but there’s no time for rational solutions. Why not try toothpaste?

Asking such a question tends to elicit YouTube links that either prove it works or doesn’t. So, why not put the question to rest? Let’s dive into how toothpaste works to remove cracks, and where it doesn’t.

How Does It Work?

To get straight to the point: toothpaste does work, but the wording people often times use can be very misleading. It’s best to understand the nuisance of the solution.

The idea behind the method is to use an abrasive material to remove cracks and scratches, a course compound that can polish objects. The toothpaste in your cabinets—actual toothpaste, not gel-based toothpaste—has a small amount of abrasive material that helps polish your teeth but doesn’t break them down (that would suck). Ergo, toothpaste can polish your screen and remove scratches and cracks. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a catch.

So, again, does toothpaste work? Yes, but only on scratches. Let’s make that clear again: it only works on scratches. If you do a Google search, you’ll come across YouTube videos of people applying toothpaste to huge gashes in their phones, and by the end of the video they’re throwing their arms up as if it was supposed to work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The reason it only works on scratches—very fine, surface-level, barely noticeable scratches—is because the toothpaste, with its abrasive compound, can soften the edges of those incredibly tiny scratches. If you dropped your phone and it created a spider web of cracks, toothpaste won’t fix that at all; in fact, using toothpaste on cracks is a guaranteed method of destroying your phone. Do NOT apply toothpaste to cracks in your phone, especially deep cracks that reach the inner-workings.

How to Fix Scratches on your Screen with Toothpaste

Before you attempt to smooth out any scratches, you’ll need a few items. For starters, you need actual toothpaste. Do NOT use gel-based toothpaste. You also need a microfiber cloth and cotton swabs. Once you have those three items, you can continue.

1. Start by powering down your device completely. Give it about 60 seconds after choosing to shut down to ensure all processes have ceased.

2. Take the end of a cotton swab and apply a very small amount. Open the toothpaste container and just quickly dab the toothpaste.

3. Now, gently run the end of the cotton swab along the length of the scratch. Do NOT swab in circles; it must be along the length of the scratch.

4. Inspect the scratch. If it’s still there, do not attempt a second pass. It isn’t worth it.

5. Once you’re finished, use the microfiber cloth to clean your screen.

Should You Use Toothpaste?

Absolutely not. Sure, it technically works for very tiny scratches, but scratches are going to happen regardless. While the phone is in use, you won’t even see them. It isn’t until you turn the device off that small scratches are noticed.

You’re better off just simply dealing with it. Tiny scratches don’t ruin the integrity of the device, nor the function. Instead, invest in a screen protector. They can shield your phone’s screen from scratching. Or, alternatively, invest in a case that includes screen protection, but you should be aware that some hinder the touchscreen controls.

As far as cracks are concerned, that’s going to need the touch of a professional to fix, not toothpaste you find in your medicine cabinet.