We touch a lot of things in public without washing our hands. Microorganisms living on door handles, gas pumps, elevator buttons, and pin code readers get transferred to our phones and can live on these surfaces for days. To make measures worse, the warmth from your phone or tablet’s battery provides a ripe breeding ground for germs to multiply.
Given that over 5 billion people around the world own a mobile device, which are carried around everywhere and are touched an average of 2,617 times every day, the chances that most of them are harboring contagious diseases are pretty high. Studies have even shown that smartphones are actually much dirtier than a toilet seat. This study found that smartphones were covered in 25,127 bacteria per square inch, compared to just 1,201 bacteria per square inch on a toilet seat!
Read More: The active ingredients in disinfectants that kill cold and flu viruses.
Keeping your hands and your devices clean is one way to help minimize the spread of germs. Do-it-yourself (DIY) recipes for disinfectants are popping up everywhere in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but what’s most effective for killing the pathogens that live on your phone? Thoroughly cleaning them isn’t as simple as grabbing a hand sanitizer. Devices are sensitive and if you use the wrong methods, you could be invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty.
The dos and don’ts of cleaning your smartphone
1. DO clean your phone (and other high-touch devices) daily.
In addition to washing your hands regularly, you should also be cleaning your phone on a daily basis. In order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States advises people to clean all “high touch” surfaces, including phones, tablets and keyboards, every day.
2. DON'T forget to power off and unplug your device before cleaning.
It almost goes without saying, but you should make sure the risk for electrical shock is minimized by shutting off your phone.
3. DO use a lint-free microfiber cloth to clean your screens.
Even if not initially visible, materials other than soft microfiber cloths (even paper towels) can cause scratches on your phone’s screen, which then build up over time.
4. DON'T reuse dirty cleaning cloths.
Ideally, you should be using a microfiber cloth that’s been freshly sanitized, otherwise you risk redepositing grease and germs back onto your phone. Used microfiber cloths can be cleaned by boiling in water for a few minutes.
5. DON'T use harsh cleaners.
Apple and Samsung warn against using the cleaners you’d normally use in your home, such as bleach, window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, ammonia, or abrasives, as harsh chemicals can wear off the fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on your phone’s screen faster. According to Apple, it's okay to use “a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes” on your iPhone.
6. DO use soap as an alternative to disinfectant.
If your phone is waterproof, you can use mild soapy water to clean its surface. Avoid getting moisture in the openings. Experts point out that soap can even be more effective than alcohol-based disinfectants, since it dissolves the lipid layer protecting viruses more easily.
7. But DON'T over-saturate your phone.
While it is true that disinfectants need a certain amount of wet contact time in order to effectively kill germs, you should be careful not to get too much liquid into the nooks and crannies of your phone. Moisture can interfere with the proper functioning of your device, and you do want your phone to work and be clean, right?
8. DO consider investing in a UV-light device cleaning gadget.
If wiping down your phone every day sounds like too much of a chore, an ultraviolet C light cleaning device, such as Phone Soap, can sanitize your smartphone in 10 minutes flat. UV-C light works by destroying the DNA in viruses and bacteria, and is the only UV light that is germicidal (UV-A and UV-B are not).
9. DON'T forget to also clean those AirPods.
You can avoid transferring germs from your phone to your face by using AirPods or other headphones, but headphones can also get quite nasty. You can use a skin-friendly antiseptic, like isopropyl alcohol, to clean them since the headphones will go back in your ears.
10. DO opt for antimicrobial phone protection.
11. DON'T forget to also clean your phone and tablet covers.
You might be able to get away with harsher cleaners for plastic phone cases, but you need to be more cautious with leather. The recommended cleaning method is a mild solution of rubbing alcohol or soap mixed with water, followed by a leather conditioner. Never use bleach, which can cause discoloration.
So the next time you’re tempted to pick up your phone, think about all the things you touched since last washing your hands. And for the love of Chemberry, don’t use your phone in the bathroom!