As a long-time germaphobe, I was scrubbing my iPhone with a Clorox wipe during the first week of quarantine when I had a thought: If the experts keep saying proper hand-washing is more effective than sanitizer, maybe the same goes for phones. So I pumped some Softsoap hand soap into my palm and started washing my phone for 20 seconds, instinctively avoiding the charging port even though the iPhone claims to be water resistant.
Pleased with my impeccably clean phone, I went to charge it a few hours later when a warning popped up: “Charging Not Available: Liquid has been detected in the Lightning connector.”
Clearly my logic had a major flaw. While my phone dried out overnight and worked again, I needed to rethink my smartphone sanitizing strategy, so I talked to the experts to find out just how germy our phones are, and how best to keep them clean, especially when we start traveling again.
Why are our phones so dirty?
With the ease of depending on one device for everything from communication and photos to identification and payments comes the side effect of us holding tight to smartphones in nearly every situation. “They are often one of the most widely used items that we own,” Cleveland Clinic physician Dr. Neha Vyas says. “They’re dirty because we’re constantly touching them. Since we use our fingers, whatever our hands touch will ultimately get on our phones.”
And it’s not just your fingertips that are transferring germs to your phone when you text or use apps, says Harvard Medical School clinical veterinarian Dr. Mia Lieberman, who has studied the effectiveness of phone cleaning devices. “Also, when making phone calls, you can transfer bacteria from your face to the phone screen,” she says.
Some of those germs have tremendous staying power. “It varies by germ, but it can be hours, days, or even weeks,” Dr. Amy Edwards of University Hospitals’ pediatric infectious diseases department says of germs’ lifespans.
Antibacterial gloves can help cut down on bacteria transfer when you are outside your home, whether at the grocery store or on public transportation. The trendy collection from Rhanders are made to be used on touchscreens while killing any pathogens it comes across and the moisture-wicking SLVR Gloves by Gekks prevent microorganism growth. If keeping your fingers covered is a challenge, try the Ghluv, which can be rolled back and forth as needed.
How can I avoid getting germs on my phone while traveling?
When we’re traveling, we often mindlessly put our phones in security check trays, set them down on tray tables, or even stash them away in seat-back pockets. The experts agree that all of these touchpoints are hotbeds for bacteria transmission.
“Some of these areas, like security checkpoint trays, are unavoidable,” says Lieberman. “But it’s probably best to avoid putting your phone in the seatback pocket and wiping down the tray table before placing personal items there.” And while it seemingly goes without saying, she also reminds travelers to be stringent about washing their hands after using the restroom since it’s the likeliest source of contamination. After all, fellow passengers are touching lavatory flush buttons, faucets, and door knobs, as well as armrests and seat belts, which can all potentially transmit bacteria.
“The best way to protect against this is to go through security with your phone in your carry-on bag,” Edwards says. “On the airplane, you shouldn’t keep items in the seat-back pocket, but rather keep a small bag at your feet.”
What’s the proper way to clean my phone?
When it comes to cleaning a phone, every model will have its own specifics, so the first thing to do is to check the manufacturer’s guidelines, like the ones for the Apple iPhone, the Google Pixel, Nokia phones, Motorola phones, the Samsung Galaxy, and LG phones.
Most of the companies agree on the general process. Start by unplugging and turning off the phone. Then use a lint-free wipe—either a screen-cleaning wipe like the Whoosh! screen shine wipe or Uncommon Goods’ screen cleansing towelettes or a microfiber cleaning cloth (like the ones from AmazonBasics and Zwipes)—to rid the screen of smudges, stains, and streaks. For pesky spots, apply some eyeglass cleaner, such as Flents Wipe ‘n Clear lens cleaner or Calyptus natural lens cleaner, to the cloth first. For an all-in-one accessory, go for the Häns Swipe cleaner, which cleans on one side and polishes on the other.
After getting the surfaces clean, it’s time to disinfect. Apple specifically recommends Clorox disinfecting wipes for its products. Others simply recommend using 70 percent alcohol (which can be found in hand sanitizers like Previse and Honeydew) and putting it on the cleaning cloth (do not put the alcohol directly on the phone).
There is one essential ingredient to avoid: “Bleach tends to ruin the phone’s touch surface,” Vyas says. “If you can’t find a wipe, you may use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in small amounts.” In a pinch, grab some 70 percent isopropyl alcohol from RiteAid or hydrogen peroxide from Target.
How often should I clean my phone?
Americans touch their phones every 12 minutes on average while on vacation, according to a study by Asurion—so it makes sense that Edwards and Vyas both suggest cleaning your phone at least once a day.
But the more you interact with your phone outside the home, the more often it should be cleaned. “Individuals should disinfect their phones if they take them into the restroom or use them in areas where they are wearing a face mask,” Lieberman says. “I keep my grocery list on my phone, so I disinfect it when I return home from the grocery store.”
What about cleaning my phone case?
Like with your phone, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific models and materials (like Apple’s guide). “The more crevices there are, the more germs can hide,” Edwards says. “If you are putting your phone in a case, pick one that is smooth and easily cleaned.”
While the case’s material shouldn’t make much of a difference, some phone cases do offer more protection. Speck has partnered with antibacterial technology company Microban to include bacteria-fighting protection on almost all of its phone cases, while Otterbox has a line of products with antimicrobial defense and Tech21 has infused Biocote technology for fast-acting hygiene into its cases. Pela Case is currently offering a buy one, get one free deal, so that you can wash a case (they recommend using an old toothbrush with soap and water) while the other is in use. Another option is a screen protector like Sterilelight’s antimicrobial option.
How effective are UV devices?
Devices that zap away bacteria on phones using ultraviolet light have also been rising in popularity, though the effectiveness (and the cost benefit of investing in one) has been debated among experts, especially when it comes to ridding phones of the coronavirus. “Coronaviruses seem to be much heartier than bacteria or the flu,” Lieberman says. “Consumer UV-C devices can be effective at killing or inactivating bacteria and the influenza virus—those don’t require a large dose [of UV rays].”
But when it comes to the types of germs spread in the SARS and MERS outbreaks, both of which were types of coronaviruses, a much longer decontamination period is needed. For instance, Lieberman tested the UV-C device PhoneSoap and determined that to reach the dose recommended by the CDC to inactivate coronavirus, it would take 84 minutes as opposed to its normal 10-minute cycle.
To rid your phone of everyday germs, though, UV devices are useful. Of the box-shaped UV-C devices, the battery-powered PhoneSoap Go cleans as it charges, the Kleen Case boasts 360-degree light coverage, and the Casetify UV Sanitizer has six built-in lamps. The more casual-looking HoMedics UV Clean Pouch has 18 uses per charge and can be used several times a day. These products cost between $80 and $120, and have been in high demand in the last few months—the PhoneSoap is currently available for pre-order only.
Wands with UV-C lights can also provide a blast of cleanliness, like the HeyGienic mini UV-C Sterilizing Wand that can also be used on surfaces like stuffed animals and shoes, the compact UV Care Pocket Sanitizer that can be waved over devices and makeup, and the Monos CleanPod UV-C Sterilizer that’s ready to work immediately with no warm-up time.
“If you want to purchase a UV-C device to inactivate bacteria or the influenza virus, UV-C should work well when following manufacturer instructions,” Liberman says. “Otherwise, using an alcohol wipe or Clorox wipe is an economical option.”
Article Written and all credit goes to Rachel Chang @ The Intel