How to disinfect your phone

Surfaces might not be the primary way that the coronavirus transmits. Still, the pandemic has made us more rightfully concerned about our hygiene and the cleanliness of the objects around us. And the one item we probably don’t clean as much as we should, even though we use it so often, is our smartphones.   

If you’re unsure of how to disinfect your mobile devices, we’re here to help answer your basic questions.

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When should you clean your phone?

According to the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these situations call for disinfecting your smartphone:

  • After another person uses or borrows your phone
  • After sneezing or coughing while holding the handset
  • After dropping it, especially if it falls outside of the household or on a potentially contaminated surface
  • After using the mobile device in public  

Dr. David Westenberg, associate professor of biological sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology, told Healthline that it would be good to clean your smartphone regularly. But that doesn’t mean every time you touch it, because that isn’t practical. It depends on your habits.

“If you are being diligent about washing your hands, you would need to clean the screen less often, maybe once or twice a day. If you are putting your phone down on a potentially contaminated surface, washing your hands infrequently, et cetera, then I would recommend more often,” he said. 

If you’re spending your time mostly at home and no one is sick around you, disinfecting at least once a day is fine. 

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What should you use?

These are the items you’ll need to clean your smartphone:

USE WIPES & MICROFIBER CLOTH

The safest thing to use is disinfectant wipes with 70% isopropyl alcohol (like Clorox wipes). Or you can use a nonabrasive or alcohol-based (still 70% isopropyl) sprayed on a microfiber cloth. You can even use the alcohol pads doctors use to sanitize the skin before injections. 

Companies like Apple and Samsung recommend using Clorox wipes, 70% alcohol wipes, or 70% alcohol solution on a microfiber cloth.

However, you should avoid using these on leather or fabric covers to avoid damaging the material.

AVOID THESE SUBSTANCES & PAPER TOWELS

You SHOULD NOT use the following cleaning products to disinfect your phone:

  • Hand sanitizers
  • Window, kitchen, or general house cleaners
  • Makeup removers
  • Dish or hand soap
  • Bleach

Please don’t use these as substitutes for disinfectant wipes because you might damage the protective coating on your phones or get them into your device’s ports.

Also, don’t substitute a microfiber cloth for paper towels. Paper can shred and leave debris on your phone. It can also leave scratches on your screen.

Photo by Christine Sandu on Unsplash

How to clean your phone?

Get in touch with your phone’s manufacturer or check online for the hardware maker’s disinfection guides.

Once you’ve gotten your disinfectant, don’t mix and match your disinfectants to avoid interactions between any remnants. Read the product label on your wipes or cleaners; some might require a longer air-drying time than others.

Make sure you wash your hands before and after you disinfect your phone because you might spread germs to your hands, and then just transfer germs right back to your phone.      

Illustration from Samsung

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Take out your phone from any case and power it down.
  • Before disinfecting, wipe the phone with a dry or damp microfiber cloth to remove dirt. That will help the disinfectant work better. Move your fabric in an S pattern from the top corner and zigzag down to avoid streaks and cover more areas to clean.
  • Thoroughly wipe the phone to get the disinfectant on its surface. Avoid getting ports wet so you won’t damage the phone.
  • Let the disinfectant be in contact with your phone for the recommended time.
  • Wipe down your device with a clean microfiber cloth again.
  • Repeat the same steps for your smartphone’s case. Keep the phone separate from its case until the disinfectant has been in contact for the recommended time.

What about UV sanitizers?

UV sanitizers have become popular during this pandemic, but it isn’t a new segment exactly. But do you really need them?

Not exactly. The disinfection methods above are enough. According to PCMagUV sanitization should be treated as a second line of defense for those who want to use them.

If you do plan to get one, you’ll need one that has UV-C type. It has the smallest wavelengths (180-280mm), and it’s required for UV disinfection. It isn’t guaranteed that UV-C sanitizers can destroy the novel coronavirus. Still, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine believe it could work as UV light is effective against other coronaviruses.

In the PCMag article linked above, one of the experts they mentioned was Richard Webster, a clinical researcher and methodologist at the CHEO Research Institute in Ontario, Canada. He doubts the efficacy of consumer-grade UV sanitizers. In an interview with the CBC, he said, “We think the amount of UV you need is about 20,000 joules per meter squared, and you probably aren’t going to get that in your hand-held device.” 

In the same story, experts recommended using the enclosed kinds of sanitizers instead of those wands.

UV disinfection works best on nonporous objects without many nooks and crannies. Take out your phone from your case and make sure all the ports are open for the best results.

Clean the case while your phone is in the sanitizer. And you can even place the case in the sanitizer after. 

The most important thing to remember is you shouldn’t substitute these UV sanitizers for staying clean and hygienic yourself. Wash your hands regularly, practice social distancing, and continue to wear a mask.

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How to keep your phone clean? 

You can also be proactive at minimizing your device’s exposure to germs. The US’s Federal Communications Commission recommended steps you can take:

  • When outside of your home, keep your phone in your pocket, purse, or car. 
  • When shopping, use a written list instead of the one on your smartphone.   
  • If possible, use a credit card for payment, preferably a contactless one.
  • After being in public places, only touch your phone after washing or sanitizing your hands or removing gloves you’ve worn. 
  • Use a hands-free device when making calls so that your phone isn’t pressed against your face or face mask. 
Photo by Tim Douglas on Pexels.com

An additional tip I wanted to add is to stop using your phone in the bathroom. The less your device is exposed there, the better.

The bottom line is to practice better hygiene. It might take some getting used to, but these tips are essential not just for this pandemic but beyond it, too.