We’re living through difficult times right now. From social distancing to self-isolation, quarantining, wearing masks, using gloves while grocery shopping, and what seems like new videos daily to watch on how to wash your hands, people are doing anything and everything to stay safe. The COVID-19 pandemic has germ awareness top of mind as we are all embracing the importance of taking every possible precaution to help reduce the spread of infection and remain healthy.
One of those precautions should be properly cleaning and sanitizing your phone. Our mobile devices have become such integral parts of our daily lives, and even more so during this social distancing phase, that it’s easy to overlook the fact that they’re breeding grounds for germs and can potentially help spread the coronavirus.
Can Your Phone Really Spread COVID-19?
The idea that cell phones are some of the dirtiest objects we come in contact with every day isn’t new. Study after study has shown that our phones are like germ magnets.
One study found that the average mobile phone has 25,127 germs per square inch. For context, that’s at least 20 times more than the average toilet seat.
Given the fact that the average person touches their phone 2,617 times per day, there are so many chances to pick up some kind of illness. And researchers have found that this is true specifically for the coronavirus.
A study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection found that COVID-19 “can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, but can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.”
So, here’s what we can gather from that statement. Your smartphone could certainly become a means to spreading the coronavirus if you don’t sanitize it properly. But there’s one problem—constantly wiping your smartphone with strong disinfectants could potentially damage the device you may have spent close to a thousand dollars on.
If you want to protect your device while taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, you need to take practical steps to cleaning and sanitization.
How to Safely Clean and Sanitize Your Mobile Device
For a long time, manufacturers recommended cleaning mobile devices with a lint-free cloth. But this was just for safely wiping smudges from the surface. The next step would be to use a mild soap and water to clean surfaces when necessary.
Now, manufacturers are updating their guidelines for disinfecting devices to address COVID-19 concerns. An Apple support page says that the following tips will work for all devices:
- Use a soft cloth rather than abrasive items like paper towels
- Avoid excessive wiping that could cause damage
- Unplug all cables and power sources when cleaning
- Don’t use liquids unless specifically recommended by a manufacturer
- Keep openings clear of any moisture
- Don’t spray cleaners directly onto devices
Apple goes further to explain what you can specifically do to disinfect your iPhone. According to the manufacturer, “using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, other exterior surfaces. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents.”
Samsung also provides similar guidance stressing to use a soft cloth and avoid applying liquid directly to the device as well as refrain from using compressed air to clean your phone.
This takes care of the “how.” But the next challenge is deciding how often to clean your device to take the most practical approach to sanitization. It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll be able to disinfect your device every single time you touch it. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces daily and includes phones and tablets in this list. And, obviously, as soon as possible if someone near was coughing or sneezing.
Ultimately, washing your hands and taking necessary precautions to keep yourself safe in other areas of your life will naturally result in a cleaner mobile device. It may not seem like a big deal but taking the time to regularly sanitize your phone could make a difference in the spread of this pandemic.
Let’s each continue to do our part - stay safe and clean those devices!