When it comes to our phones, we carry them everywhere we go without a second thought. From reading emails in the bathroom to checking social media notifications next to our dinner table, our phones rarely leave our side. But while we’re careful to maintain hand hygiene, our devices aren’t subjected to the same sanitization procedures.
That’s part of the reason why cellphones are up to 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Phones used in the bathroom can end up with fecal bacteria like E. coli, which can then transfer from our hands on to our bodies. Hence, not only are phones super germy but they’re also an ideal transmission point to spread to other people.
A recent study from the Journal of Hospital Infection revealed that human coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus or endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can persist on surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, making it crucial for us to invest time in proper sanitization processes.
How to disinfect your iPhone
A common method of disinfecting iPhones is to wipe them down with a Lysol or Clorox wipe, but these can accelerate the deterioration of its Oleophobic coating — a thin coating on your display screen that repels oils, such as the natural oils from your fingertips.
Apple’s support page warns against this too, saying that “cleaning products and abrasive materials will diminish the coating and might scratch your iPhone.” Here’s what you can do instead:
Use an antimicrobial cleaning cloth
One of the easiest ways to clean and sanitize your iPhones is to use an antimicrobial cloth. Gently wipe your device after it has come in contact with something unsanitary such as dirt, sand, or if you have placed it on a public surface such as a McDonald’s dining table.
Wiping it with your shirt does not help, since the material has different properties and is likely carrying some dirt anyway. Make sure that your phone is not plugged into a charger and that the cloth you use is dry; any liquid will only cause the germs to seep further into your device.
Lastly, do not use compressed air to wipe and sanitize your iPhone. It won’t remove bacteria or dirt, rather cause pathogens to scatter into the crevices of your device.
The issue with antimicrobial cleaning cloth is that it’s not effective against superbugs and other nasty pathogens. The antimicrobial properties work against dirt and small contaminants, but they’re not effective for guarding against workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 or similar viruses.
Use a combination of rubbing alcohol and water
For a deeper clean you can use a slightly dampened cloth, with a combination of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol.
For this step, make sure that your iPhone is switched off completely before applying the solutions. You can also use a cotton swab for the purpose, but be careful not to soak it completely in the solution. While cleaning your iPhone, be sure to wipe it gently and avoid getting moisture in openings, such as your charging port.
Any excess liquid should be removed with the dry part of your cloth or a separate cotton swab.
A common issue that people face when trying to disinfect their iPhone with a water-based solution is that they often apply too much liquid and rub the swab very vigorously. This causes water damage, especially in older iPhone models. And, if you’re not careful, an excess of alcohol can also cause chemical buildup in your device.
Practice hand hygiene
Sanitizing your iPhone needs to be complemented with frequent hand hygiene. Washing your hands is a proven tactic to stay germ-free, especially as we approach the cold and flu season. Whether you use warm, soapy water or hand sanitizer, keeping your hands clean ensures no additional bacteria are transferred onto your iPhone device.
How to disinfect your Android device
Android devices have an Oleophobic coating too, similar to iPhones, which will also degrade over time if you subject it to harsh chemical and household disinfectants.
Samsung Galaxy’s support page warns against using compressed air, liquid solutions, or spray bleaches to clean its Android devices, including both phones and tablets.
To disinfect your Android device, you can follow the same steps that we outlined in the previous section. Use an antimicrobial cleaning cloth for device sanitization while on the go, a combination of rubbing alcohol and water for deeper cleans, and frequent hand hygiene to complement the device sanitization efforts.
UV-C light: The most effective method for device sanitization
Sanitizing phones and devices takes on a new meaning when they’re critical to the integrity of your office or healthcare facility. No company wants its employees to get sick, especially if the cause was avoidable. Furthermore, a healthcare facility needs to maintain sanitization across all departments to reduce the chain of infection.
UV-C light protection is a novel method of inactivating common viruses, pathogens, and other superbugs. It causes permanent change to the bases of DNA and RNA structure, preventing bacteria from replicating and inhibiting germs from infecting other host cells. But not all UV-C light sanitization devices are born equal. The CleanSlate UV device sanitizer delivers a 20-second cleaning cycle that is hospital-grade, does not damage smartphone screens, and is proven to inactivate 99.995% of SARS-CoV-2 pathogens (that’s the same bug that causes the coronavirus).