With all the talk surrounding coronavirus, no doubt you’re taking a second look at your phone wondering just how dirty it is — and, more importantly, how to clean it.
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For starters, we talked to Andrea Armani, a professor of chemical engineering at USC.
“Cellphones are actually one of the dirtiest things that we handle every day,” said Armani, who studies the effects of light on organisms. “People have done studies of the different types of bacteria colonies on the back of your phone and it’s absolutely disgusting.”
OK, that doesn’t sound very good. So what should we do?
Ideally, resist the urge to use harsh household chemicals on your phone, as this can wear down the finish and the special fingerprint resistant coating on the screen. Apple officially recommends a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Google has some guidelines for its Pixel lineup of phones here. I couldn’t find any official instructions from Samsung.
Update: Apple now says it’s safe to use Clorox wipes on your iPhone!
Many swear by a combination of some rubbing alcohol mixed with water. Before you attempt to use this on your phone, keep in mind you should turn it off before cleaning it. And you should always apply just a tiny bit of liquid to the cloth and not the phone itself. Copious amounts could ruin the finish on your device, so best to use it sparingly.
A better choice is to use wipes that are specially created just for cleaning electronics. I like the ZEISS Mobile screen wipes. If you prefer spray, I’ve used Whoosh for many years and it does a great job of cleaning.
Even a new screen protector can help. Zagg’s latest Invisible Shield Ultra Vision Guard Plus has special anti-microbial properties built in. The company says it can cut down on 99.9% of harmful bacteria and doesn’t wear off over time.
But if you really want to disinfect your phone, you’ll want to turn to an industrial strength gadget. PhoneSoap makes devices that bathe your phone in bacteria-killing ultraviolet light.
“UV light is a way of basically breaking up the bonds that allow organisms to reproduce,” explained Professor Armani.
PhoneSoap’s most popular model is $80 dollars on Amazon, and the company tells me they are currently in high demand.
“It’s really the safest way to clean your phone. There’s no harsh chemicals like alcohol … it won’t void your warranty and it’s effective at 99.9% at killing that bacteria and virus every time,” said Dan Barnes, president and co-founder of PhoneSoap.
A 10-minute zap is all you need to keep your device fresh and clean.
“Whatever is a hard, porous surface will be sanitized in our device,” said Barnes.
PhoneSoap told me that although they have’t specifically tested their product for killing this coronavirus strain, it is effective in killing viruses of the same family so it should work in a similar manner against it.
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