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Why it is Important to Clean Your Smartphone

Spring Cleaning Your Essential Devices

Smartphones have become an integral part of our lives. We use them every day, from making calls and sending text messages, to browsing the web and taking pictures. We also carry our phones with us wherever we go, exposing them to various environments, including our hands, pockets, bags, public surfaces, pets and other people. As a result, our phones can accumulate dirt, germs, and bacteria that can be harmful to our health.

According to a study conducted by the University of Arizona, mobile phones carry ten times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Most people associate toilets with germs and clean them more often. Meanwhile, the device attached to our hand that we scroll through while eating, pooping and all other daily functions, goes dirty. It’s no wonder a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that one in six mobile phones were contaminated with fecal matter. These bacteria can cause infections, allergies, and illnesses, especially if we touch our phones and then touch our face, mouth, or eyes.

In addition to the gross factor, it’s essential to clean your smartphone regularly to reduce your risk of infection and keep the device in good condition.

Wireless headphones on a cellphone

Cleaning Your Smartphone
Cleaning your smartphone is a straightforward process that requires some basic tools and techniques. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Turn off your phone
Before cleaning your phone, turn it off and unplug any cables or accessories. This will prevent any damage or malfunction that could occur if moisture or cleaning solutions enter the phone’s ports or buttons.

Step 2: Remove the case and accessories
If your phone has a case or screen protector, remove them and clean them separately. You can use a microfiber cloth or a soft-bristled brush to remove any dirt or dust from the case or protector. You should keep a few screen protectors on hand for replacements since most of them can’t be reapplied.

Step 3: Use a dry microfiber cloth
The safest and most effective way to clean your phone is to use a dry microfiber cloth. This soft, absorbent material is gentle on your phone’s screen and body. You can use them to wipe away any smudges, fingerprints, or dirt from your phone’s surface. Make sure to cover all sides and corners of the phone.

Step 4: Use a disinfectant wipe or solution
If your phone is visibly dirty or if you want to disinfect it, you can use a disinfectant wipe or solution. However, you should be careful not to use any harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage your phone’s screen or coating. The best option is to use a disinfectant wipe or solution that is specifically designed for electronic devices and that contains at least 70% isopropyl alcohol.

Here’s how to use a disinfectant wipe or solution:

  • Wet a microfiber cloth or a cotton swab with the disinfectant solution.
  • Gently wipe the cloth or swab over your phone’s surface, avoiding any openings or ports.
  • Let the solution dry for at least five minutes before using your phone again.
  • Make sure to dispose of the wipe or swab, and wash your hands after handling them.

Step 5: Reapply the case and accessories
Once you’ve cleaned your phone and its accessories, reapply the case and apply a fresh screen protector.

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UV Sanitizers
While there is no substitute for manual cleaning to remove smudges and dirt, home UV sanitizers are convenient, and can take your cleaning efforts one step further.

UV sanitizers are devices that use ultraviolet (UV) light to kill germs and viruses on various surfaces, including smartphones. UV-C light has effectively destroyed bacteria and viruses by damaging their DNA and RNA, preventing them from replicating and causing infections. However, the effectiveness of home UV sanitizers can vary depending on the type of device, the quality of the UV light, and the duration and distance of exposure. Some surfaces may be harder to sanitize than others, such as curved or uneven surfaces, and may require multiple passes or angles to cover all areas.

In general, there is greater safety with enclosed UV sanitizers, as opposed to lamps or wands, as long as consumers follow manufacturer instructions. You can read more about UV-C light for sanitation and precautions on this U.S. Food and Drug Administration page. 

According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, UV-C light was effective in reducing the contamination of smartphones by bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. However, the study also found that the effectiveness of UV-C light depended on the distance and angle of exposure, with closer distances and direct angles achieving higher reductions. Another study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection found that UV-C light was effective in reducing the levels of coronaviruses on various surfaces, including stainless steel and plastic, although the duration of exposure and the intensity of the UV-C light needed to be optimized for each type of surface.

Since UV sanitizer effectiveness can vary, a good practice would include supplementing these types of devices with regular cleaning of electronics with a microfiber cloth and solution described above.

Start a New Cleaning Routine This Spring
Most of us grew up learning the importance of regular hand washing to stay healthy. The same principle applies to items our hands come into contact with daily. So, when you are wiping down your smartphone, include your earbuds, tablets, remotes and other devices. Consider a UV device for your phone, or a larger unit that can clean multiple accessories at once.

As long as you are thinking about how many germs are on devices and spread by your hands, consider regular cleaning of other high touch surfaces in your home and office. At home, this is likely light switches, the refrigerator door handle, sink and toilet levers, door knobs, stove and appliance knobs. In the office, hopefully there is a person or service in charge of regular cleaning of common high-touch surfaces. In your own work area, keep some wipes on hand to frequently sanitize your desk phone, desk handles, file cabinet pulls, and commonly used accessories like a stapler or tape dispenser. See this article for steps to safely clean your computer, laptop, keyboard and mouse.

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