How to “coronavirus clean” your smartphone

Beyond our faces, what do we touch all the time? Our phones. So how to “coronavirus clean” your smartphone?

While the coronavirus most frequently spreads among close contacts via respiratory droplets and transmission to persons from contaminated surfaces has not been documented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials encourage cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces because the virus can remain viable for hours to days on a variety of materials.

Total Coronavirus cases outside of China
Total Coronavirus cases outside of China
This includes your phone.

Cleaning, the CDC specified, refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities, and it does not kill germs, but removing them does lower the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting, on the other hand, refers to using chemicals to kill germs.

The agency recommends using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Regarding Apple products, the company issued recommendations for cleaning.

All products, according to Apple, can be gently cleaned with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox disinfecting wipe. Wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces, like the display, keyboard or other exterior surfaces.

The key to remember? Do not use bleach. And avoid getting moisture in any openings of the phone. Do not submerge the product in a cleaning product.

How long does coronavirus live on objects?

It's currently unknown how long coronavirus can survive on objects, but studies related to viruses like Sars have shown that germs can live anything from a number of hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, and the temperature and humidity. This is a clear signal that you should know how to “coronavirus clean” your smartphone.

Your phone screen is covered in germs
Your phone screen is covered in germs

Apple does note that excessive wiping could cause damage.

If you get liquid inside the phone, Apple recommends getting help from an authorized service provider or Apple store.

And don’t forget about your iPhone case. Apple provides specific instructions for several types — silicone, leather, clear — but generally, remove the iPhone from the case and use a clean cloth to wipe the inside. Different cleaners can be used on different materials.

Sheila Leen, an advanced practice nurse at Rush University, pointed out that we take phones everywhere, including to the bathroom.

“At least toilet seats are usually receiving a regular cleaning,” she said in an email.

Sanitize once a day, and clean it extra time if dropped, placed on a public surface or coughed on. She suggested smartphone wipes, a damp and soft microfiber cloth with 60% water and 40% alcohol, or the product PhoneSoap that says it uses UV light to clean 99.9% of germs.

Wipe back and sides, she added, and remove from its case at least once a month to clean that too.

And maybe it’s a good time to revisit your phone attachment in the first place.

In device hygiene tips released today, T-Mobile suggested using earbuds instead of bringing your phone to your face, caution with household cleaners for its products and this very sensible statement: Don’t bring your phone into the bathroom at all.

Coronavirus can live on your phone screen
Coronavirus can live on your phone screen

Disinfect your phone

If you touch your phone after touching a public door handle or grocery cart, you may immediately think to clean it with rubbing alcohol. Don't. It can strip the oleophobic and hydrophobic coatings that keep oil and water from damaging your display and other ports.

Some websites sites suggest using a mix of alcohol and water, but they post warning notes about the concentrations, so we suggest staying away from that to be on the safe side.

In the past, we were instructed to not use disinfectant wipes on our phone screens — but now Apple says it's OK to use Clorox Wipes or wipes that have 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean your iPhone. Samsung hasn't commented on whether it's safe to use disinfectant wipes on its phones.

If you're still worried that you'll damage your phone's screen with a disinfectant wipe, you have other options, like investing in a UV light, like PhoneSoap. This UV light company claims to kill 99.99% of germs and banishes bacteria.

Disinfecting your phone is the first step to learn how to “coronavirus clean” your smartphone.

How to clean your phone in 6 easy steps
How to clean your phone in 6 easy steps

How to clean fingerprint smudges from your screen

Fingerprint smudges are hard to prevent because your skin constantly produces oils. That means that every time you pick up your phone, it's bound to get fingerprints all over it. The safest and most effective way to clean your screen is with a microfiber cloth. If the screen is in desperate need of cleaning, use distilled water to dampen the microfiber cloth and then wipe down your screen — avoid squirting the water directly on the screen. This method can be used on the back and sides of your phone, too. You can also try a microfiber screen cleaner sticker, which you stick to the back of your phone and can pop off when you need to give it a wipe-down. Check out Samsung's tips on cleaning your phone, too.

How often should you clean your phone?

A previous study carried out by Public Health England found faecal matter (which can cause gastrointestinal infections) on the most commonly touched surfaces – including smartphones. Which, let's face it, is beyond gross.

Health experts speaking on Good Morning America have suggested that “as many times as you wash your hands today, you can consider wiping down your phone.”. How often you clean your phone is crucial to learn how to “coronavirus clean” your smartphone.

How should you clean your phone?

According to most major phone makers, like Apple and Samsung, you should avoid using alcohol, or antibacterial wipes.

The main concern is that harsh chemicals may damage the protective coating on your phone's screen, which could, in turn, make it easier for germs to stick to the surface.

Instead, they recommend using a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth when the device is turned off. They suggest warm, soapy water, but highlight it's important to avoid getting moisture in the charging port and other openings. Most modern phones are water-resistant, but do check beforehand!

Nearly 300 Million children are being kept out of school
Nearly 300 Million children are being kept out of school

You shouldn't just clean the front screen. You have to thoroughly wipe the back, inside and edges of the phone as well.

For a deep clean, you'll want to remove your phone from any case you might have it in, turn the phone off and unplug everything from it.

Products like ZEISS Smartphone Wipes will also do the job as they're specifically designed for touchscreens.

Thoroughly cleaning the screen, sides and back with these kinds of wipes, and washing your hands properly, should all help keep germs to a minimum.

Another method that has been suggested is to use UV light to kill bacteria.

Products like PhoneSoap, phone-sized tanning bed which blasts your phone with UV light, will also work wonders to sterilize the germs on your devices.