You Should Be Cleaning Your Phone *This* Often, According to Experts

Start with right now.

March 11, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

If I had to guess, I would say that I’ve dropped my current phone on the ground (or worse, the subway floor) upwards of a thousand times since I got it in early 2018.

I don’t know if that puts me at the national average, or well above it, but this is true of every phone I’ve owned—and if not for my trusty phone case, I’d have a cracked screen in no time, too. I know that because my last phone met its bitter end when, one day, I took it out of its bulky case for just a second to admire its skinny frame…and promptly dropped it on uneven cobblestone. It’s not my finest quality, but I am, without a doubt, an incessant phone dropper.

So that would mean approximately a 1 to 1 ratio between the number of times I’ve dropped my phone and the number of times I’ve cleaned it, right?

Shop the Story

Hmmm...about that.

To be honest, even though using my phone is more or less an all-day activity that involves direct contact with my hands or my face, my phone’s cleaning schedule depends less on its actual need to be cleaned, and more on whether or not I’ve happened to acquire a free alcohol wipe recently.

Plus, I had no idea how often I’m actually supposed to clean my phone.

But then, I learned that the average user touches their phone nearly 3,000 times a day—and that the heaviest users are up to 5,427 touches a day, according to a study by web research platform dscout.

And, according to a study of high schoolers’ mobile phones by the journal Germs, there’s a median count of 17,032 bacterial 16S rRNA gene copies per phone. That’s about 10 times the amount of bacteria found on a toilet seat, according to a study from the University of Arizona. Yikes.

So now that we all know too much to ever go back to our old ways—especially now that disinfecting is hyper critical—let’s move forward together. According to Emily Toth Martin, an assistant epidemiology professor at the University of Michigan, it’s a good idea to disinfect your phone daily, if not more, particularly if you use your phone during meals—but Toth cleans her phone twice a day, once in the morning and again at night.

Germ experts are in agreement that our phones are indeed a potential source of contamination. Or as one doctor told Lifehacker, “The screen itself is a harbinger for carrying bacterias and viruses. There have been multiple reports of infections being transmitted by the screens of our phones.” The flu virus, for example, can survive up to 24 hours on a hard surface.

So, what’s the best way to clean your phone? Too much moisture comes with the risk of damaging your phone’s tech, so it’s best not to spray your phone with a disinfectant. Rather, spray that solution, ideally a 1 to 1 ratio of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and distilled water, or an E.P.A.-registered disinfectant, onto a dedicated cloth or microfiber wipe, and wipe your phone—and your case! Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are also a good option. And if you’re really on board, consider this super high-tech option: an ultraviolet light sanitizing box —which doubles as a universal charger.

A month ago, this might all have struck me as overkill. But with the state of the world what it is, it seems particularly prudent to start practicing better phone hygiene as soon as possible (like, go clean your phone right now). And of course, continuing to practice more diligent personal hygiene as well—a clean phone is nothing if our hands aren't clean too.

How often do you really clean your phone screen? Tell us in the comments below!

Grab your copy

It's here: Our game-changing guide to everyone's favorite room in the house. Your Do-Anything Kitchen gathers the smartest ideas and savviest tricks—from our community, test kitchen, and cooks we love—to help transform your space into its best self.

Grab your copy

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ArdhaniUlf
  • Victoria Manassero
    Victoria Manassero
  • Katie Forest-May
    Katie Forest-May
  • Aribakes
  • Sandra Stitt
    Sandra Stitt
Karen Lo

Written by: Karen Lo

lunch lady


ArdhaniUlf August 14, 2020
Thank you to your article. Your tips is inspiring. And here is a great way I found to cleans a phone. I hope it helps some others.
Victoria M. May 18, 2020
Since COVID, every time I touch something outside the house and touch my phone (like using a point-of-sale at the grocery store), I will disinfect my phone and wash my hands. I disinfect my phone daily anyway because I can’t stand my own fingerprints! I use 70% alcohol spray, which I keep on my desk. A note about disinfectant wipes, check with your manufacturer for the safest way to clean your screen versus the casing. And, don’t forget the casing that also needs to be disinfected!
Katie F. February 12, 2020
I like to disinfect things such as my phone, earphones, hands, etc with clinell universal wipes as I know I can trust those when they say they kill 99.999% of germs, as alcohol doesn't actually kill all common pathogens :)
Aribakes October 20, 2019
I use pure alcohol & clean my mobile daily. However, I’m forwarding this article to my husband ASAP because he gives me dirty looks when I call his mobile a germ bomb.
Sandra S. October 20, 2019
I wipe my phone down with a germ free NORWEX cloth that has micro silver threads in it that kill germs.
CoffeeAndBaconYum October 20, 2019
Does the phone need to be powered down before wiping with the microfiber cloth with the isopropyl alcohol & distilled water solution?
JoAnne L. October 20, 2019
No, I clean my phone while it’s on.