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

Start with right now.

September 16, 2019
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?

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, including potentially pathogenic microbes like Staphylococcus aureus, Acinetobacter spp., Pseudomonas spp., Bacillus cereus and Neisseria flavescens. 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, 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, 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.

To really drive this point home, I also need you to know that it’s possible to get Ebola from a phone. Sorry.

So, what’s the best way to clean a 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, onto a dedicated cloth or microfiber wipe, and wipe your phone—and your case! 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 few days ago, that might have struck me as overkill. Now, I don’t even know if I’m willing to hold someone else’s phone for as long as it takes to read a meme. Save that for my DMs.

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

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Aribakes
  • Sandra Stitt
    Sandra Stitt
  • CoffeeAndBaconYum
  • JoAnne Lingo
    JoAnne Lingo
Karen Lo

Written by: Karen Lo

lunch lady


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.