Even though using my phone is more or less an all-day activity that involves direct contact with my hands or my face—or, let's be honest, the sidewalk—my phone’s cleaning schedule has traditionally depended 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, until recently, I genuinely had no idea how often I’m actually supposed to clean my phone.
However, if the last few months have taught me anything, it is that keeping your phone sanitized is a smart way to keep germs off your fingertips. I've 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. During a pandemic—but also otherwise—that's far from good news.
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.
Here is a breakdown of the steps I now regularly follow:
Remove your phone case and turn off your device (I prefer to be extra cautious).
Gently wipe the exterior of your phone with a soft, lint-free cloth to get rid of smudges. Microfiber is particularly good for trapping dirt and absorbing greasy marks.
Spray that solution of a 1 to 1 ratio of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol and distilled water onto a dedicated cloth or microfiber wipe, and wipe your phone. (Never directly onto your device!) Apple also recommends the use of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes as an alternative. Avoid the ports (openings).
Let your phone air-dry for a minimum of 10 minutes. If you used a lysol wipe: the manufacturer says these wipes need about four minutes to disinfect.
Wipe away all leftover moisture with a clean paper towel.
Finally, clean your phone case. According to Apple, with cases made of hard durable plastic or silicone, you can “use a clean cloth with warm water and mild hand soap to gently clean. You can also use a mild cleaner along with a dry clean cloth.“ Leather cases, they suggest, will need specialized cleaners.
A year ago, this might all have struck me as excessive. 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!
This article last appeared in March, 2020. It has since been edited, and we are re-running it because it's more relevant than ever.
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