Are you faithfully following your new coronavirus cleaning routine? Washing your hands, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces? What about your phone? According to a recent study, American adults spend an average of 3 hours and 30 minutes per day on the mobile internet. We’re going to guess that time isn’t spent in an airtight clean room. Good smartphone hygiene may be one of the most critical steps you take to prevent infection from the coronavirus. Let’s see what you can do to keep yourself safe.
Stay Safe with Our Free Phone Cleaning Guide
We compiled the best advice we could find online about keeping phones clean and disinfected from coronavirus. Please feel free to print, post, or share this guide online to help yourself and others keep safe.
Download our Free PDF Guide.
Choose an Effective Coronavirus-Killing Disinfectant; Ignore Outdated Advice
We combed the internet for the most effective techniques for killing coronavirus on your phone, since some common techniques may be ineffective against the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus. Dampened microfiber cloths have been the cleaning standard for years, but that’s no longer good enough. Microfiber cloth has only ever removed germs from surfaces without killing them.
In the face of a pandemic like this, we need to go the extra mile, and that means turning to disinfectants the tech industry and tech media have spurned for years. Even Apple has backtracked on years of discouraging alcohol-based disinfectants to help combat coronavirus. The EPA and CDC are your most valuable resources for approved disinfectants for surface cleaning. Below, we’ll sum up their recommendations.
A Word on Oleophobic Coatings
Alcohol-based disinfectants are usually discouraged because they can strip the oleophobic coating from your phone’s screen display. This coating prevents oil on our hands from sticking to the screen display glass, where it will cling and possibly work its way to charging ports and speaker grilles. The coating wears off with time anyway, but the process can be accelerated by harsh cleansers and abrasive materials. Tempered glass screen protectors may have oleophobic coatings, too.
The bottom line is, oleophobic coatings serve a purpose, but coronavirus prevention is more important. Plus, your phone may have a screen protector and/or a protective case (and if it doesn’t, it should!), so you may not even come into direct contact with your screen display.
While we recommend removing your phone’s protective case and washing it separately to stay as clean as possible, you can still wipe down your encased phone with an effective disinfectant without doing much harm to your phone at all.
Power Down Before Cleaning
A quick disclaimer before getting into cleaning supplies. Make sure to power down your phone and keep it unplugged before cleaning. Also, avoid damaging the inside of your phone by wiping carefully around charging ports, headphone jacks, speaker grills, and SIM trays.
What to Use for Coronavirus
- Disinfectant Wipes, like Lysol Sanitizing Wipes and Clorox Wipes
Nonabrasive 70% Isopropyl Alcohol (wipes, or bottled alcohol sprayed onto microfiber, lint-free cloth, or cotton swabs)
- This is recommended by Apple and AT&T
- This is recommended by the CDC for surface cleaning
Bleach Solution: 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water, or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. Make sure the bleach isn’t expired, and never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleansers
- This solution is recommended by the CDC for surface cleaning
- Apple cautions against using bleach, but does not specify diluted or non-diluted. It may be too harsh for the oleophobic coating.
What Else to Use (But May Not Work on Coronavirus)
These are other methods for keeping your phone clean, but which may not be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus.
Germicidal UV Light (like PhoneSoap): ultraviolet light is a proven germ killer, just not in the case of SARS-CoV-2. It might kill coronavirus, it might not.
- iFixit ran a comparison test of four common phone cleaning methods, and a PhoneSoap cleaner outperformed the rest, including Clorox Wipes by a thin margin.
- WHO discourages using UV lights for coronavirus sterilization on your body, but only because it irritates your skin. It does not address UV lights used to sanitize surfaces and inanimate objects.
- It requires time to disinfect as well, so it’s not useful if you’re in a rush. Otherwise, UV lights are a convenient, efficient cleaning method.
- Hospitals, airlines, and other organizations are already using UV lights to sterilize environments and slow down coronavirus, but it requires time to fully disinfect an area. Due to the murkiness of clear answers online, we can only recommend consumer-grade UV lights as a supplemental tool in the fight against coronavirus.
- DIY Cleaning Solutions: Sources vary on the most effective mixture.
- Damp Microfiber Cloths or Branded Screen/Lens Display Wipes: we’ll give microfiber a little boost here. Big Tech has been telling us for years that damp microfiber cloths are sufficient for cleaning your phone, but they only wipe away germs. They do not kill them. Microfiber gets rid of smudges and is harmless to your screen display, but it only gives germs a new place to crash. Do not rely on microfiber alone to combat coronavirus.
What NOT to Use:
The methods below are always a bad idea. They’re awful for your phone, possibly awful for you, and should be avoided at all costs. CNET did a nice job compiling additional info on most of these methods.
- 100% Bleach, 100% Vinegar, Ammonia, Hydrogen Peroxide, or a Combination of Any of These Cleaners
- Window Cleaners
- Kitchen Cleaners
- Makeup Remover, Acetone, and Other Strong Solvents
- Soap and Water: This may be effective for your hands, but it may not kill the germs on your phone, and – surprise – it’s a big water hazard to your phone.
- Paper Towels: These are abrasive and may damage your phone’s screen display. Avoid, if possible, by using microfiber, lint-free cloth, or cotton swabs.
- Compressed Air: It may be tempting to blow out your phone's ports and speaker grills with compressed air to get rid of dust, but it can do lots of internal damage. Worst case scenario: you just blew coronavirus particles back into the air.
Protect Your Phone from Coronavirus and Other Germs
There’s even more you can do to keep your phone from becoming a coronavirus landing pad:
- Keep it in your pocket: Don’t take your phone out in a public bathroom or on public transportation. Leave it in your pocket at the hospital or in the waiting room if you can. We know, it’s hard, and you may need to have your phone ready for urgent calls or messages. If you don’t, stow it.
- Don’t put it on public surfaces: See above. Don’t pick up germs that are just laying around waiting for you.
- Clean what it touches: We know you put it in your purse or handbag, on the kitchen table, countertop, cabinets, floor, end tables, couch cushions, laptop, and nightstand. We know it. We do it, too. It might touch your wallet. Its protective case might be your wallet. We can’t tell you to stop putting your phone on these surfaces like we can public surfaces, but we can urge you to disinfect them regularly!
- Avoid passing it around: you can hold it up to share photos and videos with the people around you, but don't put it in their hands. Have people dictate contact info, directions, or other info to you instead of letting them type it in themselves.
- Limit direct touches by using Bluetooth devices, voice commands, and peripherals: Who says you need to touch your phone to use it? Now’s a great time to stretch the limits of available technology and see how much you can accomplish without actually touching your phone.
- Fix broken screen displays: Cracked screens give microbes extra surface area to cling to, and if there's a sharp enough edge, you might be able to cut yourself and give those microbes an easy path into your body. A fixed phone is a healthy phone.
Flatten the Curve: Stay Informed and Stay Safe
In closing, phone hygiene is one of the many small ways you can keep yourself and those around you healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. The information represents the most accurate information we could gather online, and when in doubt, we always recommend following advice offered directly by the CDC, EPA, and WHO.
By acting responsibly with our phones, we may do a better job of flattening the curve of the coronavirus outbreak, keeping ourselves healthy and making it easier for those who’ve transmitted the disease to get the care they need. We will continue to update you with news on the outbreak, and we encourage you to do the best you can in all areas of your life to help fight it!