News flash: our phones are absolutely disgusting.
If you’re anything like me, you’re consistently touching your phone. On a normal day, you can find me constantly responding to emails, checking notifications, scrolling Instagram, and answering phone calls from telemarketers (seriously though, what if I miss the one call from that unknown number that tells me I’ve won the lottery?). I set it on a toilet paper dispenser while I pee for the fourth time after my first cup of coffee, I have it handy while navigating my commute on the train, I keep it close in the kitchen so that I can reference a recipe when I’m cooking, and I sleep with it a foot away from my face.
According to the University of Arizona, our phones have 10 times more bacteria than an average toilet—yikes. Think about it: bathrooms already have a germy rep and are part of our routine binge cleaning sessions. But how often are you cleaning your phone? I can honestly say that I don’t think about it as much as I should. The CDC recommends washing our hands and avoiding touching our faces to reduce our risk of getting sick, but what about the one medium that we double-tap, swipe, and touch to our own face multiple times a day? It’s not getting nearly the attention it deserves.
In an interview with Health, Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, recommended that we clean our phones at least once daily, and even more frequently if we find ourselves sharing our phone among friends or colleagues.
So how exactly does one approach cleaning their phone?
Use a microfiber cloth and a disinfecting wipe
All of this germ talk makes me want to take a shower and soak my phone in a bucket of isopropyl alcohol—although I’m not sure I want to risk ruining a device that I spent far too much money on.
In past years, Apple discouraged the use of alcohol or disinfecting wipes on their phones, but, as of recently amongst the COVID-19 scare and the knowledge that other coronaviruses can survive on your phone for up to nine days, have updated their cleaning instructions stating that it is OK to use a disinfectant on your Apple products. They recommend gently wiping nonporous surfaces of your device with a microfiber cloth or by “using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.” They still advise against bleach and urge users to avoid getting moisture in any opening. I guess that ruins my plan to immerse my iPhone 11 in a bucket of alcohol until it dissolves to its core…
Leave your phone out of the bathroom
Hey, you! Yes, you! Stop scrolling Instagram while going to the bathroom. Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center told Time that the bathroom is one of the worst places to use your phone. Charles Gerba, PhD agreed and told Health that “germs, including fecal matter, are released into the air and can land on those [device] surfaces, leading them to spread outside the bathroom.” Sure, it might be a lonely trip to the bathroom, but getting sick would be exponentially worse.
Stop sharing your phones with others
“Harry Styles just released a new video—here, you have to see it!” we exclaim, as we hand off our device to our bestie who’s sitting three feet away from us. Just like sharing remotes, subway poles, and writing utensils with others, sharing your phone serves as the perfect reservoir to spreading pathogens between humans. So the next time you find a funny meme, let’s be safe and just send it right into the other person’s DMs.
Get extra with UV-C sterilization
According to CNN, a less budget-friendly option to a squeaky clean phone is PhoneSoap, which essentially looks like a chunky nightstand tanning bed for your phone. You pop it in for 5-10 minutes (depending on the model you buy) where it gets zapped with UV-C light. PhoneSoap is currently on backorder until April (pairing well with the lack of Clorox wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizers at my local grocery store), but could be a worthy splurge and worth the wait to satisfy your inner germophobe.
Wash your hands (surprise!)
All in all, washing your hands is always the move and a safe way to keep yourself protected from environmental germs. So stock up on that hand soap, hand sanitizer, a microfiber cloth, and disinfectant wipes, and, if you’re feeling wild, invest in a UV-C sanitizing system for your phone. Pathogens, who? They don’t stand a chance.