Coronavirus: How to keep your phone clean

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·4-min read

Our phones can carry more bacteria than toilet seats and we touch them thousands of times each day.

Therefore, at a time when it’s more important than ever to avoid germs, how do you best protect your phone during the coronavirus pandemic?

Can you get coronavirus from your phone?

Your phone can carry coronavirus on its surface.

‘It may be possible a person can get [the virus] by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes’, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

People using phones.
Phones can carry more germs than toilet seats. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

It can also live up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

On glass, such as your phone screen, it can live up to five days, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection.

It can also survive on other surfaces for up to nine days.

Cleaning an Apple iPhone

Former Apple technician David Payette said you should use alcohol wipes to clean your iPhone of coronavirus if you’re concerned.

He added, after wiping the phone, “leave it” for four minutes “to be safe”, or two minutes to “kill the coronavirus”.

Apple recommends using 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes to clean your phone as long as you use them gently. These can be found in most supermarkets.

Examples of 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipes include Scott alcohol antibacterial wipes, which normally sell for under $6, or Livingstone Liv-Wipes which cost about $5.

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If you can’t purchase these then Dr Lena Ciric, a microbiologist from University College London, says you can just use “simple household soap”.

You should unplug your phone before cleaning it, Apple says. Also avoid getting moisture into “openings” such as the charging port or the speaker.

Also, don’t use bleach or “submerge” your phone in any cleaning agents.

David Payette cleans an iPhone.
Former Apple technician David Payette uses alcoholic wipes to clean his iPhone. Source: YouTube/ Payette Forward

Dr Ciric told the BBC it’s best to gently rub the surfaces of the phone using a damp cloth.

Dry your phone with a micro-fibre cloth, Dr Ciric advised.

“Even using soap and water can effectively remove bacteria and viruses from your phone,” she said.

Once this is done, wipe it over with a soft cloth.

Apple also recommends not using compressed air to clean your phone.

Cleaning your Samsung phone

Samsung advises using soft cloths for cleaning phones.

While screens are glass you might be tempted to reach for the Windex but Samsung advises against this. Save that for the windows at home.

“If required, dampen the corner of a cloth with a small amount of clean water and gently wipe your phone with the cloth going up and down the screen,” Samsung says.

“Use the dry corner of cloth to remove any excess moisture left on the phone.”

An young woman wearing a protective face mask as a preventive measure against corona virus uses a mobile phone in the street.
There are a few different ways to clean your phone but you need to make sure you don't damage the screen. Source: AAP

Be careful of screens

It’s also important to not use “abrasive materials” to clean your phone too.

iPhones have “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic” coating which repels the oil we secrete from our skin. If you use something which scratches this coating it might also damage your ability to use your phone and/or scratch it.

Mr Payette said “it’s really important” to keep the coating intact.

“Without it the screen will not look as bright or as shiny,” he said.

“It might get more fingerprints or smudges.”

Mr Payette said you shouldn’t use a paper towel or a dish towel to clean your screen.

Lint-free cloths are best to use to clean screens too and leave them scratch-free.

Again, don’t use household cleaners as they can damage phone screens.

A young man visiting from Brazil and wearing a protective face mask against the coronavirus checks his smartphone while walking across Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany.
A man checks his phone while wearing a face mask to protect from COVID-19 in Berlin. Source: Getty Images

How often do I need to clean my phone?

Emma Hayhurst, a microbiologist at the University of South Wales, told the Wall Street Journal you don’t need to “obsessively” clean your phone right now.

“If people are coming into contact with coronavirus patients, then, yes. Wash your phone all the time. Not because there is evidence that it will transmit via a phone but because there is no evidence that it won’t,” she told the publication.

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