The world is on fire, but don’t you worry, I’m here to tell you how to clean your smartphone.
That is, if you really want to clean your phone. Three people I spoke with over the past week said they did not clean their smartphones—and they’re all leading experts on microbiology and infectious disease.
WAIT! WHAT? I thought smartphones were dirtier than a toilet bowl. Heck, even academic studies, like this one from my favorite bedtime reading, the Journal of Hospital Infection, have found considerable amounts of bacteria, including fecal matter, on phone screens.
And yet all these experts said some variation of the same thing when I asked about combating coronavirus: thoroughly clean your hands; don’t touch your face; don’t worry about your phone.
Sure, except what if you’re one of those people where your smartphone is basically an extension of your hand? What if I touch a dirty subway pole, then touch my phone, then my phone touches my face? What if someone sneezes directly on my iPhone screen? What if I’m the kind of person who licks my phone? (Don’t judge.) A recent study found that, on surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic, coronavirus can survive for anywhere between two hours and nine days.
“It’s possible, theoretically, for this to live on a smartphone. If you had it out and someone sneezed or coughed on it and then you handled the phone, you could pick up infection that way,” says Daniel R. Kuritzkes, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “People should keep their phones close to themselves. There is very little risk involved then.”
“My phone is the least of my concerns,” says Alex Berezow, a microbiologist and vice president at the American Council on Science and Health. “Worry about touching door handles that thousands of other people touch.”
After days of disinfecting my phone like a surgical tray, I was shocked. Phone cleaning is certainly not as cut and dried as you thought. After hours of research and scrubbing phones with everything from Clorox wipes to Lysol toilet-bowl cleaner, I’ve come up with some basic lessons for what you can do—and not do—with that petri dish phone of yours.