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How to Disinfect Your Phone During COVID-19 Without Destroying It

July 23, 2020

If a mobile phone isn’t exactly an extension of the human hand, it should be treated like one during COVID-19. Your phone, like your hand, is a bacteria and virus magnet.

To avoid infection, you must sanitize your phone regularly — without damaging or destroying it. Now, let’s avoid undue anxiety: As long as you use a screen protector and don’t submerge your phone in any liquid or allow moisture into any phone openings or charging ports, your phone should survive disinfection.

Before COVID-19, some phone makers treated alcohol like a touchscreen’s kryptonite. Notably, Apple warned that cleaners could erode an iPhone screen’s fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coatings. In March, however, it updated its recommendations to allow 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipes or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes — but no bleach — on every Apple product.

Here’s how to disinfect your phone:

  • Turn off, unplug your phone.
  • Use a lint-free cloth or cotton ball. Avoid rougher material, like a paper towel, that can scratch. Even cleaning wipes can be abrasive.
  • Apply 70 percent rubbing alcohol to the cloth or cotton ball, not to the screen. Never spray any liquid on your phone.
  • Never use bleach.
  • Only use soap and water, on a damp cloth, with waterproof smartphones. (Our relaxed friend, above, swears by it.)

To kill germs and virus particles without liquid, try a UV phone sanitizer that uses ultraviolet-C light to kill germs. These sanitizers look like a miniature tanning bed for your phone.

Update on COVID-19:

The most likely pathway of microscopic COVID-19 viral particles onto your phone starts with your hands: The average smartphone user touches the phone 2,617 times a day, and up to 5,400 times a day for extreme users, according to a 2016 study by Dscout. Otherwise, a cough, sneeze or a close-talker without a mask are major risks.

Make cleaning your phone part of your daily ritual. And consider minimizing your phone’s exposure to risk: If you’re in a store, restaurant or public space you might be touching common surfaces, leave your phone in your pocket. Don’t touch it until you’ve washed your hands. And don’t rest your phone on common surfaces, where it can pick up bacteria and viral particles.

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