Our Smartphones are Filthy
While smartphone security tends to dominate the news, a less talked about topic is the fact that our phones are just really dirty.
It’s no secret that our smartphones are super dirty. They’re always in our hands, we take them everywhere, and use them everywhere. There’s evidence that shows your phone can be up to 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat – and yet you touch it all day long.
Having a clean iPhone or other smart device can help ward off colds and illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, but unfortunately even phone manufacturers rarely speak about disinfection. In fact many of them specifically tell you not to use any type of cleaning products on your device. So what are the options?
Note: The following suggestions refer to various products and techniques I have researched and used on my own devices with some success. You may have different results and this information is provided without any warranty – you break your phone trying to clean it, that’s on you. Use these methods at your own risk.
So with that out of the way, let’s get started.
1. Use a Damp, Lint-Free Cloth
Using a damp, lint-free cloth is by far, the most manufacturer-friendly recommendation. In fact, it’s usually the only recommendation provided by major brands including Apple and Samsung. Apple specifically states that the cloth should be slightly damp (not sopping wet).
The obvious problem with this recommendation is that it doesn’t really address germs and bacteria that could be lingering on your phone. You’ll probably reduce some of them with this method, but your phone is hardly going to be sterile as a result of wiping it down with a damp cloth.
You can disinfect the cloth by soaking it in boiling water and then wringing it out so that it’s only slightly damp before cleaning your phone. This will help to wipe away some of the germs while you clean it.
2. Cotton Swabs
Using a cotton swab is a great way to get into those hard to reach places in your phone. While not specifically mentioned by most manufacturers, cotton swabs are generally safe. You’ll want to purchase a good quality one to avoid leaving behind lint.
There are also special swabs you can purchase that are intended for electronics that are foam-tipped and lint-free. You can purchase the ones below from Amazon (click the image to check them out).
If you’re worried about harming your phone, though, this is where you should stop. Manufacturers specifically say to not use any cleaning or disinfecting products on your phone to clean them. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or you just don’t care what the manufacturer says, there are other things you can try.
Keep in mind that most manufacturers coat their phone surfaces with chemicals that inhibit oil & grease. Using any type of cleaner on them can wear these coatings away prematurely. But if you really want a clean iPhone, read on…
3. Distilled Water & White Vinegar
White vinegar is used for cleaning in a variety of applications. It’s also a very safe chemical to use considering its effectiveness. Vinegar has anti-fungal properties and is commonly used to clean mold and mildew, but it doesn’t kill bacteria like staphylococcus.
You can use a solution of 50% distilled water and 50% white vinegar on a lint-free cloth or cotton swab to help clean your phone. Given that your phone is frequently near your face, it’s a good option because vinegar is safe for human consumption and won’t make you sick.
4. Use a Diluted Alcohol Solution
Going a little deeper than the previous tip, alcohol is a certified disinfectant and kills most harmful bacteria and viruses. Use a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol (the 40% version you can buy in just about any drug store).
The key here is to clean your phone using one of the first 2 suggestions to remove any dirt or grime and then use the alcohol solution to disinfect it. Put a small amount the solution on a cloth and lightly wipe down the phone. Don’t spray or pour it directly on your device.
5. Use a Phone Sanitizing Device
You can find these devices in a variety of electronic stores. They’re basically a little case for your phone that sanitizes it using UV rays.
The reviews on items like this are pretty mixed, but there’s no doubt that UV light does kill germs. Given that’s the case, there’s a good argument to be made that a phone which spends time in a sanitizing device like the one above will have a lower germ count.
It also doesn’t hurt that many of these devices include wireless charging and if you’re a techie, they’re just kinda cool to have.
Having a Clean iPhone or Smartphone is Easy
Keeping up with your phone hygiene is important. Not only does it help extend the life of your device, but it also helps keep you from picking up harmful bacteria that can make you sick.
One of the biggest things you can do to keep your phone from getting so germy? Please… stop taking it into the bathroom with you.
Sources & Additional Reading:
1. Apple Support: Cleaning your iPhone
2. Mother Nature Network: Disinfectants: A Guide to Killing Germs the Right Way
3. LightTech LightSources: Killing Bacteria with UV Light
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.