How to Safely Disinfect Your Cell Phone

In the age of potentially deadly bacteria looming on every surface, most of us have re-embraced alcohol-laden hand sanitizers. We now scour the shelves of drugstores for hand sanitizer, hoarding it like our ancestors stocked canned food. Our hands can now be germ-free in seconds, but what about the rest of our germ-infested belongings, especially the biggest germ-magnet of them all- cell phones? Here are two proven methods to safely disinfect your cell phone, and some interesting background info along the way.

Disinfect your cell phone

Why Your Phone is a Digital Petri Dish

Are you sitting at home in your yoga pants for the second day in a row, nervous to grab a cocktail with friends at the local outdoor watering hole for fear of contracting a potentially-deadly virus? You, who is nervous to use that gas station bathroom because WHO KNOWS WHO HAS BEEN THERE? I envision Large Marge from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure looming in there, not washing her hands after using the facilities.

Well, something in your HOME might be even grosser than that gas station restroom, my friend. According to Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, your cellphone carries 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

I was at my dentist’s office this past week and they have ALL the protocols in place. One protocol I hadn’t seen at other places of business was regarding cell phones. The dental hygenist asks you to disinfect your phone with an anti-bacterial wipe in the waiting room if you plan on pulling it out of your pocket or purse any time during the visit.

Huh. Makes total sense. All this time I had been sanitizing the crap out of my hands but hadn’t given a thought to my phone. I can bathe in sanitizer, but the moment I touch a surface and touch my phone, I am bringing those germs along with me, literally in my pocket. Although I am not snapping a selfie at the dentist’s office, I have a habit of checking to see if my kids have wreaked havoc at summer camp.

According to this Digital Trends article:

“…coronavirus may survive for between two hours and six days on surfaces like metal, glass or plastic, which are the materials used to build smartphones.”

Terrifying, right? Think of the number of times you touch your phone in a day. This study says, on average, 2,617 times. It is the ultimate distraction/excuse. Think about how much bacteria you are transferring and bringing home. *shudder*

How to Kill Coronavirus on Your Phone

According to the information I have read (I used to be a research assistant in college for a professor who wrote endless amounts of articles, I love digging deep), there are two effective and cell phone company-approved ways of killing the coronavirus on your phone. Here are the two most effective methods I found to disinfect your cell phone.

Use of Disinfecting Wipes

CAN you use a wipe on your phone? Will it damage the screen or invalidate the AppleCare you begrudgingly pay for every month? Thankfully, Apple updated their cleaning recommendations and guidelines to state that you can use a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipe to disinfect your cell phone (um…is that a Clorox endorsement? Wonder if they paid for that plug). They also say to make sure not to get moisture in any opening. Ok, well, the wipes are wet, and there are lots of nooks and crannies…but I guess it would eliminate the bacteria in all places you could reach. So yes, I say if Steve Jobs’ proteges approve, I am on board.

How to Disinfect Your Phone
Source: Apple website

If you want to purchase the alcohol wipes with the recommended percentage of alcohol, grab them here:

Cell Phone disinfectant

Alcohol Prep Pads- 70% Isopropyl Alcohol, 100 Pack- $9.99

And grab Clorox Wipes while they are in stock because it is rare:

Clorox Wipes for Cell Phones

Clorox Disinfecting Bleach Free Cleaning Wipes, 75 Wipes, Pack of 3- $11.97 (price fluctuates)

Use of UVC Light

A few years ago, I received PhoneSoap, which uses UV light to disinfect your cell phone, as a gift. It was one of those gadgets that seem cool at first, then sit unused in your junk drawer, taking up precious space among takeout menus and random screws. Recently, I unearthed this gadget from its resting place and it hit me- if this gizmo can kill bacteria that causes the common cold, could it kill the bacteria that causes coronavirus? Time to investigate.

The Types of UV Light

There are three types of UV light. UVA has the longest wavelength and reaches into the deep layers of skin, causing wrinkles and aging. UVB affects the top layer of skin most, responsible for burns and skin cancer. Tanning salons generally use UVA and UVB rays to produce that golden bronze (aka skin damage) color. (And if you cringe just thinking about your sunbed usage in the 90s, I’m with you). UVC waves are the strongest but mostly absorbed by the ozone layer.

Uses of UVC Light to Kill Coronavirus

Remember SARS back from 2003? Bey was Crazy in Love, 50 was asking 21 questions, and Chingy was staying at the Holidae Inn. I remember receiving a Back to the Future-style mask from my parents in anticipation of the respiratory virus. Being 22, I promptly tossed it to make way for more low rise jeans and push-up bras in my closet.

Weeelllll as I am sure you have heard, SARS is a coronavirus. Not the same as the current situation, but the same family. The super destructive kind of family who belongs in Sons of Anarchy. Anyways, one study showed that after 15 minutes of exposure to UVC light, SARS was rendered inactive which made it impossible for the virus to copy itself and run rampant.

Hospitals like Duke use UVC light to aid in cleaning their facilities. Although hospitals are “dirty” with germs/viruses/bacteria, the dirtiest place I have personally seen in the US is the MTA- the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. I have zero proof that this is the dirtiest place in the states, but my olfactory memory has not forgotten the scent of month-old pee and decaying garbage. What are they using to clean the stanky subway cars and stations? Yep, UVC.

NY Subway Station- Clean with UV Light

A VERY recent study, published on June 24, 2020, details the use of far-UVC light in killing coronavirus. The difference between traditional UVC light and far-UVC light lies in the wavelength, which translates to the ability to damage living cells in the body. UVC light emits a wavelength of 254nm and far-UVC emits a wavelength of 207-222 nm. According to the study,

“Germicidal ultraviolet light, typically at 254 nm, is effective in this context but, used directly, can be a health hazard to skin and eyes. By contrast, far-UVC light (207–222 nm) efficiently kills pathogens potentially without harm to exposed human tissues.”

What Do Cell Phone Companies Say

Samsung is pro-UVC. They launched Samsung’s Galaxy Sanitizing Service which is available in 19 countries. the service uses UVC light to disinfect, not chemicals that could damage the screen or coating. They tested the UVC sanitation devices (which are manufactured by a third party) to ensure that the rays did not damage their products. They are also sanitizing smartwatches, wireless earbuds, and tablets in addition to the phones.

How To Use UVC to Sanitize at Home

Ok, so you would have to potentially expose yourself to more germs and go to a Samsung store in order to sanitize your phone? Um, no. Thankfully, there are devices designed for home use that are available for purchase.

Here are the two reliable brands that I have seen tested and reviewed positively:

Phone Soap

PhoneSoap 3 ($79.95)

HoMedics UV Phone Cleaner

HoMedics UV-Clean Phone Sanitizer ($79.99)

H0Medics UV-Clean Portable Sanitizer ($99.99)

Which Device Should I Choose?

Time

One difference between the two that I can see is the time it takes for items to be sanitized. PhoneSoap takes 10 minutes to disinfect your cell phone, while the HoMedics devices take 30 seconds per side for a total of 1 minute. I don’t know if this should be counted as a positive or negative, but personally I would err on the side of caution and chose the device that does a more thorough job. I can live without my phone for 9 minutes. But maybe they are equally effective. Who knows.

Cost

These devices are almost exactly the same price- $79.95 vs. $79.99

Size of Items That Can Be Sanitized

Both allow the sanitization of anything that fits inside. Headphones, keys, credit cards are common ones. The HoMedics does have a portable version that allows for larger items to be sanitized- the Portable Sanitizer. PhoneSoap has a HomeSoap version that accommodates larger items but it isn’t being released until late August and costs $199.95.

Brand

I am a sucker for a good story, and PhoneSoap is definitely one of those “two people with a good idea who defied the odds and created a groundbreaking product” stories. Cousins Wes LaPorte and Dan Barnes were attending college together in 2009 and were both shocked by a study that came out about the percentage of phones that were contaminated with fecal matter (ew). They used their science and business knowledge to create PhoneSoap, which thanks to Kickstarter was officially launched in 2014.

I think this video featuring one of the founders is pretty hilarious- it involves how absolutely germ-y school surfaces can be and how teachers’ cell phones compare:

I think either device will disinfect your cell phone, but I am a fan of the PhoneSoap brand and technology. They are also venturing into the medical field with a healthcare division, so aren’t just a consumer brand.

Conclusion

If you don’t want to spend $100, go with the 70% alcohol wipes. If you can manage the money, I say try out PhoneSoap. Either way, please take the time to disinfect your cell phones. And um…don’t take them into the bathroom with you. That’s gross.

Cheers to staying healthy and on top of the latest ways to ensure your family’s safety during these difficult times!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you purchase using my link. It does not, however, affect your purchase price. So, thank you! And PS- I am not a scientist. I do not specialize in UV rays or biohazards. I am just reporting my findings, please do your own research before making any life/health changes.

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1 Comment

  1. August 4, 2020 / 10:07 am

    This article is so detailed and precise. Our devices can be a dangerous medium for the virus to spread. Thank you for sharing such an insightful article.

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