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Like most people, I'm addicted to my phone. A.k.a I use it almost every minute of every day. However, not counting the occasional swipe with a Kleenex, I have cleaned my phone a total of zero times in my life. Yes, zero. And when you think about all the places my phone has been (public restrooms, the Starbucks counter, the gym floor)—it's disgusting.
But just how gross is it? According to recent studies, not only is your phone much dirtier than you think, it can also be covered in potentially harmful bacteria. Here's exactly what's lurking on your phone and how to clean it the right way so you—and your phone—stay germ-free.
Your phone touches your fingers, your face, and all sorts of surfaces throughout the day—so it's no surprise that it's a magnet for oil, grime, dead skin cells, and bacteria. But even more alarming than that, an unclean phone can also be a haven for dangerous germs like E. coli, streptococcus, and those that cause staph infections or the flu. In fact, one study found that the average high schooler's phone has 17,000 different types of bacteria, making it 10 times dirtier than a typical toilet seat. Yikes.
Our senior scientist and germ guru, Julia MacDougall, says once a week is a good rule of thumb. However, she notes that the more you use your phone, the more frequently you should clean it. "If you have kids or multiple people handling your phone, I'd recommend cleaning it more than once a week," she says, adding, "It's when people share your phone that you have to start worrying about germs spreading."
Fortunately, keeping your phone germ-free isn't difficult. Julia recommends this simple DIY method: "Dilute isopropyl alcohol with water, then spray it on your phone and wipe it dry with a soft microfiber cloth." (FYI: Isopropyl alcohol is just a fancy word for good old-fashioned rubbing alcohol.) Avoid using regular paper towels or other rough materials that could scratch or damage your phone's screen and, if possible, use distilled water which is less likely to leave mineral deposits or streaks.
You've probably seen UV phone sanitizers that promise to eliminate 99.999% of the bacteria on your phone. "UV light is often used to kill bacteria because specific wavelengths of UV light are 'germicidal,' in the sense that they can cause the bonds to break between molecules within the bacteria's DNA, rendering the bacteria damaged or dead," Julia explains. But do they actually work?
She tried three different sanitizers to find out. The popular PhoneSoap, which has thousands of glowing reviews online, successfully killed most (and occasionally all) of the bacteria on the phone. "I like that the PhoneSoap feels well-built, and that it has a one-year limited warranty in case anything breaks," Julia adds.
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