Coronavirus (COVID-19): Keeping Your Mobile Phone Clean and Safe

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Keeping Your Mobile Phone Clean and Safe

Evidence suggests that Covid-19 can survive on surfaces for nearly a week. New guidance recommends disinfecting your mobile phone at least twice a day as it often comes into contact with your hands and other surfaces.  According to the Journal of Hospital Infection, an analysis of 22 studies came to the conclusion that coronaviruses can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, but can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.

Cleaning your phone regularly can therefore help reduce the chance of infection and transmission. Most phone manufacturers previously have recommended against using any kind of cleaning solution on their handsets as it can strip the oil-based coating that helps to repel dust, fingerprints and debris from screens, however this guidance has rapidly changed in the past few weeks.

Changes to phone cleaning guidance from manufacturers

Historically Apple have only recommended that customers wipe down their handsets with a microfibre cloth and refrain from using any kind of cleaning solution on their iPhones. However, Apple has changed its stance and released new cleaning guidance for iPhones in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:

Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any opening, and don’t submerge your Apple product in any cleaning agents.

This is an update to previous guidance which explicitly recommended against using any kind of cleaning agent on iPhones. The iPhone 7 and above have a water-resistant coating which protects against accidental submersion, which can be cleaned using a cloth dabbed with soapy water if the different ports of the devices are covered.

Samsung still recommend against the use of any kind of cleaning fluids as this could potentially damage or strip the fingerprint-resistant coatings of their screens. Solutions containing more than 50% alcohol have a risk of damaging your phone’s screen and are more likely to strip protective coating. Other manufacturers have not yet released additional guidance and some do not specify water-tolerance, but most new models are partially resistant to fluids, meaning that cleaning your phone display with a lightly dampened cloth or wipe should be enough to protect you and your device.

Using Cases and Screen protectors

Removable and washable silicon cases are available for most phones and they are very easy to clean – they can be washed in a dishwasher, boiled in hot water or wiped down with disinfectant. Harsher chemicals such as a bleach solution or rubbing alcohol can also be used on silicon without damage.

Screen protectors placed on top of phone display add another layer of protection for your device. Glass protectors are recommended, and if you clean a screen protector using a light solution it will block any damage to your phone screen.

 Cleaning methods and solutions

It’s also recommended that you wash or sanitise your hands before and after touching your phone, especially during use in public spaces, gatherings or while commuting to and from work. Germs will accumulate predominantly on the phone’s main touch screen due continuous contact with the hands and face. As a result, the touch screen should be wiped thoroughly. The back and sides should also be cleaned, making sure that the cloth is not saturated when cleaning around any buttons. Using hands-free calling through earbuds will reduce the need for your phone to touch your face when you need to make calls. Make sure any ports or speaker holes do not become inundated with liquids by covering them before wiping down.

To avoid the likelihood of any scratches or contact marks on your screen, the best cleaning tool to use is a microfibre cloth – the type that are often included with glasses or camera lenses are suitable. These also stop loose fibres sticking to the screen. Wipes have also been recommended however make sure that the screen is entirely free of any kind of debris before using wipes.

Diluted alcohol solutions with at least 60% water, Dettol wipes and below 50% isopropyl alcohol wipes are suitable for use with most devices. Touch screen disinfectants that are designed to protect phones are also widely available which are suitable for cleaning LED, LCD and OLED screens. There are also phone sanitizers which can sanitise devices using UV light – however these are relatively untested in effectiveness against COVID-19 transmission.

WARNING: Do NOT use undiluted bleaches or submerge your device in cleaning solution unless it has a waterproofing guarantee that permits submersion in hot water solutions.


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