Coronavirus: How to clean your phone properly

Holding your smartphone against your face could be 10 times more dangerous than resting your head on a toilet seat

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To prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, health authorities are telling people to wash their hands and not touch their face. But what about touching their phones?

Research shows that harmful pathogens like E. Coli and MRSA are capable of clinging to screens for up to four days, while separate studies show that the average person picks up their device around 76 times per day.

How well coronavirus survives on smartphones is yet to be tested, but if it’s similar to one of more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies discovered on high school students’ phones, then it might stand a chance.

Unfortunately, cleaning these germ magnets is not as simple washing them with soap and water while singing Happy Birthday twice – in fact doing so could end up breaking them. So what are the best ways to clean and disinfect a phone?​

When washing hundreds – sometimes thousands – of pounds worth of technology, it’s important to be gentle. You should start by turning it off, removing the case and unplugging any headphones or power chargers.

To avoid any scratches to the screen, the best thing to use is a micro-fibre cloth – the small cloths that come with glasses or camera lenses work well.

It can either be used with a small amount of warm, soapy water, or screen cleaner solution specifically made for touchscreens. Using heavy chemicals might remove germs, but they might also remove any chemical coating that manufacturers use to protect the screens from fingerprints.

Using a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol is an effective method but using more than 50 per cent alcohol can also risk damaging the screen. If the chemical coating is removed, it is still possible to reapply it using a simple application kit.

Waterproof phones with an IP68 rating can be submersed in water or placed under a tap for a thorough clean. Most modern flagship phones now come with this kind of waterproofing, including the iPhone 11, Google Pixel 4, Samsung Galaxy S10 and Note 10 ranges of phones.

Another effective solution is using a UV light to kill bacteria and germs. Products like PhoneSoap zap devices with a blast of UV-C to sanitise phones, however they cost upwards of £80.

Once clean, the challenge is then to keep it clean and free of germs. One way is to always wash your hands before you use your phone and to not take it to places where it is likely to pick up bacteria. A 2016 study of 1,000 UK workers revealed that around one third used their phones on the toilet, while other studies found that phones carry 10-times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

If you haven't cleaned your phone in a while, this might make you think twice before holding it up to your face the next time you have a phone call.

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