Ask LH: How Often Should You Clean Your Phone?

Ask LH: How Often Should You Clean Your Phone?
Image: Getty

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your phone is filthy. If you are reading this on your phone, I’d suggest maybe you put it down and pick up a cloth because it’s time to clean your phone screen.

Nowadays, our phones make up a massive part of our lives. I can’t think of a time when my phone isn’t around me, which I’m sure is an issue in and of itself. But that’s something we can unpack another time.

With our phones going everywhere with us, they are bound to become covered in whatever nasties are floating around the air. This is especially true if you’re someone who takes all their business calls from the bathroom.

Not to mention that CSIRO found that COVID-19 can survive 28 days on surfaces, including your phones.

Whenever I think about dirty phone screens, I’m always reminded of the time I saw someone lick tomato sauce off their phone after dropping it on a table. It was as unsettling to witness as it is to visualise.

So, in honour of our filthy digital companions, this week’s Ask LH is dedicated to grossing you out enough that you clean your phone – properly.

Why should you clean your phone?

Think about all the things you touch in your day to day and then how many times you touched your phone right afterwards. It’s not difficult to imagine how disgusting your device could be.

If you catch public transport, chances are you’ll grab a handle that’s been touched by countless other people. You’ll then probably check your phone, transferring whatever germs your hands just picked up from other passengers.

Yeah, it’s pretty nauseating to think about.

Sure, you can wash your hands all you want, but what’s the point when the thing you touch all day long is riddled with bacteria?

In his research, Dr Lotti Tajouri found all sorts of nasty things lurking on our cellphones. He even referred to mobile phones as “Trojen horses” that bring potentially harmful bacteria and germs into our lives.

Tajouri’s research found e.coli, which demonstrated faecal contamination, psuedomonas aeruginosa, salmonella, listeria and even parasites and protozoa on mobile phones.

And according to TIME, viruses can spread from phones if one person is sick and uses their phone before handing it to a friend.

How often should you clean your phone?

Now that you’re repulsed about what your holding in your hands right now, let’s talk about how often should you be cleaning your mobile.

Unfortunately, there is no consensus about the regularity of cleaning your phone. This is mostly because people interact differently with the world around them, as well as with their phones.

In saying that, it’s best to wipe your phone if you’re about to take a phone call where you’re holding the device up to your face. With it being so close to your mouth, you could potentially breathe in all the nasties on its surface.

Phillip Tierno, clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University, recommends a daily cleanse with a disinfectant wipe.

This is moreso important for those who tend to use their phones all the time, including during meals.

You have no idea what germs could be lurking on your phone. Image: Getty

How to clean your phone

Okay, so now you’re sure you want to clean your phone. But how should you do that?

First and foremost, when you are cleaning your phone, make sure you’ve turned it off and that it’s unplugged from any cables.

Your phone screen, as you’d imagine, has a protective coating that will prevent the glass from wearing down.

According to Apple, all iPhones have a fringerprint-resistant oil repellent coating. Using cleaning products and abrasive matierlia like bleach or pure alcohol will strip the coating and may scratch your iPhone.

Lucky for all of us, CHOICE laid out the best ways to clean your phone, as recommended by GoogleApple and Samsung.

Across the board, using a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe seems to be the best way to go if you want to rid your phone of its germ friends. According to Apple, disinfectant wipes can also do the trick.

It’s important that it’s 70% isopropyl alcohol because anything with less than that will not effectively remove traces of COVID-19 and other nasties.

Anything with more than 70% can damage your phone screen.

Using a soft, slightly damp, microfibre cloth like a lens cloth is also recommended to clean your phone. Obviously, this isn’t going to kill off germs as well as the alcohol wipes, but it will clean the screen at least.

You can use soap and lukewarm water but that plays a massive risk of damaging your phone if it isn’t waterproof. Not to mention the risk of water going into your charging ports or speakers.

Obviously, don’t wash your phone with water if it’s cracked. That’s just asking for trouble.

Here are some handy tips on how to clean the most common smartphone messes, just in case you need it.

What products to avoid

There’s some products that you should stay away from when cleaning your phone. Using these products, according to CHOICE, can cause damage to your phone:

  • Household cleaners (bleach, antibacterial spray)
  • Glass cleaner
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Antibacterial handwash
  • Soap, shampoo, face scrub
  • Makeup remover
  • Methylated spirits
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Pure isopropyl alcohol
  • Compressed air
  • Vinegar
  • Vodka

Clean the case

If you thought your phone screen was dirty, just you wait. Because your phone case is more likely to be contaminated, especially if it’s a rubber case.

Regular cleaning of your phone case is super important because bacteria can cling onto material easier than it can onto the metal, glass or plastic parts of your phone.

Pay special attention to the edges of your case around your screen. Those little crannies are perfect spots for germs to collect.

Here are some tips on how to clean your smartphone case:

  • Rubber: Soak in soapy water for ten minutes then wipe down.
  • Plastic and silicon: Soak in soapy water for ten minutes then wipe down.
  • Plastic wrapped in material: Apply the same rules as you would for washing clothes. If the material is safe in water (such as fabric) soak in soapy water for ten minutes, gently clean with a toothbrush and leave to dry.
  • Wood: Regularly wipe with a dry cloth. Moisture will damage the wood over time.
  • Leather: Dampen a microfibre cloth with a mild soap and water solution and wipe down.

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