Your Phone is Filthy. Here’s How to Clean it

Your Phone is Filthy. Here's How to Clean it thumbnail
The coronavirus is here, and it’s showing no signs of letting up. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to keep your hands clean and off your face, but it’s hard to maintain constant vigilance.Keeping your phone sanitized is another smart way to keep germs off your fingertips. The Centers for Disease Control…

The coronavirus is here, and it’s showing no signs of letting up. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to keep your hands clean and off your face, but it’s hard to maintain constant vigilance.

Keeping your phone sanitized is another smart way to keep germs off your fingertips. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers your phone a “high-touch surface,” which could make it a carrier of the virus.

But cleaning your phone — thoroughly, I mean — is not as straightforward as it might seem. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies, delicate glass and intricate protective cases.

Any sort of moisture can interfere with your phone’s function. Apple recommends that people avoid using spray cleaners or heavy-duty products.

No bleach, no aerosol sprays. You need your phone to work, even if you want it clean.

Also — and this probably goes without saying — don’t dunk your phone into any sort of liquid, anti-bacterial or otherwise. It won’t end well for either of you.

A gentle wipe with a product that has 70 percent isopropyl alcohol will do just fine. Apple recommends Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, and the C.D.C. says household disinfectants registered by the Environmental Protection Agency are effective.

Wear disposable gloves to clean, the C.D.C. recommends, and wash your hands thoroughly after you’re done. Like your phone, reusable gloves might harbor virus particles, rendering them effectively useless.

And don’t forget your phone case.

Wipe it down, in and out, through and through. Let it dry before reassembling it.

You might also consider changing a bit of your behavior. AT&T suggests sharing photos through texts, instead of passing the phone around, and using devices like headphones and technology like Bluetooth to keep your phone away from your face.

This might be the best thing you can do all day. This outbreak is fast-moving and research is, by nature, slow to catch up. As a result, the C.D.C. does not yet know exactly how long the virus can cling to a surface, but evidence suggests it could be “hours to days.”

And phones are, well, gross. A 2017 study published in the journal Germs found a host of bacteria, viruses and pathogens on 27 phones owned by teenagers. The scientists wrote that they “hypothesize that this may play a role in the spread of infectious agents in the community.”

Safe is always better than sorry.

  • Updated March 13, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?

      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to lung lesions and pneumonia.
    • How contagious is the virus?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes.
    • Where has the virus spread?

      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 142,100 in at least 113 countries and more than 5,300 have died. The spread has slowed in China but is gaining speed in Europe and the United States. World Health Organization officials said the outbreak qualifies as a pandemic.
    • What symptoms should I look out for?

      Symptoms, which can take between two to 14 days to appear, include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, but people may be able to pass on the virus even before they develop symptoms.
    • What if I’m traveling?

      The State Department has issued a global Level 3 health advisory telling United States citizens to “reconsider travel” to all countries because of the worldwide effects of the coronavirus. This is the department’s second-highest advisory.
    • How long will it take to develop a treatment or vaccine?

      Several drugs are being tested, and some initial findings are expected soon. A vaccine to stop the spread is still at least a year away.

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