The smartphone has become one of the objects that we use regularly and intimately. We keep forgetting that, like any object that we touch a lot, it gets dirty and carries massive colonies of bacteria. Is it really that bad? How do you keep yourself out of trouble and minimize the risk of disease? Let's have a closer look:
Do we have to clean the smartphone?
Smartphones have sneaked their way into our lives, driven by social or technical needs. The full health impact of the smartphones in our lives is far from being fully understood, so we want to pick up on a particular aspect which is the germ infestation.
In a study that looked for a particular bacteria that is associated with skin, respiratory and digestive diseases, the smartphone carried 7 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. It is worth mentioning that a tablet fared even worse, with 30 times more bacteria. The one thing though, you will not do with neither a tablet nor a toilet se at, but you will do with a smartphone is to touch your face on a regular basis several times a day.
Now that I got your attention, let's have a look at what we can do about it.
Dry versus wet cleaning
We will cover in a minute a full kit that allows thorough cleaning of your smartphone and that includes the use of liquids for proper disinfection. The problem is that it is unrealistic to expect that you will carefully swab your smartphone several times a day.
The solution is to carry a piece of microfiber cloth ( like this one ) that you can have handy in your pocket or your bag. The good news is that even if it is used dry, the microfiber cloth manages to eliminate 93% of viruses and 98% of bacteria. Make sure the cloth is lint free.
In case you do not have the microfiber available and you still want to run a quick clean-up, avoid paper. In whatever shape or form, paper has the potential to scratch the screen and leave tiny marks that will decrease the viewing experience. In case of emergency, it is better to grab a clean piece of cotton (like the end of your T-shirt) that has no imprints and rub quickly over the surface.
Avoid using undue pressure as this may damage the screen. And keep the microfiber close by. The same cloth can be used wet as well.
The cleaning kit
Besides the cloth and liquid, the cleaning kit can contain additional pads or pens that allow good cleaning in all the tight spots ( like this one ). As a general rule of thumb, avoid using alcohol-based cleaners or any other household cleaner. They are not formulated for surfaces of electronic devices and your smartphone will be surely damaged.
In case a specially formulated liquid (like the one in the kit above) is not available, you can substitute it with distilled water. The distillation part ensures you will not have streaks left on the screen when the water evaporates.
Now that we are using liquid, let's make sure we drastically limit the amount used. As a general rule, do not spray or splash the smartphone directly with liquid. There is a good chance some of it will find its way inside the smartphone and the touch screen will be its first casualty. There are numerous stories of screens turning gradually to a complete black after exposure to liquids. It is better to spray or dip the cloth that you will use on the screen, although again beware of getting it soaking wet.
Many smartphones have a layer on the screen that avoids excessive buildup of grime. Avoid forceful scrubbing in order to protect this layer.
For the phones that offer this option, it is advisable to remove the battery before you start cleaning. Or at least turn the phone off. Any accidental spillage has less chances to cause damage. I f you do get your smartphone wet, wipe the excess liquid off and leave it to dry for several hours before attempting to turn it on again.
The future of smartphone cleaning
An alternative both more effective and more elegant is the use of an ultraviolet sanitizer ( like this one ). Ultraviolet cleaning is an industrial procedure that can be adapted to the smartphone use. The bacteria kill rate is above 99.99% and it does that in about 5 minutes.
A novel approach has been developed by Kyocera that has produced a smartphone that you can simply wash with soap in the same way that you wash your hands. More details here.
How much do you clean your smartphone?
One way or another, we need to get better at cleaning our smartphones. After educating ourselves for generations to wash our hands regularly, we cannot afford to carry around, en masse, such biological weapons.
How frequently do you clean your smartphone? What do you use? Let us know in the comments below.