How to disinfect your phone—and why it’s essential to do so

Whatever you’re disinfecting, your goal is the same—clean it, then kill any harmful viruses and bacteria lingering on the surface. Your cell phone needs to be disinfected perhaps more than any other item you own. But cleaning it takes a more gentle approach than, say, scrubbing your bathroom tile grout. Luckily, new cleaning products specifically for electronic devices make it easy.

Disinfecting your phone with a wipe
Disinfecting your phone with a wipe

Table of contents

CDC recommendations for disinfecting devicesWhat to use to clean your phoneHow to disinfect your phone in 8 easy stepsTips for keeping your phone clean

CDC recommendations for disinfecting devices

The Centers for Disease Control lists electronic devices as one of the high touch items that you should be cleaning on a regular basis—especially during cold and flu season. They haven’t published definitive information about how long COVID-19 can live on surfaces, but they have shared research from The New England Journal of Medicine that shows COVID-19 having a lifespan of up to 72 hours on plastic surfaces like phones. 

Aim to clean your phone daily, unless you (and your phone) are at a high risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 or other infectious diseases. In that case, disinfect your phone multiple times a day, after each use during which it could be exposed to dangerous germs.

Disinfecting is the essential step. That’s because disinfectants are more effective at killing viruses than other types of cleaning products. They are used to clean surfaces that come into contact with lots of dangerous germs that people spread through touch and bodily fluids. To become an EPA-registered household disinfectant, the product must be able to kill 100% of bacteria, viruses, and funghi, when used correctly.

What to use to clean your phone

The best cleaning products for your phone are a microfiber cloth and an alcohol-based disinfectant approved for electronics. Lysol makes one specifically for cleaning electronics and Clorox disinfectant wipes are electronics-approved, according to Apple’s latest policy. Stay away from products that use bleach, as bleach can damage the coating on your screen. 

A Lysol wipe, Clorox wipe, or other disinfecting wipe is safer than using a spray, which can force moisture into the device and cause damage. The same goes for compressed air, which can force unwanted particles into your phone. If you can’t find disinfecting wipes, you can use a microfiber cloth or paper towel soaked with rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol—as long as they are 70% alcohol or higher. Dry the surface completely after if you use this method. 

Some people advocate for disinfecting with UV light, which is common for home dental tools like electric toothbrushes. But the EPA only guarantees the disinfectants on their list, so to be certain, stick with a disinfecting cleaning product. 

How to disinfect your phone in 8 easy steps

  1. Power down your phone.

  2. If you keep your phone in a case, remove the case and set aside.

  3. Wipe your phone with a clean microfiber cloth or lens cloth. This step removes germs by lifting them off, but doesn’t kill them (the next step will). This step also removes dirt and oil that could prevent the disinfectant from doing its job.

  4. Gently wipe your phone with disinfectant, avoiding the ports. If you need to get around buttons or other detailed areas, wrap a wipe around a q-tip to get into the harder to reach places.

  5. Let the disinfectant sit for the manufacturer's recommended contact time.

  6. Allow to air dry, or dry with a paper towel. 

  7. Repeat steps 1-6 with your phone case.

  8. When you’re all done, toss the cleaning wipes, put the microfiber cloth in the laundry, and wash your hands.

Tips for keeping your phone clean

Your phone is one of the most frequently touched surfaces in your daily life, so it’s important to keep it clean. 

  • Washing your hands regularly will help prevent you from transferring germs to your phone. Use hand sanitizer when you aren’t able to wash your hands. 

  • Try not to let people touch your phone when you are showing them something on your screen. If someone needs you to make a call, dial for them and use the speakerphone setting.

  • Don’t use your phone while in the restroom (especially public restrooms).

  • Don’t use your phone while on public transit. Get your playlist or podcast set before you get on, and try not to take it out while you travel.

Cleaning and disinfecting your phone properly will completely kill all germs on your phone’s surface and can help lower your risk of spreading germs. Try to work it into your daily routine by keeping disinfecting wipes in a visible and convenient place as a reminder.   

Your phone isn’t the only thing that needs to be cleaned and disinfected. You should regularly clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces in your home. In Bungalow homes, monthly cleanings are always on the books. 

Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in so that communal living is seamless. Find a Bungalow near you.

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