How to Clean and Disinfect Your Mobile Devices
We have a lot of experience in managing mobile devices for business, from device ordering to wireless bill optimization to providing mobile help desk support. But there’s one thing we can’t do: Clean your phone for you. And since many companies have adopted work-from-home practices to help slow the spread of coronavirus (ourselves included), proper cleaning of mobile devices has become more important than ever.
Every mobile device manufacturer will have slightly different instructions for cleaning their devices, of course — you can check out Apple’s instructions for cleaning here, if you want to go to the source, or find Samsung’s instructions here. But despite minor differences, there are also cleaning tips that seem to cross all devices — and which would be helpful for you to keep in mind as you go about keeping your phone clean.
Here are Five Tips for Keeping Your Mobile Device Clean and Disinfected:
1. Unplug Your Device Before Cleaning
We shouldn’t really need to say this, but it’s better safe than sorry: Unplug your mobile devices before exposing them to liquid. It’s safer for them — and for you.
2. Don’t Immerse Your Device in Liquid.
Another common-sense tip. Most modern mobile devices will have some resistance to liquid — but that’s not nearly the same thing as “waterproof.” You wouldn’t intentionally drop your phone in the pool, so don’t intentionally drop it into a bucket of cleaning solution or disinfectant, either.
3. Don’t Clean with an Abrasive Cloth
The glass on your device face can be easily scratched by abrasive cloth as you’re cleaning. Important pro-tip: Paper towels are also abrasive, so don’t use them. Rather, use a microfiber cloth, if you can find one. Most devices ship with one, but let’s face it — they can get misplaced. If you can’t find a microfiber cloth, it’s okay to use a soft cotton t-shirt — just be sure to wash it afterwards. (Apple also says that it’s okay to use wipes like Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.)
4. Spray Cleaning Solution onto Cloth, Not the Device
This is in line with tip #2 not to immerse your device. If you’re spraying cleaning solution directly onto your device, you’re running the risk of getting liquid into the charging port or somewhere else in the device, which can do serious damage. Instead, spray your cleaning solution onto your microfiber cloth before gently using it to clean your phone.
5. Don’t Use Bleach
Bleach can damage your phone. If you’re concerned about disinfecting your phone, a much better strategy is to use a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol as your cleaning agent. Both Apple and Samsung are on board with this, so you’re in good company, here.
Following these steps to keep your mobile devices clean, along with proper hand-washing, can help to slow the spread of coronavirus and make working from home more effective. How often this should be done is more of an open question, but certainly you should make it part of a regular routine, as well as when you’ve had it at the grocery store, for example.
As always, we wish you all health and prosperity.
The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to cleaning and disinfecting personal mobile devices. That intuitively makes sense, because we are constantly handling our phones and then pressing them against our face, close to our mouth and nose. The importance of keeping our hands away from our face to avoid infection is now well understood, so it is no wonder a dirty phone is now so repulsive.
Does all this extra cleaning risk damaging these sensitive electronic devices? We take our smart phones for granted, but they are actually marvels of engineering, being economical, sophisticated, miniature, and rugged at the same time. They can take a beating, but there are limits.
In this paper, I combine primary sourcing from the CDC, Apple, and Samsung along with our own high precision cleaning expertise to give you the best practices for cleaning your mobile devices.
Cleaning Versus Disinfecting
First, let’s get our terminology straight. The CDC defines cleaning as “the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.”
So the typical method of cleaning your smart phone with a microfiber cloth (or your shirt sleeve) removes finger prints and may lower the amount of viral contamination on the surface, but doesn’t kill anything.
The CDC defines disinfecting as “using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.”
CDC Recommendations for Cleaners
The CDC provides a list of disinfectants [https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2] tested and proven effective for SARS-CoV-2, so presumably also effective on COVID-19. These are a mixed bag of cleaning agents, some of which could be used on mobile devices without harm, but many should not be.
The CDC did provide specific guidance for mobile devices:
“For electronics follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products. Consider use of wipeable covers for electronics. If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens. Dry surfaces thoroughly to avoid pooling of liquids.”
I thought it would be helpful to also review recommendations from two of the largest brands of mobile phones…
The following is from Apple’s cleaning guidelines, recently updated to include disinfecting:
Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your iPhone. Don’t use bleach. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your iPhone in any cleaning agents.
- Unplug all cables and turn off your iPhone.
- Use a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth—for example, a lens cloth.
- Avoid getting moisture in openings.
- Don’t use cleaning products or compressed air.
Your iPhone has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic—oil repellent—coating. On iPhone 8 and later, the coating is on the front and back. This coating wears over time with normal use. Cleaning products and abrasive materials will further diminish the coating and might scratch your iPhone.
Samsung provided similar guidelines:
Before starting, make sure your device is powered down and unplugged from any power sources. Remove any covers, cases, or accessories as well.
- A lint-free, soft microfiber cleaning cloth is ideal for cleaning your device. You may also use a camera lens cleaning cloth. These are gentle and will not damage your device.
- Gently wipe the front and back of your device with the microfiber cloth. Do not apply too much pressure.
- You should avoid getting excess moisture onto your device; however, you may dampen the corner of the microfiber cloth with a small amount of distilled water.
- You can also use a disinfectant, such as a hypochlorous acid-based solution (containing 50-80ppm) or an alcohol-based solution (containing more than 70% ethanol or isopropyl alcohol). Do not apply these liquid solutions directly to your device; they should be carefully applied to a microfiber cloth instead.
- Avoid using cans of compressed air, as they may damage the surface of your device.
- Do not use spray bleach on your device.
Summary of Smart Phone Cleaning Guidelines
As expected, there are some commonalities among the recommendations from the CDC, Apple, and Samsung:
- Use 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) – The CDC uses the more general term “alcohol”, but in the US that generally means IPA. It is commonly available from Chemtronics and other suppliers, even your corner drugstore. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) could also work, but it is harder to come by because of regulations dating back to the prohibition era. Another name for that is grain alcohol. Less than 70% will not be as effective at killing viruses, and higher percentages like 90 to 99% will likely evaporate too quickly for adequate exposure time. IPA will not generally negatively affect the plastics, metals, and glass used in the construction of your mobile devices. Non-glare, non-printing surfaces that are made from a coating (vs. sand blasted or molded texture) are more risky, so try not to overdo the cleaning when present.
- Don’t oversaturate your device – Charging ports, audio plugs, SIM slots, mic and speaker openings, and seams around buttons and lenses are all places where solvent can work in and cause problems. Avoid spraying IPA directly on your device, and certainly don’t submerge it. You can either spray IPA onto a cloth, or use a presaturated wipe so solvent application is more controlled. Remember, the point is to disinfect contact areas. Cleaning with a dry wipe or swab is still preferable in ports, on lenses, etc.
- Use a non-abrasive cloth – Many don’t realize that paper towels are made of cellulose, or wood pulp. Repeated wiping with a paper towel risks scratching or scuffing the surface of your device. A soft, lint-free wipe is your safest choice. A nylon based microfiber cloth, either the shiny cloth that come with a pair of glasses or a terry-cloth material common for buffing a car, are good choices for absorbency and non-abrasiveness.
- Power down your device – When electronics are being assembled, it is very common to clean them with water-based or solvent cleaners. This gets problematic when the device is powered, and the liquid can short-circuit contact points. Powering down a device before cleaning is always a good idea. Keep in mind that even when a mobile phone is technically off, the power is still engaged, so shorts are still possible. You still need to avoid over-saturating your device. The only way to truly power off your phone is by removing the battery, not exactly practical for iPhones.
Chemtronics Products for Cleaning Mobile Devices
Since Chemtronics has specialized in high precision cleaning for over 50-years, it should be no surprise we offer a number of products for cleaning and disinfecting mobile devices:
Just admit it. Sometimes you spend longer than needed in the bathroom because you get carried away scrolling through your social media feeds and reading your emails. Even though this is a harmless act, millions of germs collect on the surface of devices. To ensure that your business does not follow you outside of the bathroom here’s how to properly disinfect your devices.
Why Should I Care?
Viruses and germs such as COVID-19 can live on commonly touched surfaces for up to three days according to the CDC.
Think about every surface you intentionally touch every single day. You touch the screen of your phone, your laptop’s keyboard, your remote control. As you go throughout your day, disinfecting your hands is not enough to prevent further spread.
These germs are not like a software virus you can get on your phone or computer. Rather, they can make you sick if they happen to enter your system.
What is Living on My Device?
To put everything into perspective, here are stats provided by Seatle Times Journalist Bobby Caina and Mashable.
- Toilet seats: 1,201 bacteria per square inch
- Kitchen counter: 1,736 bacteria per square inch
- DoorKnobs: 8,643 bacteria per square inch
- Phones: 25,127 bacteria per square inch
These stats show that phones carry about 20 times more bacteria than the surface of a toilet seat.
Studies found that phones, tablets, and computers carry bacteria, such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, E. coli, Enterococcus feacalis, and MRSA.
How do I Disinfect My Device?
So now that you are aware of what is on the surface of your device, here are tips provided by the CDC to ensure that you properly disinfect your device.
- Unplug your device before cleaning
- Use a slightly damp cloth or wipe
- Avoid excessive wiping and submerging
- Don’t spray cleaning solution directly onto the device
- Avoid bleach and abrasive cleaning solutions
- Avoid any openings of your device when using liquids
Failing to properly clean your device can result in a lot of damage. If your device has water damage, is no longer charging, or not powering on after you disinfected it, you can visit or send it to iFixYouri to have it repaired for an affordable price.
How to Minimize the Germs
If your device has a cracked screen, wiping its surface may not be enough because bacteria can still collect in the cracks. The best solution is to get your screen repaired to prevent any further spread of germs.
To minimize the germs, the CDC also recommends that you:
- Keep your phone in your pocket or purse when outside of your home
- Use a physical shopping list rather than your phone when grocery shopping
- Use a credit card rather than mobile pay
- Only touch your phone after you have washed your hands
- Use hands-free devices when making a call so your phone is not pressed against your face