Germs on Cell Phones: How to Clean and Disinfect

Last Update: June 15, 2021

Here’s a riddle: What gets toted around in purses and back pockets, costs several hundred dollars, gets taken to bed, and is dirtier than a public restroom?

Your cell phone.

Yes, that’s right. The average cell phone is 18 times dirtier than a toilet handle, and tests have found everything from e. coli to the bacteria that cause strep throat on these devices.

To make things even worse, a test of eight cell phones conducted by the Wall Street Journal found anywhere from 2,700 and 4,200 units of coliforms—a bacteria that often indicates fecal contamination—on the devices. To put that number in perspective, drinking water must have no more than 1 coliform per 100 milliliters of water to comply with federal standards.

Disgusting, we know. The idea of carrying all the germs of a public restroom in your back pocket is unsettling, to say the least. But how can you clean your phone—and why don’t we clean our electronics more often?

Most cell phone makers recommend using a microfiber cloth to clean your phone, and while that may wipe away oily smudges, it’s not eliminating any bacteria. These cloths are great at getting rid of fingerprints, though, and a Q-tip can also be a handy tool for cleaning crumbs out of small crevices.

Just can’t live with the idea of thousands of bacteria clinging to your iPhone? Isopropyl alcohol—also known as rubbing alcohol—is the most effective, removing 99 percent of bacteria. To clean your phone with this method, moisten a cloth with a solution of 60 percent water to 40 percent alcohol and wipe your electronics all over. A mixture of 50 percent distilled white vinegar and 50 percent water can also do the trick.

If you want to get really high tech, try a phone sanitizer that uses UV rays to disinfect. Since these products don’t use any liquids to clean, you can be sure they’re safe for your phone.

No matter how you do it, make an effort to sanitize your phone. The peace of mind it brings is so worth it.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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