Here's How Often You Really Need To Disinfect Your Phone

While you may not keep track of exactly how often you text, tweet, swipe, post, like, snap, Zoom, or actually dial your smartphone, researchers have — and it's mindboggling. The average American checks their phone more than 90 times a day, or about once every 10 minutes, says the global tech protection company Asurion, based in Nashville, Tennessee (via Asurion).

The research firm dscout, based in Chicago, Illinois, breaks that down further, noting that average users touch their phones at least 2,600 times a day (via dscout)! Because touching surfaces can spread germs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning phones, tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, light switches, doorknobs, countertops, faucets, and toilets daily (via CDC).

Remember, COVID-19 can live on surfaces such as cardboard and copper for several hours — and lasts up to three days on plastic and stainless steel (via Mayo Clinic). Even if you're not taking precautions against COVID-19, the flu and harmful bacteria such as staphylococcus and E. coli can hang out on phone surfaces, too (via LiveStrong).

Use alcohol or disinfecting wipes once daily

Disinfecting your phone can become part of your routine if you do it after you wash your hands, especially once you return home from work, errands, or being outdoors (via Verizon). You certainly can't wash your phone with soap and water like you wash your hands, though, but you can clean your phone with rubbing alcohol, alcohol wipes, or alcohol-based disinfecting wipes. Just don't use bleach (via Hartford HealthCare).

Phone manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung used to warn consumers away from using alcohol-based wipes or cleaners on their phones, but they've changed those guidelines. They recommend choosing rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based wipes with a 70 percent concentration of isopropyl alcohol. Cleaning products that have 100 percent alcohol can damage a phone's protective coatings (via Verizon).

Here's what to do: Turn off and unplug your phone. Then apply rubbing alcohol with a 70 percent concentration of isopropyl alcohol to a lint-free cloth or a cotton ball. Wipe the phone's hard surfaces, including the screen. Let air dry.

Wipe the surfaces; don't spray the phone

Experts recommend a few additional precautions. First, if you have a waterproof smartphone, avoid the alcohol treatment or disinfecting wipes altogether. Just use soap and water on a damp cloth.

Regardless of the type of phone you have, do not get any moisture in the ports or spray liquid on the phone. Also, because alcohol can damage fabric or leather cases, don't clean the phone in its case. Use a recommended cleaner for those fabrics instead. Clean hard cases with soap and water or disinfecting wipes.

While some consumers may be curious about products that use UV light to disinfect mobile devices, virologists such as Jason Kindrachuk, Ph.D., at the University of Manitoba in Canada, say to put those on hold. 

"These are problematic, as the rate of inactivation of germs depends on both the distance between the light and the surface as well as the age of the lamp," which becomes less effective over time, he told LiveStrong.