Dirtier than toilet seats, smartphones can carry coronaviruses

With the threat of COVID-19 increasing in the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH), as well as the World Health Organization (WHO), encourages the public to further observe cleanliness.

Health authorities remind the public that proper handwashing works as one of the simplest yet most effective ways to fight not only COVID-19 but also many other diseases.

However, even if we frequently wash our hands, what if the objects that we frequently touch are actually the dirtiest? Let us take for example smartphones.

On average, Filipinos spend around ten hours and two minutes on the Internet using devices like smartphones, according to the report released by creative agency We Are Social and social media management firm Hootsuite in 2019.

Unfortunately, smartphones fall among the dirtiest things that we frequently have contact with. Ten times dirtier than toilet seats, smartphones can host an average of around 17,000 bacteria, based on a study published on the United States’ National Center for Biotechnology Information’s (NCBI) website.

Like bacteria and other microbes, viruses like coronaviruses can thrive on smartphones. Viruses that cause COVID-19 can survive up to nine days on smooth surfaces like smartphone screens, according to a study released by the Journal of Hospital Infection this February.

That said, apart from handwashing, keeping our smartphones clean can also help in our fight against COVID-19 and other diseases. Here are some tips on how to properly and safely clean your smartphone to keep diseases at bay:

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands. Wash your hands before and after you clean your phone to reduce microbial transmission.
  2. Use a soft, lint-free or microfiber cloth. Never use abrasive cloths like towels and paper towels as they may cause damage on the surface of your screen.
  3. Use 70% isopropyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol works as an effective disinfectant against microbes, particularly the ones with 70% concentration. When cleaning your phone with alcohol, use cotton balls or felt-tipped swabs when reaching areas like ports and mics to prevent liquid spilling in those parts that can damage internal components.
  4. Use liquid hand soaps with alcohol content. If isopropyl alcohol is not available, use hand soaps with alcohol content. Put a few drops on the screen and gently wipe the entire phone with a microfiber cloth. Avoid getting moisture in any openings. Wipe off the soap with a damp microfiber cloth afterward. Dry your phone off using a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
  5. Never use harsh home cleaning products. Window and household cleaners that contain strong chemical components like ammonia or hydrogen peroxide may damage your smartphone screen.
  6. Use UV light sanitation. Also used in hospital-grade disinfecting procedures, UV-C light serves as a potent solution that targets microbes. UV devices can be used as well to sanitize your smartphone.

These simple ways have been proven to significantly reduce the number of microbes found on a smartphone’s surface, as demonstrated in a study by University College of London microbiologist Dr. Lena Ciric.

Stay smart in making sure you’re doing your part in keeping safe, and always make it a habit to sanitize your phones!

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