How to Sanitize Your Phone, Laptop, and Other Digital Devices

In recent weeks, you’ve probably become more aware of how easy it is to pick up and spread germs over the course of your daily activities.

Proper handwashing methods are having their moment in the spotlight, prompting many to ask, “what else can I sing besides ‘Happy Birthday’ twice?” As expected, the Internet did not disappoint, and now you have numerous choices for song snippets hitting the 20-second mark. Proper handwashing habits can help keep us all healthier. But there is one essential element of our daily lives not receiving the proper sanitizing attention: our devices.

Sanitize Your Phone

Dirty Devices

We won’t gross you out with the statistics, but we will say that your smartphone is probably a lot more germ-ridden than you realize. Think about it: what other item accompanies you everywhere you go… to the store, to the restroom, to your home, to your desk?

Research has shown that the average user touches their smartphone more than 2,600 times per day. That means that even though you wash your hands thoroughly, the moment you pick up your phone, you’re right back at Square One.

It stands to reason that if we are wiping down shopping cart handles, door knobs, and other frequently-used surfaces, we should pay attention to our devices, too. But what’s the best way to sanitize your smartphone?

Clean Your Screen

The touch screen on your smartphone works because it’s treated with an oleophobic coating, which resists the natural oils on your fingertips while also making it possible for your screen to register touch. Without this coating, your screen would not be able to respond accurately to the thousands of touches it receives daily. Therefore, it’s important not to damage this coating when you clean your phone. (This also applies to any device that uses a touchscreen, such as a tablet.)

First and foremost: liquids can damage your phone! While it might be tempting to douse your phone with hand sanitizer or disinfectant spray, spraying these substances directly onto your phone can damage it. Instead, begin by turning off your phone and disconnecting it from the charger. Remove the protective case and unplug earbuds, as well. You will need to clean these items separately.

Use a clean microfiber cloth and dampen it with a dilution of distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol. (Key word here: dampen. Don’t saturate your cloth with liquid!) Wipe your device – front, back, sides, edges, buttons – with the damp cloth and allow it to dry. Repeat as needed.

Conventional advice from cell phone manufacturers has been to never use a disinfecting wipe on your device. However, Apple recently came forward with advice regarding the use of 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes and other disinfectant wipes. You CAN use these products on your device as long as you do so carefully and do not allow excess moisture to come in contact with device openings such as the charger port.

Cleaning Keyboards, Mice, and Other Peripherals

When it comes to your laptop, mouse, earbuds, headsets, and other electronic devices, the same advice applies. Unplug the device, disconnect all cords and chargers, and use a cloth dampened with a disinfecting solution. Again, a damp cloth is key. Do not use a cloth or disinfecting wipe that is saturated with liquid. Any liquid that finds its way into your device can damage it and maybe even render it unusable.

Please also be mindful of the type of disinfectant you use to clean your device. Do not use harsh, abrasive cleansers or chemicals such as bleach. Use only a soft, clean cloth such as a microfiber cloth – never use paper towels. And before you begin your cleaning process, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly.

Keeping Your Devices Clean

In this new era of caution and cleanliness, you will likely need to sanitize your devices on a regular basis. Remember, every time you pick up or touch your device, you will transfer germs and microbes between your hands and your device. Even if you’ve recently washed your hands (for the recommended 20 seconds, of course), if you haven’t disinfected your device as recently, it could be a moot point.

In particular, the portability of smartphones means that they literally go everywhere we go. That means they visit public rest rooms, restaurant tables, retail counters, and hundreds of other places over the course of a typical day. It’s the kind of thing that can turn you into a germaphobe if you think about it too much. However, practicing good personal hygiene as well as faithful device hygiene can help to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as the regular flu and countless other illnesses.