Cell phones and the ick factor (cootie facts + cleaning tips)

We read an article last week about a thief in Uganda who contracted the deadly Ebola virus from a cell phone. It turns out he stole several phones from patients at a hospital and one belonged to a man with hemorrhagic fever (which recently killed 16 people in the African nation). The thief was caught when he returned to the hospital for treatment.

Photo: NIAID (MRSA)The story was a good reminder about how nasty cell phones are.

Think about all the places you use and place your phone every day.

Then remember … germs thrive in warm environments and smartphones generate heat .. plus your hands, face, mouth and body heat (if you carry your phone in a pocket) all add to the cootie cocktail.

Did you know… cellphones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats..?!

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, explains while toilets tend to get cleaned frequently, because people associate the bathroom with germs, cellphones are often left out of the cleaning routine.

Tests of eight random mobile phones from a Chicago office found “abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination,” reports the Journal, with about 2,700 to 4,200 units of the bacteria on each phone. (Drinking water is supposed to have less than one unit of the bacteria per half-cup.)

Scientists say the sort of bacteria found in the study can result in flu, pinkeye or diarrhea. “People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom,” Jeffrey Cain, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, told the Journal.

While the above test sample is small, a 2011 study in Britain showed one in six mobile phones were contaminated with fecal matter … and a 2009 study involving the phones of 200 hospital staff members found that 94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

So how do you clean a phone?

Phone companies caution against using most household cleaners since they are too harsh and may damage the coating on touchscreens. Apple’s manual specifically says “Don’t use window cleaners, household cleaners, compressed air, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia, or abrasives to clean iPhone.” BlackBerry’s manual states: “Do not use liquid, aerosol cleaners, or solvents on or near your BlackBerry device.” It’s best to use a very soft, nonabrasive cloth that is slightly damp or a cleaner specifically designed for touchscreens, like Monster’s iClean.

TLC’s How Stuff Works explains the most important tip for cleaning your cell phone is to be gentle. Swabs and cloths should be soft and lint-free. Cleansers should be pure and mild. And unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t open up the case. Not only will you void your warranty on some models, but you’re likely to cause more problems than you solve.

As far as the touchscreen, TLC has a list of “don’ts”…

  • Don’t use Windex or any other glass cleaner with ammonia. The harsh chemicals will damage an LCD display over time.
  • Don’t use a paper towel – not even a wet one — because the rough fibers can scratch the display surface. Use a microfiber cloth like the one that came with your glasses.
  • Don’t spray anything directly on your device. Water and electronics don’t mix. Lightly moisten a cloth and wipe it down

TLC explains there are plenty of disposable wipes on the market designed to both clean and disinfect cell phone surfaces. But if you want to save money, simply moisten a cloth with a prepared mix of 60 percent water and 40 percent isopropyl alcohol, available at any drug store. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly as it disinfects, ensuring that no moisture seeps into your phone’s circuitry.

cyberclean goo helps clean smartphone keypadsTo clean out crumbs or debris in crevices, a moistened microfiber cloth or Q-tip might do the trick, but again, check your phone manual first so you don’t void your warranty.

Another cool product to clean and disinfect your phone (and other items) is Cyber Clean® – a gloopy substance that is safe to use on many electronic devices. Cyber Clean Home & Office is a natural, biodegradable cleaning compound that is proven to eliminate more than 99 percent of germs commonly found on different surfaces.  Thanks to its unique membrane system, dirt and bacteria are locked inside the compound. It’s easy to use and leaves no residues, which makes it perfect for cleaning electronics such as phones and intercoms, stereo equipment, computers and keyboards, as well as gaming equipment and controls.

And one of the safest and coolest tools is a UV disinfectant wand because its light rays kill germs without touching the phone. The UV-C light wand says it kills up to 99.9% of germs and comes in handy for all types of handheld devices, ear buds, keyboards, remotes and many other gadgets and household items where germs can thrive.

uv wand sanitizes cell phones and other devices

UV wands can range in price from $30 – $100 or more and come in all shapes and sizes – even travel size (although we’re not sure what TSA would think about it..?!)

Bottom line … there are many different ways to clean the cooties off your handheld devices and please feel free to share your tips or tricks in the comments.

p.s. If you are an frequent user of Apple store devices, just think about how many nasty things are thriving on their touchscreens. Ick.

Stay safe and have a great week! j & B

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