For many of us, the smartphone has almost become another appendage. We spend hours on them, connecting with friends, getting caught up on the news, playing games, and watching videos.
In fact, one survey found that the average person touches their mobile phone more than 2,000 times a day.
All that contact means phones can harbor lots of bacteria, germs, and viruses.
Many of those microbes may not be life-threatening, but the coronavirus in the current pandemic can be deadly.
And besides being very contagious, the coronavirus appears resilient, lingering in the air and on surfaces for a fairly long time. How long? It varies. An analysis published March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours.
To guard against contracting the coronavirus, the World Health Organization urges people not only to wash their hands frequently, but clean the surfaces they come into contact with as well. Smartphones fall in that category.
So, how should you clean this expensive piece of technology without damaging it?
First, a few things you shouldn't do.
The screen of a smartphone is covered with what is called an "oleophobic coating." This thin layer is designed to keep out fingerprints and moisture.
Disinfectants or some wipes can damage this screen. Don't use them.
So, what should you use? Apple recently updated its cleaning suggestions, advising that 70-percent isopropyl alcohol wipes be used. The alcohol dries quickly and wipes out any microbes on the surface of the phone.
Also, you can wipe down your phone with a cloth, preferably one that is soft and lint-free. Apple and Samsung both advise this method as well.
But if you don't have wipes or cloths at hand, what should you do?
Luckily there's a simple and effective alternative: soap and water. First, don't submerge the phone -- even if it is water-resistant. Take a piece of cloth or paper towel, add soap that will lather up and contains a detergent. Wipe it over the phone, then wipe it off with another cloth or paper towel slightly moistened with water. After all the soap suds are gone, pat dry the phone. That's it. Your phone should now be germ-free, or very close to it.
How often should you clean your phone? That depends on how often you use it, but Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University's Langone School of Medicine, says he cleans his twice day – "once in the morning and once in the evening."