Rumors abound about how long COVID-19 coronavirus can survive on various surfaces. One media story said the virus survives for 3 to 4 days on your kitchen counter. Thankfully, real science has provided real evidence. It’s also told us something about your smartphone you may not want to hear.
Previous studies have shown pretty conclusively that between 92 and 95% of all mobile phones are contaminated with pathogens (1, 2) Some of those pathogens are pretty nasty. They include staphylococcus bacteria, the always fun e. coli and a variety of viruses, fungi and other bacteria.
And to answer the question bubbling up for you right now, yes, that includes the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. So your smartphone (or even your flip phone, if you’re old school) could be a COVID-19 carrier.
Let’s face it. Unless you clean your phone on a regular basis, it’s gross. One article put it this way: “Your smartphone is 7 times dirtier than your toilet.” Let that sink in for a moment.
Here’s what a scientist had to say on the matter. “We touch more surfaces than any generation in history, from ATM machines to self-checkout counters,” said Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “So, you’re picking up germs all the time on your hands and fingers, putting them on your cellphone and bringing them close to your nose, mouth or eyes.”
“Mobile phones are now mobile germ devices,” Gerba said. “You get a germ on your hand, and you use your phone. Then you go wash your hands later, but the germs are still on your phone.”
Your smartphone is a potential coronavirus carrier. Go ahead, put that thing right up against your face. You know, right by your mouth, ear and nose. You’re a bluetooth person? Great! You still have to touch your phone. Then you touch your ear buds, your face, etc.
We know from research done at UCLA that the virus survives on plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 to 4 days. (3) Given that most smartphones are primarily plastic, you can assume the same for your phone.
Wait, what? You don’t want to carry a pathogen-covered land mine around in your pocket or your bag? Good move!
Here’s how you can prevent having your smartphone become a super-spreader.
- Turn your phone off. Disconnect any cords that may be plugged in.
- If your phone is waterproof, cleaning with hot water and a mild household soap should be fine.
- If your phone is not waterproof, you can use a micro-fiber cloth and a small amount of isopropyl alcohol. Commercial wipes like Lysol or Clorox will work, too.
- If you prefer, for about $60 you can buy a “PhoneSoap,” which is a device which uses UV light to clean your phone.
Whatever method you use, frequency matters. If you are regularly in contact with a variety of surfaces, daily cleaning is suggested. If not, at least every 2-3 days.
The bottom line is, coronavirus or not, your smartphone is gross. Go clean it! When you avoid COVID-19, you’ll be glad you cleaned it!
Keep the faith and keep after it!
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