Q: I was letting my three-year-old play with my iPhone when she spit up all over it. Eww. I need to get it clean. Like, really clean, not just “dab-it-with-a-lint-free-cloth clean.” It’s a phone. You put it up to your face! And I just know it's crawling with germs now. How can I disinfect my iPhone?
A: Oh, that is gross! However, even if your kid hadn't aimed for your iPhone, a couple of recent studies have shown that even cellphones that haven't been victims of three-year-olds are “veritable reservoirs of pathogens.” A sample of smartphones showed abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination. So, with that in mind you’ll definitely want to clean your phone. A lint-free cloth and some alcohol should kill 99% of bacteria.
However, certain touch-screen smart-phones, including the iPhone, have an oleophobic coating on them to protect them from smudges and fingerprints. Apple specifically warns not to use any product with alcohol in it to clean the iPhone or iPad screens. Using cleaners with alcohol will wear down the oleophobic coating on your iPhone and iPad.
Now, anecdotal evidence indicates that an occasional light cleaning with alcohol doesn’t seem to have much ill effect on an iPhone, but you use it against the manufacturer’s recommendations and at your own risk. Be sure to test any cleaner you try before use. Dab a small amount of it on the corner of your cellphone’s screen. Better to damage a small piece of your screen than the entire thing.
However, most phones can be cleansed with just a small amount of mild soap and a little bit of water. Make sure that the rag is just a little wet. That will get rid of most germs. It won't kill the germs, but it will get them off your phone, which is all that really matters, right? You'll have a phone with hardly any germs on it. Of course, you'll want to consult the manual for your device before trying this at home.
If you’re truly obsessed with keeping your touchscreen germ-free and you don’t want to abrade or damage the finish in any way, you can always try UV light. The VIOLIGHT UV Cellphone Sanitizer claims that it will not only charge your cell phone, but destroy 99% of all bacteria in the process. It’s $49.99.
Or, you could just save some money and head to the beach. Good old-fashioned sunshine also produces UV rays. Normally we would tell you to keep your smartphone out of the sun, but if you want to disinfect it, try leaving it in the sunshine for a few hours just don’t let it overheat. The UV rays will kill just about anything that's still left on it. Plus, you can work on your tan while you wait.