You Need to Disinfect Your Phone. Here’s How.

As Covid-19 spreads, more questions arise. ‘Elemental’ has answers.

Follow Elemental’s ongoing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here.

AsAs of publishing time, there have been 554 reported cases of Covid-19 in 34 states across the U.S., and 22 people have died. (You can track the spread of the virus using this helpful tool built by engineers at Johns Hopkins University.) As the disease spreads, people are understandably becoming more anxious about infection, and sometimes you want more detailed prevention tips than just “wash your hands.” As additional questions arise, Elemental is committed to providing science-backed answers. Here’s some advice about keeping clean.

What are the best soaps, hand sanitizers, and cleaning products to disinfect me and my surroundings?

The good news is the new coronavirus seems to be pretty easy to kill with common soaps and detergents.

“These are enveloped viruses, which means they… desecrate pretty quickly and they’re a little fragile,” says George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Rutherford says that really any soap will do, but you need to be thorough and wash all surfaces of the hand — each finger, the palms, the backs of the hands, the wrists, under the nails — for 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizer will do the trick, but it needs to be at least 60% alcohol to work. As for household surface cleaners, something with bleach is your safest bet.

What about cleaning my cellphone or laptop?

Absolutely clean your cellphone, ideally several times a day. There are special screen and lens cleaning wipes you can buy that contain 70% alcohol and won’t scratch the surface, or you can use an eyeglass cleaner spray, just make sure it has alcohol in it. You can even make your own screen cleaner with rubbing alcohol and distilled water.

“I would be very big on cleaning your phone or things that you have out in public,” Rutherford says. “If you’re sitting around holding your cellphone in front of you and somebody sneezes and you get the particles on your phone, and you keep touching it all the time and then touch your eyes, you’re going to transmit it.”

Your laptop doesn’t require as much attention because you probably don’t use it walking around or on the subway. However, if you do use it out in public, and especially if somebody sneezes on it, be sure to clean it afterward.

This article has been updated with more recent advice.

The coronavirus outbreak is rapidly evolving. To stay informed, check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as your local health department for updates. If you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, reach out to the Crisis Text Line.

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store