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Here’s How to Keep Bacteria Off Your Phone

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Follow these tips to keep your phone as germ-free as possible.

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You wash your dishes when they get dirty, and wash your clothes when they get soiled, but washing your phone when you want to clean it? Not an option. A little bit of moisture on your phone could take it from functional to completely fried, right?

Given how much we use them, our devices can seem like extensions of ourselves, and we're not often inclined to think they're covered in bacteria (what would that say about us?). But the truth is that phones get dirty, and that grime and bacteria is easily transferred—both to your face, which can lead to blemishes, and to your hands, which can track those germs to other places on your body, and maybe even get you sick.

One recent small study showed that mobile phones are highly contaminated with potentially disease-causing bacteria. For the study, researchers looked at 27 phones belonging to 16- to 18-year-old students in Estonia. They found high levels of contamination on all phones, and it didn't matter whether the phones were touch screen or keypad, or what gender student used the phone. The bacteria detected on the phones, such as Micrococcus luteus, exist on human skin, so the study authors posit that the bacteria most likely came from the students' hands. 

Of course, germs are a regular part of life—they are everywhere, after all, and (hopefully) you're not constantly getting sick from coming into contact with them every day. That's your body's immune system at work. Some of the bacteria found on phones in this study, though, such as Staphylococccus aureus, can lead to infection. So, while using a phone won't necessarily get you sick, it won't hurt to try to keep it clean. Here’s how you can do that without harming your device:

Wash your hands

By washing your hands regularly, you're practicing good hygiene, whether your phone is involved or not. According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, keeping your hands clean is the best way to keep infection from spreading. If you can think of it, try to wash your hands before and after any time you have one of your epic scroll sessions through social media. Don’t forget to scrub for at least 20 seconds!

Don't take your phone to the bathroom

Device addiction is real—and who bothers taking reading material into the bathroom anymore when there are phones to keep us entertained? But bathrooms often harbor bacteria, and if it’s a public bathroom, you have no idea when or how well it was last cleaned. If gross particles getting onto your phone is in any way a concern, keep it out of reach — in a bag, pocket, or other room — while you're using the facilities.

Watch where you put it down

The link between bathrooms and germs is an obvious one, but you've seen enough "This commonplace thing is dirtier than your toilet" headlines at this point and know that many of the world's surfaces are covered in bacteria. Think of this point as an extension of the previous tip, and be mindful of where you set your phone down; if you don’t know for sure that it’s clean, keep your phone clear.

Give your phone regular cleanings

You should check your manufacturer's instructions for specifics, but in general, rubbing down your device with an alcohol-based wipe should be enough to disinfect your phone without damaging it. Apple recommends using a "soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth" while your phone is off. For Google products, you can use a soft cloth, a cleaning wipe, and even household soap. Samsung suggests giving devices a daily cleaning with a microfiber cloth, a weekly cleaning with a wet wipe, and of course, washing your hands regularly.

Get more great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.