How to clean/disinfect an iPhone
January 4, 2012 5:21 AM   Subscribe

Cleaning and disinfecting iPhones

Lately I have been doing a lot of work in medical facilities (offices, clinics, hospitals, etc). I am always weary about washing my hands, etc, but I use my iPhone a lot when I am in these places. Later in the evening when I am home, I realize all of the times that I have used my iPhone with non-clean hands in these places.

Is there a easy way to clean/disinfect an iPhone without getting water in it or ruining it?
posted by dbirchum to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I clean mine the same way I clean my laptop screen: with a soft washcloth dampened with rubbing alcohol. Some people recoil in horror at this because it strips the oliophobic coating, but I don't really care. I'd rather have a clean phone.
posted by phunniemee at 5:28 AM on January 4, 2012

I spray my phone with an antiseptic spray sometimes, then wipe it off. There's not enough liquid for it to damage the phone, but enough to clean it. Alternatively some shops sell a putty material you can use to clean your phone (I forget the name).
posted by devnull at 5:43 AM on January 4, 2012

Antiseptic wipes are your friend here.

No moisture damage, and as a bonus, they make the screen nice and shiny clean, too.
posted by rokusan at 5:51 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't use rubbing alchohol. It'll ruin the screen: it'll strip the oleophobic coating off unevenly and leave it permanently streaky.

In the future, I'd recommend keeping your phone in a ziplock bag. You can use the touch screen through the bag, and that way you can just toss the bag at the end of the day.
posted by Oktober at 5:58 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

The make phone specific wipes, although I have no idea if they are superior to regular wipes.
posted by kimdog at 5:59 AM on January 4, 2012

Is there a easy way to clean/disinfect an iPhone without getting water in it or ruining it?

Fundamentally clean? No, not without removing power and risking the coatings. The problem of touchable controls (and this includes keyboards and mice) in the healthcare practice environment is one that is hard to solve. The usual posit is to assume the keyboard and mouse are not sterile and to not touch them when gloved, or to cover them with known sterile sheets.

I like the idea of the ziplock bag, if the touch screen works for you, but, of course, this makes it hard to use as a phone. Bluetooth might help with that, but note -- if you touch a surface, then grab the bluetooth earpiece and put it in your ear, you just did what you didn't want to do with the iPhone.
posted by eriko at 6:13 AM on January 4, 2012

I have an Otterbox Defender, which has a built in hard screen protector. You can take the phone out and wash the whole case in hot water or Windex it or whatever every night. It covers all of the parts of the phone that get germy. (I have one because I drop it all the time, but I can clean it when all my kids have colds and play with the phone.)
posted by artychoke at 6:37 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have seen many, many discussions of how to disinfect various sorts of electronics on the medical library listservs, and most people use alcohol wipes, a few use UV light disinfection (probably not practical for you, but maybe!), and some keep the machines in plastic bags. No one thinks any of these solutions really eliminate all the germs, but they're considered "good enough".
posted by mskyle at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2012

I clean mine the same way I've always cleaned my mobile phones and most other electronic and electical equipment actually very mild detergent solution and a very slightly damp cloth - works for my smartphone, my blackberry, my landline phone, my remote control, my laptops etc.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:57 AM on January 4, 2012

Windex on paper towel
posted by zeikka at 7:01 AM on January 4, 2012

Screen - wipe with a water-dampened soft cloth. Old tshirts or flannel shirts are excellent for this. For the rest of it, most of the time, damp cloth, and once in a while, windex-dampened paper towel, being careful to clean the crevices.

As a patient who's had a hospital infection, I love this question. Do you have a cover for your iPhone? A jelly cover is easily removed and washed in warm soapy water, and the clear screen protector could be wiped with a windex-moistened paper towel or hand sanitizer wipe with no fear of damaging the screen. Or, put it in a ziplock baggie while at the hospital.
posted by theora55 at 7:31 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

We have been wiping down our phones with the alcohol sanitizer at the hospital, spritzing some on a paper towel and then just wiping it all over. I figure it evaporates fast enough to not seep inside, and the phones are fine a couple of weeks on.

The ziploc doesn't help if you're talking about a hospital where the problem is you moving in and out of clean/unclean areas, or between patients.

However, I can say in the past seven weeks, I've never seen a medical staff member wipe down a phone on the neonatal wards, even going in and out of an isolation room - our daughter tested positive for MRSA and was isolated - while they are very scrupulous about washing hands after entering the room and before touching anything.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:02 AM on January 4, 2012

Some people who work in the bakery kitchen with me are happy with the solution of keeping their phone in a Ziploc bag; some people use plastic wrap. I guess you could change it as often as you like.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:32 PM on January 4, 2012

Huh. I have one of those stick on screen protectors on my phone. So when I get home from the hospital every day, I just use a clorox wipe on my phone. Haven't damaged a smartphone yet and I've been doing this for a while now.

While in the hospital, I don't really clean my phone because I don't usually handle it while I'm in a patient room. If, however, I do feel like I've handled it while my hands were dirty, then I just use one of the sani wipe things that are around for disinfecting hard surfaces (same goes for my stethoscope! Really bugs me that I don't often see others clean those).
posted by quirks at 5:21 PM on January 4, 2012

Hi all,

Thanks for the responses thus far. I should have stated, that I currently am using a Otterbox Commuter case for my iPhone 4, which comes with a clear screen protector for the front, which I have installed and use.

Therefore, i am wondering about the cleaning of this and the outer rubber hard shell.

So when you are cleaning this, no moisture gets in the Home Button (or around it)?
posted by dbirchum at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2012

I think the Commuter has a regular sticky screen protector. The Otterbox Defender that I have has a screen protector that doesn't stick to the phone. It's like a window attached to the case that just sits on top of the screen. So with my case, I can take the whole case off and wash it in the sink. There is some felt inside, so I let it dry out over night if I get the inside wet. Usually I just take it off and spray some Windex-like TV cleaner all over the outside of the plastic part of case and dry it off with a microfiber cloth. The phone itself never gets dirty.
posted by artychoke at 3:52 PM on January 5, 2012

If I remember correctly, doesn't the Otterbox have an opening on the back to display the Apple logo? My husband (who destruction-tests everything he owns whether he means to or not) and I both have the Ballistic Hard Core cases, which completely encase the phone if you have both layers on (if you have only the inner hard layer without the extra outer rubber layer, the vibration switch, the headphone port, and the charging port can all be touched).
posted by Lexica at 8:32 PM on January 5, 2012

The Otterbox I have has a window for the apple logo, not a hole.
posted by artychoke at 7:27 AM on January 6, 2012

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