Everyone’s been stressing the importance of washing your hands and good hygiene for the last year, but one thing many might have missed is the importance of cleaning our smart phones and devices. Phones are on us all the time, but if we don’t clean them, we’re basically carrying around contaminated germ-factories in our pockets and purses.

Our mobile phones connect us to the world and are possibly the items we touch the most throughout the day. According to a survey conducted by the research platform Dscout, we touch our phones on average 2,617 times day – though the top 10% of users averaged 5,400. Studies have found that phones and other smart devices are covered in germs and greasy grime and are often just as dirty as the bottom of our shoes. When the coronavirus pandemic spread, people became hypersensitive about contaminated surfaces, but mobile devices have been widely overlooked. Here’s what you can do to clean them up.

Minimize smart phone exposure to germs

We take our devices everywhere – public restrooms, gyms, schools, shopping. We hand them to toddlers whose hands are sticky with who-knows-what. And we pass them around at the office to show off vacation photos. These habits are a germ’s best friend. Keeping our devices clean starts with minimizing exposure.

  • When you’re at the gym, leave your phone wrapped in a clean towel or in your purse inside a locker.
  • If you want to share photos, create a shareable Google Drive folder and send people links to view on their own phones.
  • Don’t use your phone when you’re in public restrooms where they can be contaminated by what others have left behind – including fecal matter.
  • When outside of your home, keep your phone in your pocket, purse or car.
  • When shopping, use a written shopping list, not a list kept on your smartphone.
  • Use a credit card for payment, preferably a contactless one, and not the mobile pay option on your smartphone.
  • After being in public places, only touch your phone after you have washed or sanitized your hands or removed gloves you have worn.
  • Use a hands-free device when making calls so that your phone is not pressed against your face or face mask.

How to clean smart phones and other devices

What makes it hard is that most companies discourage or prohibit the use of chemicals, including alcohol and bleach, to clean the surfaces of smart devices. Apple user guides forbid the use of “window cleaners, household cleaners, aerosol sprays, solvents, alcohol, ammonia or abrasives,” but offers little advice for alternatives. Luckily, you still have options:

Daily microfiber cleaning: Keep microfiber clothes handy and try to wipe down your phone and other devices at least once per day. Studies have shown that getting in the habit of doing this helps eliminate almost all bacterial presence on your screen. Microfiber cloths are safe to use on all devices and are recommended by every manufacturer across the board.

Screen protectors help too: Screen protectors act as a barrier between your device and solvents, allowing you to use a microfiber cloth dampened with alcohol or a damp disinfectant wipe to safely eliminate pathogens on the screen without damaging the device.

*NOTE: Whenever you clean, always be careful to keep water or moisture away from openings such as the charging port, speakers, or microphone, which could cause damage to your device.

Don’t forget the case: The screen is not the only part that needs regular cleaning. Accessories like the phone case or earbuds also should be cleaned on a regular basis. You can use damp microfiber clothes or alcohol cleaners, just be sure everything is completely dry before putting them back on or plugging them into your device.

For one last resource and reminder, you can check out this handy 5-step guide provided by the FCC for cleaning and disinfecting your phones and other smart devices.