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Getting rid of germs on your gadgets

CREATED Jul 7, 2014

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College student Koyia Tuttle admits she doesn't do much to clean off her phone. "My idea of cleaning my phone is wiping it on my shirt or my pants."

That may not be the best way to kill germs, but do you have to shell out cash for specialized phone hygiene products? Professor Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona is a top researcher on mobile equipment and the spread of germs. He tested how different products tackle bacteria.

"With mobile equipment we've made more germs more mobile today. They can move around," he said.

Phone Kleen wipes claim to disinfect cell phones. They cost about $20 a box. Do they work?

"They reduced the number of bacteria to an undetectable level," Professor Gerba says.

A Cleanwell disinfectant spray says it kills 99.99% of germs. In one test it got rid of about 95.5%. For $8 a canister, Professor Gerba says, "The spray solution seemed to eliminate the number of bacteria very readily from the surface."

What about UV light cleaners? A portable UV disinfector says it kills 99% of germs. One test showed it reduced about 73% of germs. A more expensive clean wave sanitizing wand makes the same claim, and it reduced the germs down to zero.

"I was surprised that all of them seemed to work fairly well in reducing the number of germs on the phones," Professor Gerba admits.

While getting germs off your phone is important, experts say you have to be sure not to wreck it in the process.

Todd Hasleton is Executive Director of Mobile at Technobuffalo. He says, "You could accidentally get liquid inside the headphone jack, which would ruin your audio experience inside the speakers; get liquid inside the speakers, inside the microphone, in which case nobody would be able to hear you on the phone. Or you could get it inside of the charging port, which could fry your electronic completely."

As for college students who use their clothes to clean their phones, they may consider more sterile methods. Student Xandy Peterson says, "I'm definitely going to do things differently in regard to cleaning my phone."

Soon phones may be more germ resistant and easier to clean, with anti microbial covers, and water resistant surfaces.