Are you reading this on your phone right now?
My phone touches everything I do. I historically don’t clean my phone as often as I wash my hands. It doesn’t help that my phone spends a lot of time in warm, dark places like pockets and purses — ideal conditions for many germs.
It’s probably hard to hear, but the number of germs on your phone might bring new meaning to the concept of “dirty talk.” Studies show your smartphone is a breeding ground for germs. More than you could ever imagine, in fact.
But between the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, bathroom breaks that are better with Instagram, and all the questionable surfaces we leave our phones on, there’s really no way to avoid germs.
Apparently it’s OK to use Clorox disinfecting wipes and 70% isopropyl alcohol on Apple devices. (Apple previous warned they might be too abrasive for screens.) But what about the popular PhoneSoap phone sanitizer, an intense-looking device that uses UV-C light to supposedly “disinfect your phone, while also charging your phone”?
I have the PhoneSoap Go, which can be charged ahead of time and taken on the go to clean your phone at anytime, anywhere. Other PhoneSoap products include the the PhoneSoap 3, which sanitizes and also charges in 10 minutes ($80); the PhoneSoap Pro, which sanitizes in 5 minutes ($120); the HomeSoap, which is big enough for larger devices like tablets, remotes and small laptops ($200); and the AirSoap, an air purifier that kills and captures even the smallest viruses HEPA filters can’t ($400).
As someone who can trace every cheek pimple back to a handheld phone call, I was intrigued by the idea of portable product that might disinfect a phone that goes with me everywhere — from the bathroom to the bedroom.
Interestingly, searches for the PhoneSoap device increased rapidly in 2020 during the weeks leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, CNN Underscored deemed PhoneSoap “the phone sanitizer you didn’t know you needed.” Business Insider called it a “clever device,” while Engadget deemed it “the most intense” of phone sanitizing devices.
What is PhoneSoap, and how does it work?
PhoneSoap is a small chamber that uses a UV-C light to safely sanitize your phone and other small personal items (i.e. smartwatch, AirPods, MetroCard, credit cards, and pretty much any other small items that will fit in the chamber).
Think of it like a pint-sized tanning bed for your phone. The product claims to eliminate 99.9% of household germs in less than 10 minutes using UV-C light, a short-wavelength, ultraviolet light that has been shown to neutralize airborne microbes so they become inactive.
A 2018 study at the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Irving Medical Center found that continuous far UV-C light “can kill airborne flu viruses without harming human tissues” and that it “may offer low-cost solution to eradicating airborne viruses in indoor public spaces.”
My main concern when testing PhoneSoap for myself was that your phone doesn’t actually come out looking any different after its spent 10 minutes in the UV chamber. It’s still just as greasy and smudgy coming out as it was when it went in.
So how do you know if it really works? Fortunately, the Discovery Channel did a deep dive on PhoneSoap and found that, after undergoing laboratory testing, PhoneSoap eliminated all of the germs from a phone.
We also checked with Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona who has earned the nickname “Dr. Germ” on and off campus. We asked Gerba about the UV-C light technology behind the PhoneSoap to see if there’s any truth to the claims that it kills “99.9% of household germs.”
“An alcohol wipe is the best way to sanitize your phone. UV light will sanitize your phone too. Both a wipe and UV light will work well.”
“Phones get pretty germy,” Gerba said. Gerba has studied bacteria on hundreds of phones, and found that they can be involved in the transmission of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of staph bacteria that’s resistant to most antibiotics for typical staph infections.
“An alcohol wipe is the best way to sanitize your phone,” Gerba said. “UV light will sanitize your phone too. Both a wipe and UV light will work well.”
So, is PhoneSoap really worth the hype?
I usually keep my PhoneSoap device on my nightstand. I’ve gotten into the habit of popping my phone into the chamber to sanitize while I take a shower, so my phone and I can wash up at the same time.
I also use PhoneSoap for my AirPods, and as a sort of “phone jail” for when I need to study and can’t stop looking at my notifications. Whatever gets the job done, right?
These days, I still wipe down my phone with an alcohol wipe religiously. (Some experts also say warm, soapy water is fine, too.) But the ease of the PhoneSoap by my nightstand reminds me to clean my phone every day — and does the dirty work for me.
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