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Mobile Device Maintenance: Should You Clean or Disinfect?

by | Jul 10, 2020

The New York Times recently published a great article entitled “Cleaning the Mobile Germ Warehouse” that does a great job of emphasizing all of the grime that builds up on your mobile devices and the germs that come with that. This article offers great insight on how to clean your mobile devices, but is cleaning alone enough?

Our most recent blog article discusses the differences between cleaning and disinfection, and the health factors associated with each term. Keep in mind that your device may be clean and free of fingerprints, but the surface of your device may still be covered in potentially harmful bacteria. On the flip side, a device that has been disinfected isn’t necessarily going to appear to be show-room clean.

The safest bet is to both clean and disinfect your device, which can be challenging for people that may not have the time to dedicate to both processes. So when is simply cleaning your device acceptable, and when is it necessary to disinfect your device? Below we outline 4 easy questions to answer to determine the best method of decontamination for your device along with some suggestions for how to clean and disinfect your mobile devices.

Should I clean or disinfect my mobile devices?

Where have you visited recently?

A few fingerprints from light use around the home and office is highly unlikely to pose any serious risks to your health, so a simple cleaning may be all that is necessary. But if you’ve spent time around people who are ill, it would be wise to disinfect your device to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria that may be growing on your mobile devices.

Have you been sick recently?

If you’ve been sick, the germs and bacteria that transferred from your hands to your screen may have the potential to linger for days, weeks, or even months. Be especially vigilant of this during flu season – the flu virus can linger on surfaces (including the screen of your phone or tablet!) for up to 12 days. Don’t put yourself or others at risk of getting sick too; take the time to disinfect.

Has anyone else around you been sick recently?

In both clinical environments and at home, devices are often shared among multiple individuals. In cases like this, it is important to be vigilant about who has been using the devices. In clinical environments, washing your hands before and after use is critical but may not be enough – devices need to be disinfected on a regular basis to keep patients safe. At home, washing your hands before and after use may be acceptable, but disinfection is always a good precautionary measure to keep your family safe.

Are you around anybody with a weakened immune system?

Mobile devices are capable of harboring pathogens that can cause serious infections forimmunocomprised individuals. If you are working in a clinical environment, or are living with somebody who is extremely susceptible to infection, it is wise to disinfect your mobile devices on a regular basis.

How to clean your mobile device

If you determine that cleaning your device is acceptable, it is very easy to remove basic dirt and grime without posing any risk to your device. According to Dr. Dubert Guerrero, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota in the recent New York Timesarticle regularly wiping down your device with a moist microfiber cloth is sufficient to eliminate many kinds of common bacteria. He also mentions that more enduring and dangerous bacteria require an additional level of decontamination.

There are mixed reviews about the best way to clean your mobile device using any sort of liquid or chemicals. Apple’s manufacturer warranty states that using any sort of liquids, sprays, or alcohols on your device will void the warranty and leave you liable for any damage so be careful not to use any chemicals that could potentially harm your device.

How to disinfect your mobile device 

When it comes to disinfection, the process of decontamination may seem a little trickier because you want to ensure you are maximizing the amount of germs being killed. In order to achieve proper disinfection you must adhere to all posted labels on the agent or device that you are using for disinfection. Without doing so, you are leaving the risk of harmful bacteria lingering on the surface, which poses a health risk to yourself and those around you. In clinical environments, a hospital becomes liable to any health problems or damages traced back to the surfaces of these mobile devices.

Two effective options when choosing to disinfect your mobile devices are: chemicals or germicidal light. There are a variety of chemical disinfecting agents that can disinfect your device (when used properly of course!), but this option also comes with the potential of damaging your device and along with other associated risks. Alternatively, germicidal light is a method that is growing in popularity and is also an effective means of disinfecting mobile devices and other surfaces.


Germs and other bacteria are always going to be present on our mobile devices. While it may not always be necessary to disinfect your mobile device, it is important to understand the differences between cleaning and disinfection, and when it is appropriate to perform each method of decontamination. Routinely cleaning and disinfecting your mobile devices is a great way to ensure the health and safety of yourself and those around you. To do this without missing a beat, we suggest you download the “CleanMe” App. See how it can keep you on track by clicking the banner below.

About the Author

David Engelhardt has over 26 years of experience in software and hardware solutions development in healthcare and manufacturing, with a particular focus on mobile technologies. David is the founder and President of ReadyDock Inc. He is passionate and committed to providing safe, and workflow efficient methods to enable clinicians and patients to enhance care through the use of innovative technologies. In the small window of time when he is not working or spending time with his amazing wife and daughter, he spends his time playing USTA tennis, collecting vinyl records, and shaping music and sound in his recording studio.

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