Singing 'Happy Birthday' to yourself when washing your hands might be part of your daily routine now, but many of us neglect to clean the one device we're often glued to during the day: our phones.
A smartphone can be up to four times dirtier than a toilet seat according to some tests, and given we use them every day at every point of the day, from preparing food to using public transport, they can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
In a study carried out by Insurance2go and released in 2018, swabs were taken from an iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy 8 and Google Pixel to measure how much aerobic bacteria, yeast and mould could be found on them.
As they spend the vast majority of our waking days either nestled under our hair and against our faces, gripped in our hands and tossed on god knows what kinds of surfaces, it's not surprising that they pick up a lot of bacteria.
The highest levels of bacteria were found on the phones' screens, with 100 colony forming units (CFU) per cm2 for the Samsung Galaxy, 40 CFU for the iPhone, and 12 CFU for the Google Pixel. This is compared to 24 CFU on a toilet seat and flush.
Many smartphone companies have guidelines for cleaning your phone, and Apple suggests using 70% isoprophyl alcohol wipes to safely and gently clean your phone. These are particularly good for areas around the camera and buttons, where dirt and grime is most likely to build up. You can buy cleaning wipes in any major phone shop or online.
However, if you don't want to head into town to grab your wipes, or can't wait for an online delivery to arrive, don't worry: as with washing your hands, simple soap and water will do the trick for cleaning your phone.
Using a microfibre cloth – the kind that comes with glasses – you can quickly and safely clean all your smart devices, as the positive-charged polyester fibres and negative-charged nylon fibres attract dirt to the cloth.
You don't need to use water to clean with them, but to kill bacteria soak the cloth in a small bit of water and normal hand soap. Remove your phone case and gently wipe down the phone, avoiding the charging ports and speaker areas so that no water falls into them.
Naturally, your phone will pick up bacteria every time you use it, but getting into a good routine of wiping down your phone – especially after taking calls or when using it at the same time as cooking or using public transport – is a worthwhile thing to develop.