Coronavirus: Test shows soap and water is a highly effective way to clean your devices

Don't have alcohol or Clorox wipes to clean your iPhone? Soap and water and a quick wipe off with a microfiber cloth also highly effective.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Over the past few days, I've read so much pseudo-medical nonsense on the internet that I feel like I need to have a lie-down. The amount of COVID-19 coronavirus nonsense promoted by either ignorant but well-meaning people or out-and-out charlatans looking to make a few bucks is incredible.

Yesterday, I came across a post on Facebook that recommended people wash their hands, wipe their gadgets, and even drink water that has been "activated" with some "special metal tube." Do some research and you'll discover that the "special metal tube" is filled with radioactive thorium dioxide powder and are readily available on sites such as eBay.

Yeah, you don't want that "special metal tube" anywhere near your home or office.

Apple has come out with recommendations as to how people should disinfect their gadgets. It recommends using "70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes" to "gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple product, such as the display, keyboard, or other exterior surfaces."

But what if you don't have "70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes."

Turns out you can use soap and water. And it's highly effective.

How do I know that?

Because Dr. Lena Ciric, a microbiologist from University College London, proves that it is effective.

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BBC News had Dr. Ciric test the "microbial activity" on smartphones and smartphone cases before and after cleaning them with soap and water using the state-of-the-art Hygiena EnSURE. The activity was measured in RLU or Relative Light Units and is a unit for measuring cleanliness by measuring the levels of Adenosine Triphosphate. According to Dr. Ciric, a surgical surface would need an RLU of 50 or less.

The phones and cases tested before cleaning all had RLUs greater than 50, with figures ranging from 57 to 435. After gentle cleaning with soap and water (note that you only need to use a damp cloth, not a soaking or dripping cloth, and be smart and don't plunge your devices into liquids), all the phones had RLUs under 50, figures ranging from 42 to 2.

The dirty handset with the 435 RLU reading came down to 18 after cleaning with soap and water.

So, soap and water if effective. Very effective. But Dr. Ciric is keen to point out that this cleaning isn't a one-time thing, and devices start to pick up microbes as soon as they are pawed by their owners, and that a good way to slow down this build-up is to, yes you guessed it, wash our hands.

Watch the video, it's less than a couple of minutes and very informative.

Here is another take on phone cleaning, by the good folks at iFixit.

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