How to correctly disinfect your mobile device


21st April 2021


In this article, we discuss the evidence around the contamination of mobile devices, and how using a disinfectant wipe offers a good solution for cleaning and disinfecting them. Particularly, when used in clinical environments and after patient care.

If you’re anything like us, your mobile device (phone, tablet, smart watch etc) is basically an extension of your hands. Pretty much always with you and comes into contact with a range of microbes each day. If you happen to be a healthcare worker in a hospital or other healthcare facility, then your mobile device could become contaminated with potential pathogens.

girl wearing glasses holding tablet

Why should I clean my mobile device?

A range of studies have shown that mobile devices can become contaminated with pathogens that can cause healthcare-associated infection.

Almost 20 years ago, when mobile phones were still bricks, reports started to emerge of phones becoming contaminated with pathogens in hospitals. Even today, there is significant evidence showing that mobile devices are easily contaminated.

Also, whilst healthcare workers recognise the potential risk from their phones, research suggests they struggle to regularly clean and disinfect them. Ultimately, mobile devices should not be used in clinical areas to the extent possible. However, they are now recognised as the best way of communicating around busy hospitals, and an integral part of patient care. Therefore, we need to have effective ways of cleaning and disinfecting mobile phones.

man using tablet at cafe

What’s the best product to use to clean and disinfect my device?

We don’t want to be dipping our mobile devices into buckets of bleach, so which is the best product to use? Ideally, you’d want a product that both cleans and disinfects, because the phone could be contaminated with organic matter as well as microorganisms.

Therefore, a combined cleaning and disinfectant wipe seems like a best choice. In fact, Apple recently endorsed using disinfectant wipes on their products. When cleaning your mobile, avoid using disinfectants only (such as alcohol gels, as these often leave a residue on your phone and won't remove organic matter), paper towels, soap, or other chemicals. And don't even think about touching vinegar!

hand wiping phone with Clinell Universal Wipes

When should I clean my mobile device?

The key times to clean and disinfect your mobile device are:

  • If it becomes visibly dirty.

  • If working in a clinical setting, after you have used it during patient care.

  • At the end of a shift working in a clinical setting.

How to correctly clean and disinfect my mobile device?

Firstly, take your all-in-one wipe (which both cleans and disinfects), then open the wipe flat out in your hand. The aim is to achieve complete coverage of the device’s surfaces without going over the same area twice, and to avoid over-wetting. We find, the best approach is moving your wipe in an "S" shape pattern across your device, with one wipe for each surface. For most mobile devices, you will only need one wipe – unless you've still got your brick phone from the 1990s.

If you'd like more information on how to disinfect (almost anything!) without spreading germs, then take a look at our Five Principles of Cleaning on our Resources page. Help us spread the word about infection prevention by sharing this article on social.

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