Techilicious by Rajiv Makhni: Can your phone give you Coronavirus?

Updated on Mar 29, 2020 02:26 AM IST

Keep it as clean as your hands - and not just during a pandemic

Along with social distancing we also need to practice phone hygiene
Along with social distancing we also need to practice phone hygiene
Hindustan Times | ByRajiv Makhni

No, the headline for this column isn’t click bait or rumour mongering. It’s actually a solid question that we all must ask ourselves. And without wasting time, let me answer it right away. Yes, it can. In fact it could be one of the biggest problems in the fight against viruses and bacteria.

Classic question

For years now people have asked this one startling question: Is your phone dirtier than your toilet seat? The answer is yes, it is. In fact, your phone, your TV remote control, your smartwatch, your laptop, your tablet – all of them are dirtier than your toilet seat. And here’s why. Your toilet seat (or any part of the toilet) is cleaned every day (at least, I hope it is) with disinfectants and cleaning agents. But your phone and all other electronics that you touch everyday are never ever cleaned. Think about it. When was the last time you took your phone, your remote or anything similar and cleaned them? I’m not talking about wiping the display with some water or a screen wipe. I’m talking about a proper, thorough disinfection. Roughly 99.9 per cent of the world population do not clean their phones!

Your phone

This is why your phone becomes such an incredible carrier of all things horrible. There are so many things we do that are unhygienic and not very clean. That’s why we wash our hands multiple times and take a shower or two. But in between all of that, we touch our phone again and again, check social media, make calls and also carry our phones from place to place. We touch dirty surfaces, we take our phones to the bathroom, we sweat, we talk into our phones with passion, thus transferring spit and phlegm right into it. And once all of that super stuff mixes together, we glide our hands all over the phone screen and surface, making sure every part of the phone is contaminated. In simple laboratory tests that test phones against toilet seats, phones were found to have approximately 20 to 100 times more bacteria and viruses than the toilet seats. Studies under a microscope have shown a large amount of faecal particles as well as months old congealed phlegm (along with a whole lot of other disgusting matter) on phones.

The problem

You can wash your hands with soap, you can take a shower, you can use hand sanitiser – but the minute you touch your phone (remember, at an average you open and use your phone 150 times a day) – all that cleansing is over. Your fingers and hands are now contaminated with some pretty serious stuff. These are the hands that immediately touch your face, wipe your nose or rub your eyes, transferring everything that has been on your phone for months right onto you. Thus in this time of the Coronavirus, all the standard precautions that you’ve been asked to take are defeated with a dirty phone in your hand. Think about it. You open the tap with your elbow (or wash the tap with soap before), you wash your hands following protocol for 20 seconds, dry them and then immediately pick up your phone. Mission Wash Hands Frequently to Save Us from the Virus completely destroyed!

The minute you touch your phone, your fingers and hands are contaminated
The minute you touch your phone, your fingers and hands are contaminated

Whatever level of social distancing you are following, you are still touching surfaces and still using your phone right after. And anything on those surfaces now lives on your phone. The Coronavirus remains in a fairly active state on glass, metal and plastic for quite a long time. Guess what your phone is made of?

The solution

I could give you lots of really complicated ways to make sure your phone is disinfected (like UV wands and special chemicals), but that will only make sure no one follows it. Here are the two simplest things to do. Clean your phone with a simple cotton pad and a little hand sanitiser (not too much). Make sure you clean the phone everywhere possible and make sure you don’t get any sanitiser into any port or hole or opening (this is very important). The sanitiser should have 60 per cent or more alcohol in it (read the label). Leave the phone for about two minutes and then wipe it off with a dry cotton pad (or else it will feel a little greasy due to the glycerol in the sanitiser). Do this at least once a day and every time you come back from outside your home.

Second, DO NOT give your phone to others to use. Nothing transfers germs and viruses faster than a mouth speaking directly into your phone at a distance of less than an inch.

Times like this teach us many lessons. One of them may well be that along with social distancing we also need to practise phone hygiene. Not just for now, but always!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

Techilicious appears every fortnight

From HT Brunch, March 29, 2020

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