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Believe it or not, your iPhone or Android device could have more than twenty-five thousand germs per square inch, according to a microbiologist at the University of Arizona. That’s more than ten times the germs per square inch on a public toilet seat.

This is likely because our phones remain on our person throughout the day as we encounter a variety of germs. When we tap, swipe, and talk, we transfer those germs onto our smartphones.

In 2011, nearly four hundred phones in the UK were tested. One in six contained traces of fecal matter. In another study, students placed their phones in Petri dishes with bacteriological growth media. Three days later, germs from skin bacteria to disease-causing pathogens had grown.

Experts urge smartphone users to start the cleaning process by washing their hands after going to the bathroom, as well as leaving phones out of bathroom stalls.

It can also help to keep your phone off the counter while cooking. This can help avoid the spread of salmonella.

Smartphone users should clean their phones at least once each day by fully removing the device from any casing and wiping down parts with a damp cloth and antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol. It seems far fewer users practice this routine than necessary.

“I think it’s really important, especially if you are around children, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems,” William DePaolo, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California, told CBS news. “If you’re not doing it for yourself, you should do it for those around you.”

Tools often used to clean smartphones include a lint-free microfiber cloth, cotton swabs, distilled water, and rubbing alcohol. The microfiber cloth will keep lint and fiber from sticking to your screen. Cotton swabs can be replaced with Q-tips. Distilled water lacks the chemicals of tap water and won’t leave a film after drying. Rubbing alcohol will clean your keypad and/or hard plastic.

You should not, under any circumstances, use household chemicals or disinfectants to clean your smartphone. This includes aerosol sprays, window cleaners, or all-purpose liquids. These could stain your phone or remove the finish entirely.

Begin the process by turning off your phone and removing the case. If you can remove the battery, do so now. Screen protectors should also be removed now. However, if you have cracks on your smartphone screen, avoid removing the protector. The cracks could spread.

Next, clean your keyboard or keypad with a cotton swab dipped in diluted rubbing alcohol. Then, clean the rest of your phone plastics. Use light pressure throughout this process to avoid removing the finish. Metal should be cleaned with a water dampened swab rather than rubbing alcohol.

Finally, use a dry cotton swab to remove remaining dust from under the battery cover and inside the keyboard. You should also take a moment to clean your camera lens with water only.

The last step involved in cleaning your smartphone is the screen itself. Use a dampened microfiber cloth and single strokes to keep from spreading dirt.

This process should be repeated as least once per day to keep your phone from collecting too many germs.

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