If there’s one thing I’ve heard time and time again from consumers during my years at PhoneSoap, it’s “I just wipe my phone down with an alcohol wipe – works just fine.” Simply put – that’s not true. Here's why:
1. Those Hard-to-Reach Places
Your phone has hard-to-reach crevices that trap protein-rich materials—a.k.a. bacteria. Even more so if you use a case. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) have deemed ethyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol not effective in disinfecting because they lack sporicidal activity and can’t penetrate protein-rich materials.
Fortunately, there’s PhoneSoap. Our UV-C lights consistently kill 99.99% of bacteria 100% of the time. And with our patented 360-degree disinfection, you don't have worry about spots you might have missed like you would using alcohol wipes.
2. Alcohol Is Not as Effective as You May Think
Isopropyl alcohol “lacks the ability to kill hydrophilic viruses.” These type of viruses are more resistant to chemicals they don’t have a sensitive lipid layer. You can read more about it here. For this reason, alcohol for instruments like your phone is NOT considered a high-level disinfectant.
3. Alcohol Wipes Can Spread Bacteria
In addition to not being able to kill everything that PhoneSoap can, alcohol would have to be applied correctly and left on a surface for the proper amount of time in order to be somewhat effective.
The kill time of a disinfectant varies by product, but for most disinfectant wipes with alcohol, the product label typically instructs you to "leave the cleaning surface visibly wet for 4–10 minutes to fully eliminate dangerous illness-causing bacteria including Staph, E. Coli, Salmonella, MRSA, Norovirus, cold, flu, and more."
A team led by microbiologist Gareth Williams presented a study that found "all of the dirty wipes, including those with the disinfectant, still had some bacteria remaining on them. When they were reused, the wipes just transported the bacteria to another location."
We decided to conduct a study, in which we swabbed the phone of someone who regularly used alcohol as a disinfectant. See the results below:
You can see that while it did kill some bacteria, there's still quite a bit of bacteria on the phone after disinfecting with alcohol. That's because of improper application and the lack of sporicidal activity.
4. Alcohol Can Damage Your Phone
There’s one more important reason why you shouldn’t use alcohol or other liquid cleaning chemicals on your devices, and that’s the oleophobic coating. This is the special coating on your phone’s screen that prevents fingerprints, smudges, and scratches.
Have you ever noticed that a quick wipe on your shirt or cloth leaves your screen looking like new, but if you do that with a pair of eyeglasses it just smears the oil around? That’s the oleophobic coating at work.
The experts at PhoneArena.com explained exactly why you should be very careful when selecting a phone cleaner:
“It is not recommended to use any alcohol-based solutions when cleaning a capacitive touchscreen, neither is it a good idea to apply common household detergents. . . . The aggressive compounds in such cleaners can easily wipe off the oleophobic coat and leave your glass ‘naked.’”
They also pointed out that even when purchasing and using cleaners that claim to be safe for your electronics, you should still check the ingredients because “many manufacturers will feel no remorse in stamping an alcohol-based detergent as mobile friendly.”