How to safely sanitize phones, computers during coronavirus pandemic

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Sanitizing surfaces that are frequently touched is one of the top recommendations agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are making to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

However, electronics like computers and phones are more difficult to clean correctly.

Studies show the average person touches their phone at least 47 times a day. That makes them a hot spots for germs. Research shows they can be 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. It picks up bacteria every place it goes. The more germs it collects, the more germs its owner touches.

People working from home may now be touching their phones and computers more often, too.

So what’s the best way to sanitize a phone? The key is to use a cleaner that will clean an electronic device without damaging it.

“You’ve got to be careful with harsh chemicals,” said IT security expert Craig Petronella. He has created a remote working security checklist.

Stay away from straight alcohol when sanitizing a phone or tablet because it can strip off coatings that protect the device’s screen. Instead, use 70 percent alcohol or disinfectant wipes. It’s worth noting that alcohol needs to have a 60-percent concentration or higher to kill the COVID-19 virus.

It’s best to get into a habit of sanitizing a phone multiple times a day. Be sure to unplug it and to avoid getting liquids into openings.

“If you’re worried about the chemicals eroding the screen, clean the phone thoroughly at first and then buy an encapsulating case like an Otterbox or Lifeproof case,” Petronella said. “Then spray the solvents or clearer on the case as opposed to directly on the device.”

Items like computer mouses that are frequently touched need to be cleaned often, as well. Never use bleach.

“For that stuff, I would use Lysol and things like that,” Petronella said. “I personally use Lysol and haven’t had any trouble.”

Monitors and touch screens need their own special treatment. Commercial screen wipes will clean the surface, but won’t disinfect it. They’re only meant to remove dirt and oils. Instead, use 70 percent alcohol and wipe the screens down. Never use ammonia or bleach, and never pour the disinfectant directly on the device.

Click here to sign up for Petronella’s email newsletter that will also help when it comes to dodging the virtual viruses circulating cyberspace.

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