Cleaning the mobile germ warehouse

Take a look at your mobile device. Do you see oily fingerprints and lint on the touch screen? Dust and crumbs forming particulate frost in the corners? Is that a hair stuck at the screen's edge?

Because our electronics are constantly within our grubby grasp, they can get pretty gross. They are taken into public restrooms, handed to runny-nosed toddlers, passed around to share photos and pressed against sweaty skin in gyms. Repeated studies show what accumulates is germy nastiness worse than what is on the bottom of your shoe.

"That devices can be a source of disease transmission is not a subject of debate anymore," said Dr Dubert Guerrero, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota, and co-author of a study about the persistence of bacteria on iPads published in November in The American Journal of Infection Control.

So it is a good idea to keep your devices clean, not only to keep from getting sick but also to maintain resale value when it's time to upgrade. Derek Meister, a technician for the Geek Squad, American retailer Best Buy's repair and online support service, said. "People don't want any marks or grime on their devices. The better the condition, the more like new it is, the more money you get on your trade-in."

A word of warning: Cleaning your device can be tricky, since you don't want to damage it and manufacturers don't give you much guidance. It can be done, however, if you're careful and conscientious.

Dr Guerrero and his colleagues found that regularly wiping down your device with a moist microfibre cloth was sufficient to eliminate many kinds of common bacteria. More enduring and dangerous bacteria like clostridium difficile (which can cause diarrhoea or even inflammation of the colon) and flu viruses may require a sterilising agent like bleach or alcohol, he said.

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