When I asked readers what post they wanted to see during quarantine, “how to sanitize your cell phone naturally” got the most votes! (Not to mention that we should all be cleaning our phones regularly all the time.) I did some research, found great ideas in my own natural alternatives to bleach post, tested out some options, and here we go!
We touch our phones an average of 2,617 times a day and our face 23 times an hour (per DScout and PubMed).
Although some will say that EMFs, WiFi, and especially 5G are the cause of the novel coronavirus spreading so quickly (and that may hold some water), I would guess that there’s a more direct link from our phones to our faces.
It’s our hands.
And as much as we adults are relearning how to wash our hands in today’s super-hygienic environment, it would be impossible to wash your hands every time you touched your phone if you actually wanted some skin to stay on them!
Many are taking measures to sanitize their phones on a regular basis for coronavirus safety – yet another new habit for us screen-loving Americans.
How to Naturally Sanitize Your Cell Phone
Let’s start right out with the fact that I’m neither a scientist nor doctor, microbiologist nor EPA-registered hospital custodian. I’m just a gal who ditched the Mr. Yuk stickers from Poison Control almost 15 years ago, embraced a little dirt in my kids’ lives, and have never looked back from my crunchy ways.
I have a jug of bleach in my house but it’s probably expired and I did not buy a new one, even in light of this COVID-19 self-distancing, quarantine etc., (whatever it will be called next, as it changes every couple weeks).
So I can’t tell you with absolute certainty what will work to kill this novel coronavirus. In fact, we’re still learning so much that a lot of things are being said that are truth one week and fiction the next, so we do the best we can!
Sanitize Cell Phones with Disinfecting Wipes
My husband and I are disinfecting our phones, probably not nearly often enough, with some natural only slightly green-washed disposable wipes.
Yes, of course, I tear off a two-inch strip every time so I’m not wasting an entire wipe. (I am that green and eco-friendly!)
The active ingredient in these Seventh Generation wipes is thymol.
Thymol has been shown in studies to have antibacterial properties against common foodborne pathogens and Staph. aureus. The EPA lists products containing thymol as its active ingredient on a list of approved products to kill COVID-19, so even though the wipes themselves seem to be out of stock everywhere, we still have other options. Someday you might be able to find them on Amazon again…
Read more about the germ-killing properties of thymol here.
For example, I’m also diffusing thyme essential oil, with the thymol constituent, regularly in our air. Two brands I trust for EO shopping right now include Rocky Mountain Essential Oils and Vibrant Blue Oils.
Before we get too much further into all this, let’s talk about vocabulary. “Disinfect” and “sterilize” are official terms and “sanitize” isn’t really – read more about how to clean THEN disinfect, and why sterilizing is overkill here.
How to Make Your Own Sanitizing Wipes
If you aren’t able to buy natural disinfecting wipes you can easily make your own. Here’s how:
- Cut a roll of strong paper towels in thirds, then pull the cardboard roll pieces out. Use a very sharp knife (not serrated) and sharpen it before and after cutting. (I only use Viva brand, but anything will do in a pinch.)
- Place one of those rounds of paper towels in a reused wiped box or any airtight container. An extra-deep Cool Whip container, Costco-sized sour cream, Trader Joe’s cookies, or big ol’ ice cream tub are all free options that work just great. Make sure to wipe clean very well and pour some boiling water inside to try to start with the cleanest surface possible when reusing.
- Store the other two pieces of the paper towel roll somewhere clean for your next two batches, possibly a zippered bag to keep dust and germs away.
- Boil 1 cup water. You want to start with as few microorganisms as possible so your wipes last longer since you won’t be adding a preservative!
- Stir in a squirt of natural soap like castile soap, Branch Basics concentrate, or a natural baby shampoo, body wash, or liquid hand soap. Probably about a half teaspoon – we don’t want dishwater suds here, just a bit of soap action to cut the dirt (and as I learned for this post on making your soap last longer, soap may also break the lipid structure surrounding viruses, obviously a great thing right now!)
- Put 1/4 cup witch hazel in a jar and add drops of your favorite germ-killing essential oil. Shake well to mix thoroughly, then add to the water.
- If you want a 0.5% dilution of thyme oil, which is the ratio of thymol in Benefect wipes for example, you’ll need 45 drops. These aren’t for baby’s bums! That would be strong. These are for solid surfaces only! Note that thymol is only a constituent of thyme oil, so this recipe is not the same as the EPA-approved formulas. See more about how to dilute essential oils with a cool memory trick here.
- Optional: Add a splash of white vinegar as well which may act as a mild preservative and help your wipes last longer.
- Pour mixture over paper towels in your chosen container and allow to cool. Start pulling wipes from the center of the roll.
- No paper towel? You can also cut up extra used cloth diapers, receiving blankets, washcloths, or soft shirts as reusable wipes. See our ideas for reusable toilet paper alternatives for more.
Katie here, popping in to tell you how important it is to be sure you’re diluting those essential oils properly.
Sure, you know not to use EOs straight (neat). But do you know the 1-2-3 math so it’s not too strong or weak?
Print this chart to keep with your oils so you never have to do math in the middle of the night when your LO is congested:
You can read more about why it’s so important to dilute essential oils here, and I know the little chart will be helpful!
Chelated Silver to Sanitize Cell Phones
When I’ve been out and about, I have a bottle of 3rd Rock deodorant spray in my purse.
The active ingredient is chelated silver oxide, which has been shown in a 2011 study in the journal Molecules to have potential to interfere with a virus’s ability to both survive and reproduce.1
A 2019 study in Cell Death and Disease also demonstrates the anti-viral potential of silver nanoparticles, and although the focus of a 2016 study is mostly bacteria, viruses are mentioned as susceptible to silver as well.2, 3
It may sound odd to be spraying my phone and hands with deodorant, but the active ingredient and amount is the same as it would be in a sanitizing spray.
There are lots of rules and regulations about what can be called sanitizing and often the CDC only counts alcohol at over 60%.
I figure this is powerful enough for me!
Silver nanoparticles have been shown in studies to “be active against several types of viruses.”
3rd Rock’s Silver Excelsior Serum and Silver Infusion Tonic has their patented Chelated Silver Oxide. It’s different and unique in the silver world compared to common, run-of-the-mill ‘colloidal silver’ (source).
This silver is high quality with many health-benefits. Containing amino acids, citrates, and kosher vegetable USP grade glycerin, 3rd Rock silver sticks to and penetrates cell walls—delivering silver oxide straight to cells to bolster their fight against infections in and on the body.
Diluted Hydrogen Peroxide is my Chosen Disinfectant for Solid Surfaces
The final common natural ingredient to use to disinfect cell phones and other hard surfaces would be one of my favorites, hydrogen peroxide.
RELATED: Research on hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant (it works!!)
For over a decade now, a 50/50 dilution of hydrogen peroxide and water has been one of the three items under every sink in my house.
Hydrogen peroxide is already very inexpensive, but I dilute with water because I’ve found that it doesn’t bleach fabrics at that ratio. Common household hydrogen peroxide is a 3% solution already, which means that diluting with half water should make the official solution 1.5%.
In a 2020 study from The Journal of Hospital Infection, just a 0.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide was shown to kill viruses, so surprisingly, my homemade version is actually stronger than necessary. If you are worried about bleaching fabric at all, I would increase the water to two-thirds of the bottle. Since hydrogen peroxide is also very hard to find right now, this will stretch whatever stash you have even further.4
I had to move our main spray bottle from under the kitchen sink, where it’s used by children to clean up any messes on the floor, to hiding at the back under a bathroom sink so that I only use it when I actually need the sanitizing power.
It comes out when I’m in a mood to sanitize all the doorknobs and light switches or if I’ve been working with raw meat in the kitchen.
As long as your cell phone is fully waterproof, I would feel safe recommending that you squirt it down when you get home from the store or perhaps before cooking dinner with a recipe on your phone.
Please note that dwell time is important for almost any sanitizing solution to work! Dwell time is the amount of time the solution sits on the object, meaning that you need to squirt down your phone and then ignore it for 10 minutes while the diluted hydrogen peroxide sits and does its killing business.
Homemade Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes
I checked out some of the other disinfecting wipes that are out of stock everywhere, and there are definitely plenty that use hydrogen peroxide as the active ingredient. This means that you may be able to use the instructions above to make homemade wipes and instead of the water, soap, witch-hazel, and essential oils, you could simply pour your diluted hydrogen peroxide solution on top.
What I don’t know scientifically is whether the hydrogen peroxide will degrade once it’s on your wipes.
Do the commercial wipes have to do something to stabilize it?
RELATED: Read more about what’s in hydrogen peroxide wipes in this post.
I know that hydrogen peroxide breaks down under air and light, which is why when you first spray hydrogen peroxide on organic matter, like a drop of raw chicken juice on your counter, it will bubble.
This is how I test to make sure my hydrogen peroxide is not expired by the way, because hydrogen peroxide quite quickly breaks down into water and oxygen. Typically pouring a splash on the drain area of a sink will result in some bubbles, which shows you how important it is to clean your sink and get into all the crevices!
Once the hydrogen peroxide stops bubbling, it’s basically just water. So if you pour your solution onto your wipes, will that exposure to the air and other things cause it to completely break down? It’s a risk that I haven’t been able to find conclusive research on, but if I were to choose hydrogen peroxide for my wipes, I think I would also include some witch hazel and essential oils to have a 1-2 punch against microorganisms.
Caution Tips with Hydrogen Peroxide
In a spray bottle, you do need to make sure that you have an opaque container or the light will cause your hydrogen peroxide to break down. I love that in the past few years, it’s been pretty easy to find hydrogen peroxide already in spray bottles, although that’s full strength… So you need another opaque container to pour half out if you want to dilute 50% and avoid bleaching clothing.
I’ve found that a regular-sized hydrogen peroxide bottle works pretty well with a spray top from another short bottle, like the kind you might find at a dollar store.
Summary: 5 Ways to Sanitize Cell Phones and Other Hard Surfaces Naturally
If you’re skimming, I totally empathize! Here’s a quick breakdown of the strategies in the post, so you can choose one and scroll up for the details:
- Buy commercial natural sanitizing wipes, typically with an active ingredient of thymol or hydrogen peroxide. These are in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic, so they may not be a viable option.
- Make your own homemade natural disinfecting wipes with paper towels, witch hazel, and essential oils.
- Use a chelated silver spray like 3rd Rock deodorant spray.
- Make a homemade diluted disinfecting spray with hydrogen peroxide and water.
- Make homemade hydrogen peroxide wipes, although this may not be as effective.
The real question of course is whether we really should be sanitizing or disinfecting our cell phones and other hard surfaces.
If you are wiping down everything you got from the grocery store before it enters your house, you better believe you should be paying a lot of attention to your cell phone!
And even if you aren’t going to those lengths, we know that our cell phone is one of the most contaminated items in our lives because of the sheer number of times we touch it. Whether we are running from a novel coronavirus or just trying to avoid normal germs, wiping down your cell phone daily is probably not a bad idea.
On the other hand, if you embrace germs and feel that they only build up the immune system, you won’t need this post now will you? But you might enjoy my thoughts on what our family does to keep our immune system bolstered throughout cold and flu season.
I’m not going to end this post by telling you to “stay healthy, stay safe!”
I think safety is an illusion and something that’s really impossible to attain as long as we are this side of heaven.
We can’t really “stay safe,” but we can improve the safety of our home by reducing the toxicity we invite in, and we can work hard to master our stress and create positive lifestyle habits.
That’s really the goal I want you to focus on, but if you are going to disinfect your cell phone, let’s at least make it happen as naturally as possible!
- Galdiero, S., Falanga, A., Vitiello, M., Cantisani, M., Marra, V., & Galdiero, M. (2011). Silver nanoparticles as potential antiviral agents. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 16(10), 8894–8918. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules16108894
- Wan, C., Tai, J., Zhang, J., Guo, Y., Zhu, Q., Ling, D., Gu, F., Gan, J., Zhu, C., Wang, Y., Liu, S., Wei, F., & Cai, Q. (2019). Silver nanoparticles selectively induce human oncogenic γ-herpesvirus-related cancer cell death through reactivating viral lytic replication. Cell death & disease, 10(6), 392. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41419-019-1624-z
- Dakal, T. C., Kumar, A., Majumdar, R. S., & Yadav, V. (2016). Mechanistic Basis of Antimicrobial Actions of Silver Nanoparticles. Frontiers in microbiology, 7, 1831. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2016.01831
- Kampf, G., Todt, D., Pfaender, S. & Steinmannhttps, E. (2020, February 6). Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. The Journal of Hospital Infection, 104(3), 246-251. Retrieved from www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/S0195-6701(20)30046-3/fulltext