Keeping our phones and keyboards safe

I’ve been hunkered down at home with my wife this week and expect what she jokingly calls “house arrest” to last indefinitely based on listening to our governor, Gavin Newsom. Along side me are my phone, a notebook computer, and  an iPad loaded with eBooks I’ve bought over the years, but have yet to read.

As I began washing my hands several times a day, I realized that with the constant touching of these devices, they should also be kept clean.  So what’s the best way to do so?

The methodology of cleaning our hands has been well-reported over the web, and not being an expert, I’ll leave it to the CDC for the specific instructions.

The basics are to use soap and water for at least twenty seconds before eating food, before and after caring for someone at home who is sick, before and after treating a cut or wound, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste, after handling pet food or pet treats, and after touching garbage. Add to that handling the mail, package deliveries, groceries and most anything else that others have touched. The virus can live on these other surfaces for up to 24 hours.

Both hot and cold water work equally well. It’s the presence of the soap for the twenty seconds that kills the germs. According to this quote on DaringFireball, a reputable tech site, soap is better “because the virus is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. Soap dissolves the fat membrane and the virus falls apart like a house of cards and dies — or rather, we should say it becomes inactive as viruses aren’t really alive.”

Disinfectants and alcohol-based wipes are helpful to clean other surfaces such as shopping carts, airplane seats and tray, and doorknobs; anyplace when you don’t have soap and running water.

Palli Thordarson, chemistry professor at the University of New South Wales, writing for The Guardian notes:

Viruses can be active outside the body for hours, even days. Disinfectants, liquids, wipes, gels and creams containing alcohol are all useful at getting rid of them — but they are not quite as good as normal soap.

While most stores are out of the popular alcohol-based hand wipes – there’s been a run on them – I was able to locate some from these two sources that sell them for other application.  Whatever you get needs to be at least 60% alcohol.

Food thermometer wipes of all sizes from Thermoworks

Zeiss lens cleaner wipes from Amazon

At the time of this writing, Amazon is showing a ten day delivery, while Thermoworks has immediate availability.

Besides keeping our hands clean, it’s also advisable to keep our electronic devices clean, especially our phones and keyboards. Remove your phone from its case phone and wipe them both thoroughly with these alcohol wipes or. Let the moisture sit on the surfaces and air dry; don’t wipe then dry.  I also replaced my glass screen protector with a new one. They are now just a couple of dollars each. The old protector had accumulated a lot of dirt, especially around its edges.

When cleaning your keyboard be careful to avoid moisture getting under the keycaps. On some keyboards, particularly Apple’s, a little moisture can wreak havoc. My wife once tried cleaning her iMac desktop keyboard with a damp sponge and it was fatal to the keyboard.  I recommend a cleaning gel that does a good job removing the loose hairs, dust and grime that’s a prime breeding ground for germs. Simply pat the gel over every key, then pat the top surface of the keys with the wipes and let the moisture dry.

Here are some further references:

Washington Post


A note about family-owned restaurants

My son and daughter-in-law run a fine dining restaurant in Ross, CA called Marche Aux Fleurs. They are working long hours to serve their local community and keep their employees paid by expanding to take outs and deliveries to their local community. While we live 500 miles away, we’re making an effort to support our local family owned restaurants by ordering delivered meals several times a week and buying gift cards for later use. Not only does it help our local establishments and our community, but it also allows us to preserve the food supply we have at home. This is something each of us can do to make a small difference in our community.


by Phil Baker