Smartphones are germ magnets at best. With the spread of the new coronavirus, they are a potential vector of infection. The virus can potentially live on your phone screen for days.
Up to 96 hours, to our knowledge
The CDC says it might be possible to get COVID-19 if you touch a surface infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then touch your mouth, nose or maybe even your eyes. The organization recommended clean and disinfect “high contact surfaces” daily.
According to the World Health Organization, the original 2003 SARS-CoV virus remained stable on glass surfaces for up to 96 hours (four days). It lasted on stainless steel and plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours (three days). For more details, see page 29, under “Stability and resistance of the SARS coronavirus”, in this report on the original SARS virus of the World Health Organization.
A recent study of National Institute of Health discovered that the current new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) can live on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours (three days).
Scientists have not tested the lifespan of the latest coronavirus on glass, but it has had similar results to the previous SARS coronavirus.
With what we know, it would be better to assume that the new coronavirus can remain present and infectious on glass for four days. This applies to any device with a glass screen, from iPhones and Android phones to iPads and Windows touchscreen laptops.
Sanitize your phone after going out in public
In theory, you can quarantine your phone for four days each time after touching it to make sure it is not infected with the new coronavirus.
But, in the real world, you are probably constantly touching your phone and could spread the phone virus to other surfaces. Coronavirus can last a long time on glass surfaces, so it is essential to disinfect your smartphone regularly.
To stay safe, we recommend disinfect your smartphone after each use in public. When you come home, wash your hands properly and disinfect your smartphone at the same time. If you wash your hands without disinfecting your smartphone, then you can touch your smartphone, catch the SARS-CoV-2 virus on your fingers, and then spread it to other surfaces or to your face, which could lead to infection.
If you are going to be away for a while, consider use disinfectant wipes to clean your phone, just like you regularly use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands. You should avoid touching your face in public (and in general), but most importantly, you should avoid touching your face after touching your phone if it is potentially contaminated.
A contaminated phone screen is also a risk if you have to Hold your phone close to your face to take a call. It is best to keep your phone as clean as possible.
If you have an Apple Watch, you can even to use Apple Pay with your Apple Watch to pay for things without taking your phone out and touching it. Make sure you clean your watch with your hands and your phone. Some other smart watches and fitness bands also include contactless payments, including Galaxy Watch (Samsung Pay) watches, Google Wear OS smart watches (Google Pay), and some Fitbits (Fitbit Pay.)
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How long does the virus last on other surfaces?
This same NIH study also showed that the virus can last up to 24 hours on cardboard, up to 4 hours on copper and even in aerosol form up to 3 hours. Here is what you should know about the presence of coronavirus on various surfaces.
By the way, viruses are not technically considered “alive”, so it is technically inaccurate to say how long they can “live” on surfaces. We call viruses “live” if they are still infectious. After enough time outside of a living cell – and exposure to the elements – the virus breaks down, collapses and becomes incapable of infecting anyone.