Phone Soap & Cell Phone Cleaning Experiments



After I did these 2016 experiments with the Phone Soap, the Phone Soap company was able to improve their design. My results showed that the original design did not allow the UV light to hit the sides of the phone. So, the sides of the phone still had germs. However, the new PhoneSoap 3 UV Cell Phone Sanitizer  now reflects the light to the sides of the phone. So, I would get this version if you want to get one. I have NOT tested this 3.0 version yet, but it seems like is SHOULD be better.

October 5, 2016

I was so excited to test and review the PhoneSoap! It is a UV light box used to kill the germs on cell phones. Since cell phones are delicate, you can't just wipe them off with chlorine bleach every day (unless you have a LifeProof case on your phone like me). And let's face it, a lot of us use our phones while we are on the toilet, AND also while we are eating, so it would be nice to have a good way to kill the germs on our phones. I also test wiping off phones with cleaning products on this page. 

About PhoneSoap





I received this PhoneSoap directly from the company in June 2016. They sent it to me for free to test. I didn't get any other compensation from the company except for that free PhoneSoap. It is simple to use. There is no on or off switch. You just put the phone in, shut the lid, and the light comes on. When the light shuts off, the phone is done. There is a UV light on the top and bottom of the PhoneSoap "tanning bed". The PhoneSoap model that I received runs for about 10 minutes to kill germs. Most models only run for 4 minutes. 



Is the PhoneSoap Capable of Killing Germs? 


For this experiment, I did not use an actual phone. I used my favorite source of bacteria...bagged, chopped iceberg lettuce. (This stuff is so full of bacteria. You can see my produce washing experiments for more info.) 


I sucked out some of the germy iceberg lettuce water and put it onto a small plastic lid from a box of Gerber baby food. 



Then I let the germ water stay on the lid dry overnight. When it was dry, I dipped a sterile swab in sterile water and swabbed the lid. 


I rubbed that swab onto an agar plate. This would be the dirty control plate which should grow lots of bacteria. I also dipped a sterile swab into sterile water and rubbed that swab onto an agar plate. This would be the negative control. Nothing should grow on that plate. 



Then I put the lid into the PhoneSoap. I closed the lid and the UV light ran for 10 minutes. 




When the PhoneSoap finished, I dipped a sterile swab into sterile water, swabbed the lid again, and rubbed the swab onto another agar plate. I incubated the plates for 24 hours in my warm (about 90 degrees F) incubator. (I have details about this incubator on this page.) Here are the results.


As you can see, the PhoneSoap killed the heck out of the bacteria on that lid. If you are not experienced at looking at agar plates, let me explain what we are seeing. The white dots you see on the plates are piles (or colonies) of millions of bacteria. Sometimes you see individual colonies, and sometimes you see smears because there was so much bacteria to start with that they all blended together. The dirty control plate in this experiment is just covered with bacteria. It is hard to see individual colonies, and it looks like a smear. 

Since the lid is clear, I wondered if getting the UV light from both sides increased the amount of bacteria killed. So, I repeated the experiment with the lettuce water and a salsa jar lid. 


Again the PhoneSoap did a great job. This time you can see some individual colonies. There are hardly any colonies on the plate from the lid after the PhoneSoap compared to the number of colonies on the plate from the lid before the PhoneSoap. 


So, PhoneSoap is telling the truth that their product is capable of killing germs. DISCLAIMER. I need to remind everyone that the agar plates that I use do not grow every type of bacteria. Agar plates also do not grow viruses. So, even if nothing grows on some of my agar plates, it doesn't necessarily mean that no microorganisms whatsoever were present. 

How Well Does the PhoneSoap Kill Germs on a Phone?


For these experiments, I used real people's real phones. I did not artificially contaminate the phones at all. These are just real phones with real germs. All of the phones that I tested had cases on them. No one I know uses a phone without a case (except my sister and she lives far away) so I did not get a chance to test dirty phones without cases. I drop my phone on the floor every single day, so I have to keep it in the case. First, I dipped a sterile swab in sterile water and swabbed the phone. 


I rubbed the swab on the front, back, and sides of the phone. Then I rubbed the swab onto an agar plate. This would be the dirty "before PhoneSoap" control. Then I put the phone in the PhoneSoap and let it run for 10 minutes. 


After the phone was "clean", I put on clean gloves and carefully picked up the phone. I dipped a sterile swab into sterile water and swabbed the front, back, and sides of the phone. I was careful to only hold the phone on two spots on the sides, and I did not swab those spots. I rubbed the swab onto an agar plate. The plates were incubated for 24-48 hours.


Much to my surprise, I was not seeing the super clean results that I was expecting. I repeated this many more times to be sure. Looking at the design of the PhoneSoap with a light at the top and bottom, I wondered if the UV light was not hitting the sides of the phones. 

Does the Phone Soap Kill Germs on the SIDES of the Phone? 


I repeated the experiment, but this time I swabbed the top/bottom and sides of the phone separately. I swabbed the entire phone with one swab BEFORE it went into the PhoneSoap for the dirty control plate. After the PhoneSoap, I dipped the swab into sterile water and swabbed just the sides of the phone before I even took it out of the PhoneSoap. Then I picked the phone up with a clean gloved hand and swabbed only the top and bottom of the phone with a new sterile swab. 


As you can see from the results, the top and bottom of the phone usually have significantly less bacteria than the sides of the phones after being in the PhoneSoap. This is most likely because the UV light doesn't hit the sides of the phones. PhoneSoap should consider redesigning the "tanning bed" to include lights on the sides. 


 

Does Wiping Off Your Phone Before Using the PhoneSoap Help?

There are other factors that could influence how well the PhoneSoap works. If there is debris, grease, or sunscreen from your face on your phone, the UV light won't kill the germs as well. Also, there are crevices in phone cases where the UV light won't penetrate. (I never swab in those crevices for these experiments because they will have germs.) So, it might be a good idea to wipe off your phone BEFORE you put it in the PhoneSoap. Here is an experiment where I just wiped off the phone with a damp cotton cloth, and then put it in the PhoneSoap. I apologize for not being able to find a black marker that day. I used purple which is much harder to read. The upper left plate is the dirty phone control. The upper right plate is the phone after being wiped off with a damp cotton cloth. The bottom left plate is the sides of the phone after being in the PhoneSoap. The bottom right plate is the top/bottom of the phone after being in the PhoneSoap. 


As you can see, the damp cloth didn't make a huge difference. However, I still think wiping the gunk off the phone before putting it in the PhoneSoap is bound to help. 

Does Wiping Off Your Phone With 3% Hydrogen Peroxide Help Get Rid of Germs? 

Before I got the PhoneSoap, and since my phone has a LifeProof case, I would always spray a tissue with 3% hydrogen peroxide and wipe off my phone. I had to use about 6 sprays on one tissue to get the phone wet enough to really kill germs. I do not know if it would be safe to use hydrogen peroxide to wipe off a phone without a case.


To test how well that works, I swabbed the phones before and after wiping with the 3% hydrogen peroxide. 



As you can see the 3% hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria very well. However, I did need to get the phones fairly wet with the hydrogen peroxide to get results this good. Rubbing a mostly dry tissue that had a little hydrogen peroxide on it on the phone did not do well. Since hydrogen peroxide probably doesn't kill all types of harmful germs, I think wiping the phone off with hydrogen peroxide and then using the PhoneSoap would be a good idea. Please remember that all types of bacteria do not grow on these agar plates, and viruses do not grow on these agar plates. So, just because an agar plate does not appear to have any bacteria growing on it, doesn't necessarily mean that there were no germs present. 

How well does the Phone Soap kill germs on a phone? Does wiping off your phone with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) help get rid of germs? 


My sister wipes her iPhone off with isopropyl alcohol every day, and her phone does not even have a case. I can't promise that it won't hurt your phone, but my sister doesn't think it has damaged hers, and she has done it for years. The alcohol is great for getting rid of grease and dries very fast. It will also kill some germs. Since isopropyl alcohol doesn't kill everything, it might be a good idea to wipe the phone off with the alcohol first, and then use the PhoneSoap. Here are the results when I swabbed dirty phones, wiped them off with a tissue and 70% isopropyl alcohol, and then swabbed them again. The isopropyl alcohol does pretty good. 



PhoneSoap Conclusion


The PhoneSoap is definitely capable of killing germs. However, it doesn't kill germs on the sides of the phone very well. Also, dirt, grease, and sunscreen on the phone can interfere with the germ killing. I would advice wiping the phone off with 3% hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol (if the phone has a protective case) and then using the PhoneSoap. If you can't use anything else, just wipe the phone off with a damp cloth before putting it in the PhoneSoap. The PhoneSoap may kill germs that the hydrogen peroxide and alcohol didn't kill. Here is an article showing that UV light was somewhat effective at killing a norovirus surrogate. The Discovery Channel did a test on the PhoneSoap showing how effective it is at killing germs. However, they never tested the sides of the phone. You can see their video here