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While we all may be on high alert and keeping our hands clean with frequent washing, often times our cellphones may not be getting the same treatment.
In order to stay healthy throughout cold and flu season, and particularly in light of the global spread of coronavirus, it’s important we keep our surroundings clean.
Studies have shown that the surface of a cellphone is a breeding ground for bacteria, housing on average 18 times more bugs than a toilet handle. Now, one gadget is hoping to revolutionize how we clean our phones, all with the help of UV light.
What is it?
The PhoneSoap Go is a portable charging pack unlike any other. Not only does it charge, but it also claims to clean and disinfect phones in just 10 minutes. On a single charge, this travel-friendly device can sanitize your phone up to 45 times or recharge your phone’s battery four times.
With lightbulbs built into the interior of the case, it quickly and effectively removes 99.99 per cent of bacteria from both the top and bottom of your phone. The PhoneSoap uses two UV-C technology bulbs to kill germs and bacteria, and is about the same size as a hardcover book - making it easy to carry with you anywhere.
With a spacious interior that’s suitable for phones even as big as an iPhone XR, it also disinfects other commonly used small objects like keys, headphones and credit cards.
How does UV light sanitize and disinfect?
Ultraviolet (UV) light, a type of electromagnetic radiation, is a short-frequency wavelength that many of us are familiar with thanks to the vivid colours it produces when held under black light. Not only is it responsible for suntans (and sunburns), it’s been used for over 100 years in hospitals and labs to maintain sterile environments.
UV light can be separated into three categories: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C, and while similar, each type results in dramatically different effects. While UV-A rays penetrate deep into the skin and can cause premature aging, UV-B rays are responsible for sunburns and are a key factor in potentially causing skin cancer.
Although UV-C rays emitted from the sun don’t actually reach us here on Earth, manufactured UV-C effectively penetrates into the genetic material of microorganisms, rendering them unable to reproduce. This non-chemical approach to disinfection makes it a safe and inexpensive way to remove potentially harmful bacteria from surfaces.
Does it really work?
To find out whether or not this device is actually worth its salt, we reached out to James Scott, professor and head of the Occupational & Environmental Health department at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Putting the PhoneSoap to the test, Scott and a team of researchers collected samples from various bathroom surfaces, then sprayed cellphones with their bacterial solution to see how effectively the PhoneSoap could clean and sanitize.
The team then compared the bacteria levels on the phone that had gone through the full disinfecting cycle in the PhoneSoap to one that had been placed inside it without being turned on, and to a control phone that had been sprayed with bacteria but not placed inside the PhoneSoap at all.
“I was very, very skeptical at first and I was completely shocked,” Scott told Yahoo Lifestyle Canada. “We couldn’t recover any bacteria from the phone that had gone through the UV cycle of the PhoneSoap.”
Scott explained that, because the light source found inside the PhoneSoap is so close to the surfaces of objects placed inside it, it’s actually intense enough to kill bacteria and disinfect. As for germs like coronavirus, he says that it would likely be strong enough to kill viruses like COVID-19 as well.
“Although we didn’t test it on any viruses, I would expect that it would have similar kinds of efficiency,” he noted. “The mechanism [of] UV disinfection on bacteria is the same mechanism that would apply to viruses or any other biological thing that has nucleic acid like DNA and RNA.”
Surprisingly, the PhoneSoap is actually quite effective at killing viruses and bacteria - but there is a catch.
“If there’s a lot of surface debris that’s blocking the light, [it won’t work]. The light needs to hit the cell or the virus for it to have effectiveness,” Scott shared.
Essentially, in order to achieve maximum cleaning power you’ll need to disinfect both your cellphone and the phone case separately.