I'm a certified germaphobe. In clinical terms, that makes me one of the 3.3 million Americans who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Being at an event like SXSW where about 33,000 of my fellow digital comrades are coexisting in very public spaces, I'm always worried about keeping myself and my gadgets clean, especially my phone and laptop. And with good reason: scientists found that cell phones carry ten times more disease-causing bacteria than most toilet seats. So, when I heard 3M was on the ground at SXSW testing out how dirty people's phones were at its "LifeLab," I had to check it out.
3M's Clean-Trace NG Luminometer uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminescence to measure the level of potential contamination on a surface within seconds. Costing over $4000, the device is primarily used in hospitals to make sure patient instruments are clean. For SXSW, 3M swabbed festival goers phones and placed the swab into the luminometer, leading to a score in Relative Light Units, or RTUs, determining how much bacteria lived on the device being tested.
The result? My phone scored in at a moderate 404 RLUs, higher than the recommended score of 200 (but lower than some who hit the 2,000 mark). When traveling, it's not possible to be perfectly clean all the time, but one can always step their game up a bit. A simple disinfectant wipe (wrung out a bit to remove excess moisture) or a little mixture of alcohol and water spread on a damp cloth is more than enough to reduce that germ count. Before doing so, check the cleaning recommendations of your phone manufacturer so that if something goes wrong (say, liquid damage or a diluted oleophobic coating), you don't void your warranty.