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How Clean Is That Screen?

Microscope images of an dirty iPad

Germs are everywhere. Touching dirty surfaces has always been a concern. Disinfection stations for cleaning hands have shown up in schools, restaurants, gyms, and countless other public places. But what about the germs that transfer from hands to mobile devices? The use mobile devices with touchscreens continues to rise but disinfecting these devices can be problematic. According to many mobile device manufacturers the use of liquids, including disinfecting liquids, on the special touchscreen is not recommended. Some manufactures warn that using liquids may damage the touchscreen or void the product warranty.

The use of tablet devices in hospital and healthcare settings poses a unique situation. In clinical settings the use of a tablet device by clinician or patient may occur. The transfer of germs from one patient to another or to the care provider via a tablet screen may occur if tablets are not properly disinfected.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that “Normal use of tablet PCs leads to a remarkable amount of microbial surface contamination.” And “every fingerprint on the surface will leave residue on the glass, aluminum, and plastic parts of the device and may contain a large number of bacteria. An increased awareness of this fact is required when those devices are used during patient care.”

In this study ten iPad devices were used and tested during the study period to determine the best method for disinfection of the devices. The study found that the recommended cleaning method suggested by manufactures, a lint-free cloth without liquid cleaning agents, results in a reduction rate of 51.1% bacterial colony forming units. However when isopropanol wipes were used along with proper cleaning protocols reduction and inactivation of residual bacteria occurred.

debacapp logo

Unfortunately recent changes in care policies from device manufactures suggests that the use of any liquid including that found in the isopropanol wipes will result in voiding of the manufacturer warranty.

The study also used the deBac-app as a tool to help devices owners follow proper cleaning protocols to ensure the maximum reduction on bacteria on the devices. The app which is free from the iTunes App Store helps document the cleaning process as well as keep a log of when cleanings occur.

Overall, mobile device owners should take care to minimize the amount of bacteria present on devices to ensure the health and safety of those using the device. One of the best way to minimize bacteria present on tablet devices is to follow methods for proper disinfection of the hands before and after each patient interaction.

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