By now you’ve probably read the statistic that your phone’s screen is the dirtiest surface you touch every day, but the best phone sanitizers can change that in a matter of minutes. A phone sanitizer works by blasting a surface with UV (Ultraviolet light), which can kill germs (including some bacteria) without the use of a cleaning agent or liquid.
In most cases, you place your phone into the sanitizer and close its lid to ensure that germs that have accumulated on any side of the device have been killed. It’s important to note that no phone sanitizer will be able to kill every single bacteria on a phone’s surface. Most phone sanitizers claim to kill up to 99.9 percent of them, but inevitably some will remain.
Still, it’s better to safely sanitize your phone on a regular basis the same way you wash your hands after coming home from a public place, or before a meal. The best phone sanitizers do their job quickly, quietly, and effectively, here are the best ones you can get right now.
How Do Phone Sanitizers Work?
As we mentioned earlier, a phone sanitizer kills germs and bacteria from your device by blasting it with ultraviolet light.
The Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic defines UV light as a form of radiation that comes from several sources, including the sun. Direct, extended exposure to this radiation can kill organic material if the light is emitted at a wavelength that can break down the bacteria’s DNA and prevent it from replicating. Exposing your body to UV rays can be harmful, which is one of the reasons phone sanitizers are a useful tool. They’ll expose your device to UV light without exposing your skin to it.
The most harmful UV light emissions tools create ozone, which can irritate your throat, and mercury, which is poisonous to humans. Phone sanitizers do not contain mercury or create ozone, so you’re safe on both of these fronts. There’s a lot of uncertainty around phone sanitizers and UV light, so it’s important to know exactly what they should be used for.
It may be difficult to believe that exposing your phone to UV light will actually kill any bacteria, but the FDA has weighed in on its effectiveness in several articles about UV rays, bacteria in general, and COVID-19 in particular. Their findings are a bit of a mixed bag.
There’s no doubt that UV light is effective at killing certain types of bacteria, and the government has been using it as a tool for this task for decades, but the jury is still out on whether or not phone sanitizers will be able to kill COVID-19 specifically. Additionally, the virus has been mutating so much that the effect UV light has on it will wax and wane by the strain.
If you’re interested in getting a tool to kill bacteria and germs generally, a phone sanitizer is a good investment, but we wouldn’t recommend it if you’re specifically interested in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Using a phone sanitizer is certainly better than doing nothing, but it isn’t a panacea against the current virus.
How We Picked the Best Phone Sanitizers
Our recommendations for phone sanitizers are based on a mix of research and hands-on testing. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which phone sanitizers to include in this buyer's guide.
Size: A phone sanitizer’s size is its most important feature, as it’ll determine which devices you can clean with it. Some models are only large enough to fit a single smartphone — even large-screen models like the iPhone 13 Pro Max — but nothing else. Larger phone sanitizers can clean multiple devices simultaneously, which is great if you live in a home with multiple people, or want to disinfect all of your most important items (phone, keys, wallet) in one go.
Portability: Think about the places you’re most likely to use a phone sanitizer, and that’ll determine whether its portability will be important to you. Portable phone sanitizers run on battery power, so you can use them anywhere you go, but you’ll have to remember to keep them charged if you’d like them to work.
Extra Features: Some phone sanitizers offer unnecessary but cool extras like the ability to charge your phone while it’s being sanitized. Whie not critical, these features may encourage you to use the phone sanitizer more often as it’s performing two functions simultaneously.
Best Phone Sanitizers: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: PhoneSoap 3
Why It Made The Cut: The PhoneSoap 3 can clean both sides of your device at the same time, and top up its battery, too.
— Number of Devices: One
— Portable: No
— Extras: Charging cable slot
— Fully bathes your device in UV light
— Can charge your device while it’s cleaned
— Sleek look
— Too small for larger devices
If we could only recommend one phone sanitizer, it’d be the PhoneSoap 3. The single-device sanitizer looks great, works quickly, and has the only extra feature that you should really expect from this gadget.
The PhoneSoap 3 has two long LED light strips that are both illuminated when the device is turned on, which ensures both sides of the device are getting exposed to UV light at all times. You’ll know that the PhoneSoap is working because the device’s “indicator light,” which is a lightning-bolt shaped glyph on top of the device, is illuminated. The PhoneSoap 3’s cycle only lasts a few minutes, so you won’t have to wait very long to start using your phone again.
The PhoneSoap 3 has a little notch in the front, which allows you to snake a charging cable to the USB-A and USB-C ports on its back side. We like that this device can keep your phone’s battery topped up while it’s getting cleaned. You can even use the PhoneSoap 3 to charge a pair of devices when they’re not being disinfected. This is the PhoneSoap 3’s only extra feature, but we appreciate it being there.
If you only want to clean one phone-sized device at a time, it’s hard to argue against the PhoneSoap 3’s form and functionality. The only reason we wouldn’t recommend it is if your needs include cleaning large gadgets, or several pieces of hardware at the same time.
Best Budget: Knizen UV Light Sanitizer Box
Why It Made The Cut: Knizen’s phone sanitizer has all the basic features you’ll need at a pretty remarkable price.
— Number of Devices: One
— Portable: No
— Extras: None
— Clever design
— Fast cleaning time
— Boxy look
If you put aesthetics aside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phone sanitizer than this model from Knizen. Its UV rays are created by eight LEDs on the sanitizer’s lid, with light reflecting off the sides and bottom of the phone sanitizer to reach the bottom and sides of your phone.
The bottom of the phone sanitizer has a small holder that prevents your device from sitting flush with the bottom, so UV light can reach it. Knizen says this phone sanitizer can kill up to 99 percent of bacteria in three minutes. Given that short program time, we can forgive this phone sanitizer for not having any extra features.
Knizen’s phone sanitizer is a great choice if you’re looking for an entry-level model, as it’ll only set you back about $35 thanks to an Amazon coupon. It may be a bit bulky for a single-device phone sanitizer, but that extra size may allow you to fit a couple of different objects into its chamber simultaneously. You won’t be able to use this phone sanitizer with a tablet, or multiple smartphones, but it may hold your keys, glasses, and a face mask at one time.
Best Portable: Monos CleanPod
Why It Made The Cut: Monos’ CleanPod allows you to use UV light to clean any surface in just a few seconds.
— Number of devices: One
— Portable: Yes
— Extras: Effective in a range of situations
— Can clean any surface
— Easy to use
— Can expose you to UV light
If you’re fully committed to using UV light as a cleaning tool, the Monos CleanPod should be a permanent fixture in your closet and travel backpack. The light, sleek-looking wand has 12 LEDs on top of it, which can be activated by flipping a small switch on the left side. The CleanPod feels good in the hand, and we found its switch to be easy to use.
Monos says the CleanPod can kill up to 99 percent of bacteria in 30 seconds, which is a short enough time that you should be able to clean surfaces in public areas — think the tray table on an airplane — without disrupting the people around you. For the best results, Monos recommends waving the wand back and forth over the object or surface you intend to clean.
Using a UV wand to clean your devices instead of a typical phone sanitizer has one big advantage: You can use the CleanPod in a lot more situations. If you’d like to clean a wooden cutting board that has been exposed to meat in the past, for instance, you can use the CleanPod in addition to the recommended oils and treatments that can make it more sanitary. You’ll also be able to use the CleanPod on devices of all shapes and sizes, from game controllers to laptop keyboards,
The downside to using the CleanPod is that you do run the risk of shining UV light into your eyes if you’re negligent. We highly recommend holding the wand in your hand — LEDs facing downward — and over the surface you want to clean before turning it on. When you’ve cleaned the surface or device to your liking, turn the switch off and store the CleanPod someplace safe.
If you’re concerned about encountering dangerous germs in public places, Monos’ CleanPod is an excellent tool to keep around when you leave the house.
Best for Multiple Devices: Philips UV Light Sanitizer Box
Why It Made The Cut: The UV Light Sanitizer Box is the only phone sanitizer we recommend that can work with very large devices, and its sleek interface makes it easy to use.
— Number of devices: Multiple
— Portable: No
— Extras: Included basket to hold smaller devices
— Can fit multiple devices
— Large enough for tablets
— May be too big for your space
Philips’ UV Light Sanitizer Box will make an immediate impression on you when you open it up. The cube-shaped sanitizer is nearly a foot long in all directions, which is its greatest advantage and biggest weakness. This is the only phone sanitizer we’re recommending that can hold a regular iPad with lots of space to save. It even has a two-tiered design, with a basket on top to hold smaller objects, while larger ones can sit on the bottom.
The UV Light Sanitizer Box is equipped with over a dozen LED lights on top, and reflective surfaces on the sides and bottom. You can use its touch-sensitive buttons to select its disinfect, storage, dry, and disinfect + dry settings. Yes, this is the only phone sanitizer we’re recommending that can use heat to kill germs, though this is not required for bacteria that live on your phone.
Instead, the dry feature can be used to evaporate moisture on sensitive surfaces like the inside of a baby bottle. Bacteria thrives on moist surfaces, so keeping items like that dry is extremely important. Each setting requires a different length of time, which is displayed on an LED clock on top of this sanitization device. The basic disinfection setting requires 10 minutes, and will likely be the mode you use most often.
If you’re planning on cleaning a bunch of your gadgets at once, Philips’ UV Light Sanitizer Box is the clear choice.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Phone Sanitizer
As we mentioned earlier, a phone sanitizer can be used to clean any item, provided it fits inside the sanitizer’s chamber. Think seriously about the devices you have — especially larger ones like portable game systems, e-readers, and tablets — before settling on which one you should get.
A phone sanitizer isn’t an essential tool, and it can easily be relegated to the back of a junk drawer if you don’t use it often enough. We recommend creating and maintaining a phone sanitization schedule to get into the habit of going through the cleaning process.
Similarly, make sure you have enough free space to keep the phone sanitizer out all the time. A bedside table is the perfect place for this device, as it won’t take up a ton of space. Putting your phone into a sanitizer before bed ensures you’ll always wake up to a clean device.
Q: Can a phone sanitizer break my device?
No. The ultraviolet rays created by a phone sanitizer will not damage your devices, even if they’re powered on. Phone sanitizers don’t use any liquid, and the light they emit doesn’t create heat.
Q: Will there be any issues with my device if I accidentally leave it in a phone sanitizer for too long?
No. A phone sanitizer will automatically shut itself down after its program is over, so you don’t have to worry about your device staying inside of it for extended periods of time.
Q: How often should I sanitize my phone?
That’s entirely up to you. You could choose to sanitize your phone daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or whichever timetable makes you feel most comfortable.
Q: Will my phone sanitizer become less effective over time?
No. As long as the bulbs inside of the phone sanitizer continue to work, it’ll never become less effective at killing germs. If the bulbs have begun to burn out, we recommend reaching out to the manufacturer for additional guidance.
Q: How long does it take to sanitize a phone?
This depends on the model of phone sanitizer you use, but it shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to sanitize your phone. Some models, especially those that clean multiple items simultaneously, may have cycles that last a lot longer.
Final Thoughts on Phone Sanitizers
Phone sanitizers became really popular as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but these devices have been around for quite some time. We use our phones hundreds of times per day whether we’re at home or in public, so it makes sense to clean them on a regular basis. This is especially true because you’re likely to touch sensitive parts of your body, like your face, shortly after touching a phone screen. If bacteria is on your phone, you’ve just spread it around your body.
Before phone sanitizers, you only had a clean device for a handful of seconds after you took it out of its box. Now, it’s possible to clean your device regularly in the time it takes to take a shower or prepare a meal. Yes, those few minutes away from your device may feel like an eternity, but hey, it’s worthwhile if it can help you avoid getting sick.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.