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Clean phone, happy phone: Get a UV sanitizer for $60 or less

Prices are going up on these germ-killing gadgets. Here are three that promise to eradicate dangerous microbes.

homedics-uv-phone-sanitizer

Die, germs, die! A UV-light case promises quick elimination of disease-carrying microbes.

HoMedics
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

You've probably heard this before: "Your phone is crawling with germs! It's 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat!" Gross, right? Until recently I mostly shrugged off those claims -- if my phone is such a petri dish, how come I'm not getting sick all the time? -- but all the coronavirus craziness is giving me pause. Maybe it's time to err on the side of "better safe than sorry."

What's the best way to do that? For starters, read CNET's story on how to clean your phone -- which includes important info on what not to do. Beyond that, consider murdering those microbes with UV light. There are a number of products designed to do exactly that, most notably the PhoneSoap, which appeared on Shark Tank a few years back. However, the least expensive model, the PhoneSoap 3, sells for $79.95 and won't ship until April 1.

There are less expensive alternatives, though I should note that prices are on the rise and availability is decreasing. One product I looked at was $39 last night -- and $53 when I woke up this morning. Others are showing in-stock dates of up to a week from now.

Read more: Your phone's screen is pretty gross. Here's how to clean it  

These devices have been likened to little tanning beds. You put your phone inside, press a button and wait 5-10 minutes while a UV light "bath" kills all the germs. (Many of them are large enough to accommodate other items as well: earbuds, eyeglasses, toothbrushes, keys and so on.)

Why not just fill a little spray-bottle with equal parts distilled water and 70% isopropyl alcohol, spritz it at a lint-free cleaning cloth and wipe down your phone? You absolutely could do that; it's a cheap solution (literally) that, according to one amateur test, can be highly effective. It's also more work and messier, and you run the risk of liquid getting into a place it doesn't belong.

If you like the UV idea better, here are three PhoneSoap alternatives priced less. Update (3/5/20): All three of these products are now sold out.

Want a sanitizer you can take with you? The HoMedics product is portable, promising up to 70 uses per charge. It's also fast, able to zap 99.9% of all germs in just 30 seconds, according to HoMedics. However, its pop-up phone bed has only "upper" UV lighting; after you run it once, you have to flip your phone over and run it again.

The Kohl's sale price (which is $20 below Amazon's) includes $10 in Kohl's Cash, which must be used between March 9-22. Shipping costs extra, however, unless your pad your cart to at least $75.

Lecone

Normally selling for $40, Lecone's sanitizer just jumped in price -- no doubt due to increasing demand. It's large enough to accommodate phones up to 6.2 inches (not necessarily including a bulky case), and it has a Qi charging pad embedded in its lid -- meaning when your phone isn't inside getting clean, it can sit on top getting charged.

Like a couple other off-brand sanitizers I've seen, this one is also an essential-oil diffuser for some reason. So if you want your phone to smell like sandalwood, lavender or whatever when it comes out, this is the product for you.

Salmue

This thing was $36 when I started writing this story; it's now showing $41.99. And it's about as basic as they come, a simple plastic coffin with UV lights embedded in the lid and base. There's not even a groove for your phone's charging cord, should you wish to top it off while cleaning. (Thankfully, the automated cleaning function takes just six minutes.) Update: This model is now sold out.

If you have any experience with these products or PhoneSoap, or thoughts on other ways to keep your phone germ-free, please share them in the comments!

Now playing: Watch this: How to clean your phone (and things to never do)
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.