Wiping down your devices won't slow the flu

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COLUMBIA – Wiping down devices like cell phones can help protect against certain viruses, like the common cold, but it won't do much to stop the spread of the flu.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. William Salzar said the flu is spread through the air and by simple activities like coughing and even speaking, so wiping down objects isn't as effective as sneezing or coughing into your arm. 

The flu is currently  "widespread" in Missouri.

In the Center for Disease Control's last weekly report 40,600 cases of laboratory-positive cases have been reported in the state.

While wiping down devices isn't effective against the flu, there are still plenty of reasons to keep them clean.

“When the next human being touches it, if they have a cold, they could spread it to someone else,” Salzar said.

Jonathan Sessions touches items belonging to other people on a daily basis. As the owner of an electronic repair store, Gravity, he works on computer and cell phones every few minutes, so he takes precautions.

“We cough and we touch a keyboard, and we sneeze and we touch a keyboard and we shake a bunch of hands and we touch a keyboard,” Sessions said. “All of that gets transferred and sits there on that keyboard, which has little nooks and crannies for things to live in.”  

Salzar said the rhino virus, most commonly associated with the common cold, thrives on objects like computers.  

He said in one study where participants were playing a game or cards while wearing masks the virus was still spread from person to person through simply passing the cards around.  

Sessions wipes down devices before they are serviced and before they leave the store not only for presentation, but to stop the spread of germs as well.

Sessions said he acknowledges that some people may be hesitant to wipe down their technological devices with wet wipes or aerosol cleaners.

“Your technology is sensitive, so you should be cautious,” Sessions said. “Obviously there is a high cost often to repair, especially to repair with any liquid.”

If you are using a wipe to clean your device, Session said to make sure is it damp, but not wet.

“You don’t want anything that is dripping wet that will leave significant drops, or has the potential to drop moisture into your keyboard, which could then go and corrode the connection underneath the keys,” Sessions said.

Another option to clean your devices is to use an aerosol cleaner and a cotton towel or rag. Sessions said you should not cut corners when using this method.

“Do not spray your computer and then wipe it down with a rag,” Sessions said. “I know the convenience of that, but spray to rag, rag to computer. Not the other way around.”

Some of the most high priced repairs at gravity are related to liquid.

“Whether it’s vodka or Lysol it’s still not good to get inside of the computer,” Sessions said.