How to disinfect iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods, during the coronavirus outbreak

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It's all very well saying we should protect ourselves from the coronavirus by not shaking hands. But a lot of us work where we are sharing iPads, we're hot-desking at Macs, and some of us are even letting partners borrow our AirPods. Here's how to be sure you're safe.

Before we sound as if we're trying to get you to put a mask on your Mac, let us be clear. It's far more likely you will get the coronavirus from someone sneezing at you than it ever is that they coughed all over your iPad, especially if you don't let them use it in the first place.

The truth is that the coronavirus does not survive a great deal of time on surfaces, but it does last outside the human body for a bit longer than most viruses. So when you are in a working environment where Apple devices are routinely shared, it's worth taking some simple steps to remove the possibility of infection.

AppleInsider talked with medical professionals and experts in the US and the UK to find out what to do. We spoke with microbiologists and doctors, we talked with private physicians and National Health Service people.

And very reassuringly, every single one of them told us the same things.

Disinfect yourself for the coronavirus, not your device

We'll cover how you clean an iPad to make sure that it's free of the possibility of infection, but each expert we spoke to says that the solution lies in what you do after handling devices.

Wash your hands thorough, and do so preferably with an alcohol hand gel.

Not recommended.
Not recommended.

Avoid touching your face when you're handling a device like an iPad. This is the same general advice you'll hear from the CDC and others, but it's the same because it's accurate.

For an iPad, an iPhone, an iPod touch, or a Mac, keeping the devices clean, keeping them to yourself, and washing your hands is enough.

It's a little trickier with the Apple Watch and AirPods. There is no specific advice about those, but the general rule of washing hands will help — and so will the recommended ways of cleaning Apple devices.

How to disinfect your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

Lay in a stock of dry, lint-free cloths. Even after the outbreak is over, they will serve you well.

  • Power down the iPhone
  • Wipe with a lint-free dry cloth
  • Never get liquids or moisture into openings
  • Never use compressed air or cleaning products

You could buy a screen protector. That doesn't sound like it would make much difference, but you're going to be less concerned about damaging a two-buck screen protector than you would a thousand dollar phone.

That's certainly true, yet if you get a screen protector and wipe it over with a damp cloth, you could still get moisture into the sides, top, and back of the device. The better option is to regularly wipe the device with a dry lint-free cloth, like a lens cloth, and then even more regularly wash your hands.

To save running out of handwash, or just patience, you could touch your device less often. Ask Siri to place calls for you, for instance. You could do that via AirPods 2 or AirPods Pro, too.

On Monday, Apple updated a page for device cleaning, and now says that it's okay to use a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipe to "gently wipe the hard, nonporous surfaces of your Apple Product." Specifically, Apple says this is the display, keyboard, or other external surfaces. This is new guidance, and was previously specifically forbidden to perform on screens, to avoid stripping the oleophobic coating off of an iPhone or iPad, or the coating on a Retina Display on a MacBook Pro. We still don't recommend it, though — but we're trying it on sacrificial devices for the next few weeks and will report back.

How to disinfect your AirPods or AirPods Pro

AirPods and AirPods Pro are tiny and delicate devices which need careful handling if you're to clean them properly, or just not lose them accidentally.

Although you're not going to catch the coronavirus from yourself. So if you absolutely never loan them to anyone, and you absolutely always return them to their charging case, you're fine.

We're not being rude when we decide to wave at this guy instead of shaking his hand.
We're not being rude when we decide to wave at this guy instead of shaking his hand.

Otherwise, use one of your stash of dry, lint-free lens cloths and wipe over the devices carefully.

  • Never run them under water
  • Do not get any liquid in any opening
  • Never use sharp objects

You can also clean the charging case with the same type of cloth, but this time dampened slightly with isopropyl alcohol.

How to disinfect your Apple Watch

It's even less likely that you will loan your Apple Watch to different people during your working day than you would AirPods. However, it's far more common that you may take the Watch off and leave it on your desk.

In which case, keep it clean by doing the following at intervals.

  • Turn off the Apple Watch
  • Remove it from any charger
  • Wipe with soft, dry, lint-free cloth

In this case, you can dampen that cloth with water. Assuming you have an Apple Watch that is water resistant, you can even place it under gently running water for a few seconds.

There is one extra step you can take that is peculiar to the Apple Watch. You can remove the band and clean that separately.

You may do that for the convenience of being able to clean the Watch without the band getting in your way. However, if the band is a leather one, you need to clean it separately.

Remember that bands need cleaning just as much as the Apple Watch does
Remember that bands need cleaning just as much as the Apple Watch does

That means wiping it down again, as leather bands are not made to be water resistant.

Being sensible during the coronavirus outbreak

It will take you longer to clean an Apple Watch band than it will any other Apple device, just because it's best if you leave them to dry out by themselves. Otherwise, this is all sensible advice both for avoiding the coronavirus, and for having shiny Apple devices.

Just remember that if it seems this is being at best thorough, and at worse over-cautious, these cleaning steps are simple ones you can do whenever you need.


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