Why Scientists Really Want You to Clean Your Smartwatch

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as smart phone After going mainstream over the past decade, multiple research papers have emerged documenting just how nasty they are. Smartphones can be 10 times dirtier than toilet seats, according to new research from the University of Arizona. Another article published in the journal Nature claims that microbial infections are serious enough to require strong public health and biosecurity protocols to minimize risk.

But for years, another class of personal devices has become part of our everyday lives: wearable health devices such as smart watch and fitness bands. Researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt School of Medicine studied various types of wearable watch bands and found that nearly 95 percent of them were contaminated with various forms of bacteria.

Among the different types of strap materials, rubber and plastic materials had the highest levels of contamination, while gold and silver metal straps had the lowest bacterial activity. The research paper, published in the journal Advances in Infectious Diseases, noted that bacterial levels can vary depending on a person’s sex and occupation.

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As part of the tests, the team pored over watch straps made of rubber, plastic, fabric, leather and metal used by people in different occupations, including firefighting, office work, driving and the veterinary field.

While the type of work certainly affects the level of pathogens a person is exposed to, the most critical material aspect is the conveyor belt surface and texture. For example, fitness buffs and veterinary specialists had the highest concentrations of different disease-causing species living on conveyor belts and conveyor belt surfaces.

The highest concentrations of the pathogen were found in watch straps made of rubber and cloth.

What about companies that claim their bracelets have antimicrobial properties? “It’s a double-edged sword. Any antimicrobial drug provides short-term killing, but it trains resident and transient bacteria to become resistant to the drug and antibiotic,” lead researcher Nwadiuto Esiobu of Florida Atlantic University told Digital Trends .

breeding ground for dangerous pathogens

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During testing, the team found that Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, and Enterobacteriaceae were the most common pathogens living in the bands and bands. The first name on the list is an opportunistic pathogen that causes blood-related infections that ultimately cost the United States $2 billion in annual healthcare costs.

Another strain found during testing, Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause blood clotting, infective endocarditis, and fatal organ failure. Generally speaking, the concentration of Staphylococcus bacteria on plastic belts is the highest, followed by cloth belts, rubber belts and leather belts. In general, metal strips, such as those containing silver and gold, are “virtually free of bacteria.”

Another dangerous pathogen that thrives on rubber bands and plastic is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, known to cause urinary tract infections (UTIs).The most worrying finding was that of Enterobacteriaceae, especially Escherichia coliassociated with fecal-oral infections, found mainly on plastic and rubber bands.

The research paper posits that “static and porous surfaces,” such as those on rubber bands and plastic, tend to harbor pathogens easily. Metal, on the other hand, has proven to be a relatively safer choice.

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«The metal inhibits the enzymes in the bacterial membrane…so most persisters die over time,” explains Esiobu. Security provided by metal surfaces. «Therefore, most stubborn bacteria eventually die. “

Metal straps are a bit more expensive these days, but the security they provide is well worth it. It also helps them look more elegant and more appropriate for a watch that costs several hundred dollars.

How to Safely Clean Your Smartwatch Strap

The team tested three types of cleaners: Lysol disinfectant spray, 70% ethanol and apple cider vinegar. Notably, the Lysol and ethanol solutions required only 30 seconds of exposure to significantly reduce bacterial counts, whereas apple cider vinegar required 2 minutes to achieve this effect.

The straps that Samsung and Apple sell for their smartwatches are made of leather, Viton, stainless steel, silicone, thermoplastic, polyurethane, woven nylon, polyester thread, and fluorocarbon rubber. Depending on the material of the strap, you may need to adjust the type of cleaning fluid accordingly to get the best results and prevent any damage.

Both companies recommend that users wipe down their wearables after exercising or any other form of sweat-inducing training. Apple recommends using 70% isopropyl alcohol wipes, 75% ethanol wipes, or Clorox disinfecting wipes to clean certain types of watch bands, such as Sport, Ocean, or Solo Loop bands.

Opt for a metal watch strap if possible.

Another sign that you need to clean your strap is the strap and the smell it gives off. “The smell is actually a product of bacterial fermentation. Human sebum is odorless,” Eciob said.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic (left) and Ask Ticwatch Pro 5 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Quick-remove liquid nail polish, quaternary ammonium soap, and lemon juice are some other household items that can inhibit the growth of pathogens to some extent. However, the latter may cause discoloration on some types of straps, so use with caution.

Users are strictly told to stay away from anything that contains bleach or other harsh chemicals like hydrogen peroxide. However, if you don’t have cleaning chemicals, household items like apple cider vinegar will suffice. Just make sure to soak those dirty strips in vinegar for at least 2 minutes to effectively kill microbes.

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