REVIEW – Knowing how germy my phone can be, I have been eyeing the PhoneSoap products for over a year now, so I was really excited to review one of them recently – the PhoneSoap Go. The PhoneSoap Go uses ultraviolet type-C (UVC) light to disinfect cell phones and also has a built-in battery to charge your phone while you disinfect so that you can take it out with you when you leave home.
After running some tests, I discovered that it works rather well. I conducted some home experiments that indicated that it is as effective as using 70% isopropyl alcohol but without the danger of damaging our phones. It completed 42 disinfecting cycles (includes two times where I was charging the phone for 10 minutes during the disinfecting cycle) on one full charge of the PhoneSoap Go, charged my Pixel 2 XL phone (3520 mAh battery) 1.75 times on a separate full charge of the PhoneSoap Go battery, and I was able to fully charge the unit in 5.25 hours. It does leave a little bit of an “electric” odor after a disinfecting cycle (like turning on a clean oven with nothing in it), but it works!
What is it?
The PhoneSoap Go is a disinfecting “tanning bed” for your phone. It uses ultraviolet type-C (UVC) light to penetrate microorganisms and destroy the molecular bonds that hold their genetic material together (Columbia University).
What’s in the box?
- PhoneSoap Go (white rectangular box above)
- Travel case (gray zippered rectangular box shown above)
- Charging cable (wall adapter not included)
- User Guide
- Satisfaction card
|Inner Dimension||Millimeters: 173 L X 95 W X 20 H|
Inches: 6.8 L x 3.74 W x .78 H Please check your phone dimensions to confirm it fits inside. Fits all of the latest Apple, Samsung, and Google devices, such as the iPhone Xs, Galaxy A9s, and Pixel 3, as well as other large phones.
|Outer Dimensions||Millimeter: 216 L x 127 W X 44.8 H|
Inches: 8.5 L X 5 W X 1.76 H
|Battery||PhoneSoap Go has a built-in, rechargeable 6000mAh battery and takes 4.5 hours to charge to 100%.|
There are four lights above the lightning bolt on the top of the PhoneSoap Go. These lights indicate how much battery power is remaining. Each light equals 25% battery life. If all four lights are lit up then your battery is 100% charged.
|Sanitizing||PhoneSoap Go can sanitize your phone up to 45 times on a single charge. This will vary depending on if you use the PhoneSoap to charge your devices as well.|
Sanitation cycles last 10 minutes. To start and stop the sanitation cycle click the lightning bolt on the top of the PhoneSoap Go.
The sanitizing space was designed to fit even the largest phones. Measure your phone (with or without a case) to ensure it will fit inside. Sanitizing takes 10 minutes. A blue indicator turns on while your phone is being sanitized and shuts off when the process is complete. PhoneSoap Go was designed specifically for cell phones, however, other objects may be safely sanitized as well. The UV light inside of PhoneSoap Go is most effective on hard, non-porous surfaces such as phones, most phone cases, keys, credit cards, etc. UV light is less effective against fabrics and other porous materials because of the many shadows they create that may block the UV light from hitting the surface. The UV light can only kill germs on surfaces with which it comes in contact. While PhoneSoap Go physically fits all phones and most phone cases, it’s effectiveness on your phone/case combination will be reduced if it touches the sides of the PhoneSoap Go device. If you have an exceptionally large phone with an unusually large case, consider upgrading your purchase to the PhoneSoap XL to guarantee maximum effectiveness on every surface. For additional information on how PhoneSoap kills germs, please visit this FAQ page.
|Universal Charger||PhoneSoap Go can charge your phone up to 4 times depending on the size of your phone’s battery. The more you use PhoneSoap Go to charge your phone, the less power will be available for sanitizing and vice versa.|
PhoneSoap Go has two standard 5V USB ports accessible on the back of the device next to the unit’s power port. You will use the cable provided with your phone to charge. Plug this cord into the back of the device and pass it through the port on the bottom of the device into the sanitizing space. Once inside, plug it into your device to engage charging. The PhoneSoap Go does not need to be plugged into the wall for the sanitizing and charging to work. Any device that charges through USB can be safely charged and sanitized inside.
Design and features
The PhoneSoap Go is a travel disinfecting device that comes with a gray travel case as shown above. The case is semirigid and the gray material feels like a smooth nylon material. It uses a zipper closure to safely contain the PhoneSoap Go. The PhoneSoap Go is a sleek matte white plastic rectangular box. The top of the PhoneSoap Go contains LED lights that light up when in use. The photo above shows four small LED dots above the lightning bolt that indicate the battery level. The lightning bolt itself is the “Start/Stop” button and lights up blue when the PhoneSoap Go is performing a disinfecting cycle. Tapping on the lightning bolt starts a 10-minute disinfecting cycle. You may interrupt the cycle by opening the lid which immediately shuts off the UVC lights, or you can stop the cycle by tapping on the lightning bolt again. One end of the PhoneSoap Go has a cutout for a charging cable to fit in so that you can charge your phone while disinfecting. Some of my thicker USB-C cables are a tiny bit larger than this cutout, but the lid does close and can disinfect my phone. When you open the PhoneSoap Go, you can see that there is a small white flexible flap on the lid. This flap is flexible enough so that it bends around your charging cable when you are charging your device or blocks the cable-cutout opening when you are not charging anything to protect you from coming into contact with the UV light. The back of the PhoneSoap Go contains a USB-A output port, USB-C output/input port (it contains USB-A and USB-C depending on which one you need to charge your phone’s battery while disinfecting), and a power input port. I’m not sure why the USB-C port is also labeled as an input port since you can’t charge the battery through this port nor does the PhoneSoap run when plugged into an outlet through this port. The bottom of the PhoneSoap Go has four small round black rubber pads to keep the device from moving around on a surface. It also contains slots perhaps to allow the PhoneSoap to dissipate heat while charging the battery. UVC bulbs themselves do not emit much heat. And just as other consumers before me have described it, so will I – it’s like a tanning bed for your phone. When opened, you can see that the PhoneSoap Go has one UVC light bulb on the lid and another on the bottom of the PhoneSoap Go base. The bottom of the bed where you place your phone is covered by what looks like glass to give your phone a place to sit without having to place it directly on top of the bulb. This also allows the UVC light to shine through the glass to disinfect that bottom of your phone. When you close the lid, it is held in place to the bottom of the device by magnets (weak, not strong attraction).
There doesn’t seem to be any way for the user to replace the bulbs if something should happen to them. It took some digging, but I found a statement under PhoneSoap 3’s product webpage that their light bulbs do have a lifetime warranty.
Lifetime Warranty on Our Lightbulbs
The lightbulbs we use in our products [emphasis mine] have a lifespan of 4,000 hours – which is 240,000 minutes! That means you can use your PhoneSoap 3 about 24,000 times before the bulbs burn out. If they happen to burn out before then, we’ll replace them at no cost to you so you can keep on sanitizing!
This statement implies that the lifetime warranty on the UVC bulbs applies to all of their products and not just PhoneSoap 3. To make this clear, it would be nice to have this statement on all of their products’ webpages. Based on this, if your bulbs burn out before their time, PhoneSoap will replace them for free, however, I think that requires you to send in your device. It would be nice to have the option to purchase replacements if necessary and be able to install them ourselves.
Here’s an interesting fact about PhoneSoap – they were on the TV show Shark Tank, and were funded by Lori Greiner in 2015. Here is an update video from 2016:
To find out more about their story, visit their “Our Story” webpage.
UVC light is a portion of the ultraviolet light spectrum just like UVA or UVB (see diagram above). UVC light (200-280 nm) has long been known to kill disease-causing microorganisms. However, it cannot be used around humans because it can cause skin cancer and cataracts. Normally, UVC light from the sun is completely filtered out by Earth’s ozone layer (fda.gov) and thus does not get the chance to cause us any harm. Manufactured conventional germicidal UVC light sources use the 254 nm wavelength to disinfect, though not when humans are present. The PhoneSoap Go website does not specify what UV wavelength they use. However, PhoneSoap products disinfect in enclosed spaces to protect the user from any potential harm.
There is some recent research that indicates that there is a safer UVC light that may be used in the presence of humans called far-UVC. This is a portion of UVC light that is in the range of 207-222 nm (Welch et al., 2018). Far-UVC can still disinfect objects as well as the air around us by penetrating through to the genetic material of microbes and disrupting the bonds that hold the genetic material together thus prohibiting replication. However, it does not penetrate the outer dead layer of skin cells that cover our bodies, nor does it penetrate the tear layer covering the eyes (Columbia University, Buonanno et al., 2017); thus, far-UVC can’t cause skin cancer or cataracts. Simply put, it’s safe for humans but kills germs. There could be great potential to develop products using far-UVC so that we can safely be exposed to it while at the same time disinfecting the air and surfaces around us.
To start a disinfecting cycle using the PhoneSoap Go, you insert your items, close the lid, and tap on the lightning bolt to start the 10-minute cycle. UVC light needs to come into contact with the surfaces of your items to disinfect them effectively so you must be sure to not overlap any of the objects you wish to disinfect. Note: PhoneSoap does not clean the dust, dirt, or fingerprints from your phone – just the germs. When testing the PhoneSoap Go, I found that both the HTC U11 phone with an Incipio Dualpro drop protection case and my Pixel 2 XL with a Caseology Legion drop protection case fit in it with some room to spare. The internal compartment of the PhoneSoap Go measures 6.8″ L x 3.74″ W x 0.78″ H (173 mm L x 95 mm W x 20 mm H) so you can check to see whether or not your phone will fit with its case on.
While disinfecting, we were able to charge our phones using the PhoneSoap’s 6000 mAh battery (as shown above). I also used it to disinfect my jewelry and pens. We used it to disinfect our wallets and credit/loyalty cards. Our wallets are made of leather and the PhoneSoap FAQ website states that hard non-porous items are easily disinfected but soft porous objects may not be as thoroughly cleaned because the pores create shadows and for UVC to fully disinfect an item, the light must come into direct contact with it.
I also it to disinfect items like our keys, small remote controls, paper/coin money, etc. Just about anything small enough and thin enough can be disinfected with the PhoneSoap Go.
After disinfecting an object, I noticed that the PhoneSoap left an “electric” odor (something akin to turning on a clean oven without anything in it). This didn’t bother me. It was evidence that the device was doing something.
I was interested in knowing how many disinfecting cycles I could get out of one charge of the PhoneSoap Go which has a 6000 mAh battery. I discovered that I was able to run 42 disinfecting cycles (includes two times where I was charging the phone for 10 minutes during the disinfecting cycle) before I had to charge it. That’s awesome!
I also tested how many times I could completely charge my Pixel 2 XL phone on a separate full charge of the PhoneSoap Go battery. It able to charge my Pixel 2 XL phone (which has a 3520 mAh battery) about 1.75 times.
And last, I was curious about how much time was required to fully charge the PhoneSoap Go after its battery was drained completely. It took about 5.25 hours to charge it which is a little longer than the 4.5 hours that the documentation states it should charge.
I was curious about how well PhoneSoap Go disinfects compared to using 70% isopropyl alcohol on our phones. I performed the following non-scientific experiments to test the cleanliness of four phones using alcohol wipes on two and using PhoneSoap Go on the other two.
Materials: I purchased 10 pre-prepared Luria-Bertani (a.k.a. lysogeny broth, Lennox broth, Luria broth) agar Petri dishes from Amazon that came with 10 sterile cotton swabs to culture any bacteria that existed on our phones before and after disinfecting. This kit came with directions on how to store the Petri dishes, how to swab objects, and even provided experiments that you can try at home.
There are many different types of agar that can be used to culture bacteria but for safety reasons, I chose the LB agar Petri dishes. I didn’t want to amplify dangerous bacteria in my house!
By performing the following experiments, I was hoping to get a visual representation of how well the PhoneSoap Go killed the bacteria on our phones. Actually, not all bacteria are harmful. Many are quite beneficial. However, I didn’t go the extra mile to have the bacteria that I cultured identified – that would have required additional expense and time.
Procedures: To perform my home experiments, I used one sterile cotton swab and touched some distilled water (poured into a tiny glass bowl) with the tip of the swab, just enough to moisten it. I then swabbed an entire germ-ridden phone (including the sides and the ports of the phone). Next, I very gently rolled the sides and tip of the swab on the center of the agar plate and gently drew streaks away from the center with the swab and “colored” in-between those streaks. Afterward, I taped the lid of the Petri dish to the bottom and turned it over to labeled it with the phone name and that it was a “before” test. I place the Petri dish upside down under a large translucent rectangular Rubbermaid plastic storage container (10″ W x 15.5″ L x 3.5″ D) and placed it under a desk lamp that was using a 60W light bulb to warm the samples to around 90 degrees F (temperature was frequently monitored using a thermocouple (an instrument that measures temperature) to make sure the temperature did not drop below 75 degrees F or go above 100 degrees F). I then disinfected the phone using either 70% isopropyl alcohol or the PhoneSoap Go. Next, I used another moistened sterile cotton swab to swab the entire cleaned phone (including the sides and ports of the phone) and repeated the agar streaking technique performed in the “before” test. I then repeated the entire procedure as mentioned above for each of the other three phones.
Note: This home experiment is not a controlled scientific experiment. A greater number of samples are needed to help weed out human error. Additionally, you would also include a “control” that would test for any bacteria in the water used to moisten the sterile swab to eliminate the water as a source of contamination. This would help to determine how effective the sterilization techniques truly are. Unfortunately, I did not have enough agar Petri dishes to do a controlled scientific study.
Results: After four days of incubation time, I observed the results pictured above. In the “before” tests, tests 2 and 4 grew colonies of bacteria. Test 3 showed bacterial and fungal growth. Test 1 had a tiny spot of bacteria on the “before” plate that was visible under a microscope but was too tiny to see with the naked eye. The “after” tests showed vast improvement across all phones. Test 1 (PhoneSoap) was clean, but Test 2 (alcohol) showed one tiny spot of bacteria growing that was visible under a microscope but too tiny to see by the naked eye. Test 3 (alcohol) was clean but Test 4 (PhoneSoap) also showed one very tiny spot of bacteria growing which was also visible under a microscope but too tiny to see with the naked eye. Overall, disinfecting with an alcohol wipe or with PhoneSoap Go is an effective way to kill the bacteria and fungi that live on our phones.
Discussion: My experiments only tested for the existence of bacteria or fungi. This did not include viruses or parasitic protozoa which require different tests to determine their presence. Parasitic protozoa include those single-celled organisms that cause diseases in humans like giardia, cryptosporidium, parasitic amoeba, and those that cause malaria (Plasmodium species), etc. Viruses are not living things. They contain genetic material covered in a coating and lack other cell structures to be able to replicate on their own. They need the host cells’ replication machinery to help them to replicate and spread.
Bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa (“germs” in common vernacular) all have genetic material and scientific studies performed over the last few decades have revealed that UVC light is effective in inactivating viruses (Welch et al., 2019) as well as killing bacteria (Wells & Fair, 1939), fungi (Dai et al., 2012), and protozoa (Adeyemo et al., 2019) by disrupting the bonds that hold their genetic material together and thus preventing any replication from occurring (Columbia University, Scientific American). Therefore based on science and the results from my home experiments, I feel confident that not only are bacteria and fungi being eradicated, but also viruses and parasitic protozoa if there are any on our phones. (Note: some protozoa are tougher to kill using UVC than others and one of the research papers did suggest that “resistance of microorganisms to UVC inactivation may develop” –Dai et al., 2012).
What I like
- PhoneSoap Go is really easy to use
- It seems to disinfect as well as 70% isopropyl alcohol but without any potential damage to the phone
- I used it to disinfect our phones, wallets, keys, credit cards, pens, small remote controls, cash (paper and coin money), and anything small enough to fit in it
- It has a 6000 mAh battery so that you can take it with you when you are traveling and even use it to charge your phone if you need to
- I ran 42 disinfection cycles (includes two times where I was charging the phone for 10 minutes during the disinfecting cycle) on one charge of the PhoneSoap
- I was able to charge my phone 1.75 times on a separate full charge of the PhoneSoap Go battery
- The UVC bulbs have a lifetime warranty
What I’d change
- Update all product webpages to reflect the lifetime warranty on the UVC bulbs
- I would make the UVC light bulbs replaceable by the user instead of having to send the unit to PhoneSoap to replace them
- It’s expensive
- Far-UVC sounds like a promising safe new disinfecting method to use to develop new products
Using the PhoneSoap Go is a treat. It uses ultraviolet type-C (UVC) light on pathogenic microorganisms to destroy the molecular bonds that hold their genetic material together (Columbia University). I found in my home experiments culturing bacteria and fungi from our phones before and after disinfecting, that the PhoneSoap Go was effective in eliminating those microbes. In the past, I would disinfect my phone by using 70% isopropyl alcohol (yes, I know that it can affect the coating on my phone, but I’d rather have a disinfected phone). However, now I don’t have to choose that option because I can just pop my phone into the PhoneSoap Go, tap on the lightning bolt to start the 10-minute disinfecting cycle and forget about it.
I also used it to disinfect our keys, credit cards, pens, small remote controls, etc. I even disinfected my leather wallet which was something that I couldn’t use an alcohol wipe on (the leather of my wallet has a bit of a suede feel). Disinfecting paper money (which we all know is filthy) is a plus, though you have to do it one bill at a time because, for UVC light to do its job effectively, it needs to come into direct contact with all of the surfaces of the item it is disinfecting. Soft porous items are not disinfected quite as effectively as hard smooth surfaces because there are “many shadows they create that may block the UV light from hitting the surface” (PhoneSoap).
Additionally, I was able to run 42 disinfecting cycles (includes two times where I was charging the phone for 10 minutes during the disinfecting cycle) on one charge of the battery and I was able to charge my Pixel 2 XL phone (3520 mAh battery) 1.75 times on a separate full charge of the PhoneSoap Go battery. It took 5.25 hours to fully charge the PhoneSoap Go after it had been completely depleted.
My only reservations about this device are the price and not being able to replace the UVC bulbs ourselves if something should happen. It would appear that even though the bulbs have a lifetime warranty, you still have to send the unit to PhoneSoap to get the bulbs replaced.
Based on the results of my home experiments and past scientific studies illustrating the effectiveness of UVC light on inactivating germs, I feel confident that the PhoneSoap Go is eradicating the bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasitic protozoa (if there are any) from our phones and various small objects. Thus, I highly recommend this wonderful device!