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Innovation: A Charger That Keeps Your Phone Germ-Free

PhoneSoap uses UV-C light to clean your phone while it charges.
Courtesy of PhoneSoap
PhoneSoap uses UV-C light to clean your phone while it charges.

Whatever our hands touch, our phones touch. And that means our mobile phones can be downright nasty. Some people even use their phones while they're in the bathroom stall. So it probably won't surprise you that a 2011 University of London study found that one in six of our phones have fecal matter on them — specifically, the fecal bacteria E. coli.

The research on bacteria grossed out the Provo, Utah-based Dan Barnes and Wesley LaPorte. Enter this week's pick for our Weekly Innovation series — PhoneSoap.

PhoneSoap is not actually sudsy liquid like dishwasher soap. It's a phone charger that uses the electromagnetic radiation used in hospitals to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses off your device, cleaning your phone while it charges.

"Neither of us are germophobes. But there are really certain types of germs that we really should not be in contact with, and they're on our phones," says Barnes, the PhoneSoap co-founder.

It all started while his cousin and co-founder, LaPorte, was in his cancer research lab at college. "He realized he was surrounded by the answer," wrote co-founder Barnes. "In his lab they used UV-C light for sanitization. We realized this would be the fastest, most powerful way to kill any virus, germs and bacteria living on electronic devices."

PhoneSoap looks like a little metal suitcase your phone rests in to simultaneously charge and get sanitized at once. Instead of plugging your phone into the wall, you'd plug it into the PhoneSoap charger box. The sanitizing process only takes a few minutes but, Barnes says, "The idea is that you can leave it in there overnight if you want to keep charging. Reflective paint wraps the light completely around the phone so it disinfects it fully."

After successfully funding the product with viral videos and a Kickstarter campaign in late 2012, the founders spent 2013 finding the right manufacturer and they started shipping the product in late November. By last week's 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, PhoneSoap was all grown-up. Both co-founders have left their previous jobs and are selling PhoneSoap nonstop.

"We're shipping almost more than we can handle each day," Barnes says. "It's been a great adventure."

PhoneSoap comes in white or black and sells for $49.95. Get it for your favorite germophobe, or the people you know who use their cellphones in the loo.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.