How to REALLY clean your watch

Watches are part of our everyday attire, but how often should they be cleaned, and how much bacteria could they be harbouring? Especially smart watches that are used for exercise, heart rate monitoring and fittness like our polar watches collection.

We have done research into just how dirty watches can be, swabbing ten different types of watches, testing for aerobic bacteria, yeast and mould to find out how much of a hotspot they are for germs. We discovered watches are THREE TIMES dirtier than a toilet seat and flush handle (scroll down for the results).

A quarter (24%) of us confess to never cleaning our watch and one in five clean their watch less than every six months (21%). If you’re wearing one every day, you should try and give it a deep clean once a month. However, just putting a watch in water or giving it a quick wipe isn’t the most effective way to remove bacteria. Here’s what you should do:

1. Remove the watch from its bands
Some will come off by pressing a button to detach their bracelet from the watch head, whilst others will need a screwdriver to release the bracelet from the watch head. If you can’t, this is likely the case with some metal bracelet watches, be careful not to get the watch wet as you it could cause permanent damage.

2. Get a bowl in soapy water
Get a bowl full of water and add a splash of mild washing up liquid (if you have a stainless steel or plastic watch). If you have a leather watch, opt for a small amount of white vinegar in the water instead.

3. Soak the bands
Put the watchbands in the liquid and soak them. Depending on how dirty the watch is, you may want to leave it for a few hours, or if it looks generally clean, 30 minutes will do the job.

4. Scrub away the dirt
Use a soft cloth or brush to gently wash away any dirt, a soft toothbrush works well – be careful with the pressure you apply and don’t use anything that will scratch your watch!

5. Give it a rinse
Give the watchbands a rinse with clean water to get rid of any soap and grime.

6. Clean the watch head
Use a damp cloth to clean the front and back of the watch head. If it’s still grimy, use a soft toothbrush dipped in soapy water to give it a gentle scrub. Don’t submerge it in water unless you definitely know you can, as you may completely break it.

7. Dry thoroughly
Pat the watch dry with a cloth or leave it to air dry on a dry towel for a couple of hours

8. Reattach the components
Once dry, reattach the band to the bracelet and it’s ready to go back on your wrist.

So how dirty are our watches?
Our research found that each watch had a worrying amount of bacteria, yeast, and mould, with watches scoring an average of three (3.1) times dirtier than a toilet seat. The worst culprit was a fitness watch. The Fitbit was a staggering eight times dirtier than a toilet seat and flush handle, whilst the plastic and leather watches were dirtier than the metal ones.

Top five test items in order of infection (Colony Forming Units per agar*):

1. Plastic Fitbit (1,000 CFU) = 8.3 times dirtier than a toilet

2. Female’s watch with a leather strap (700 CFU) = 5.8 times dirtier than a toilet

3. Male’s watch with a plastic strap (560 CFU) = 4.7 times dirtier than a toilet

4. Male’s smartwatch with a leather strap (400 CFU)= 3.3 times dirtier than a toilet seat

5. Male’s smartwatch with a plastic strap (400 CFU)= 3.3 times dirtier than a toilet seat

Our research found that a traditional office keyboard held 4 CFU per agar of bacteria and yeast combined, whereas a toilet seat and flush handle held 120 CFU per agar. These levels measured lower than six of the ten swabbed watches! Would be interesting to discover if mens watches or womens watches are cleanest and additional study would be to test smartwatches like our Garmin Watches and Polar watches.

A bit of a scary thought! However, following our simple tips and giving your watch a quick clean every month or so is sure to help you keep your wrist nice and clean in the future.

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