Cell Phone Dirtier Than Toilet Seat
Most people don’t give a second thought to using their cell phone everywhere, from their morning commute to the dinner table to the doctor’s office. But research shows that cell phones are far dirtier than most people think, and the more germs they collect, the more germs you touch.
In fact, your own hand is the biggest culprit when it comes to putting filth on your phone. Americans check their phones about 47 times per day, according to a survey by Deloitte, which affords plenty of opportunities for microorganisms to move from your fingers to your phone.
“Because people are always carrying their cell phones even in situations where they would normally wash their hands before doing anything, cell phones do tend to get pretty gross,” says Emily Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Research has varied on just how many germs are crawling on the average cell phone, but a recent study found more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies on the phones of high school students. Scientists at the University of Arizona have found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.
Human skin is naturally covered in microbes that don’t usually have any negative health consequences, and that natural bacteria, plus the oils on your hands, get passed on to your phone every time you check a text or send an email. It follows that most of the organisms found on phones are not pathogens that will make you sick, Martin says. Staphylococcus might be present, for example, but it’s not typically the kind that will give you a staph infection.
In 2011 scientists at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found one in six mobile phones were contaminated with faecal matter, including the E. coli bugs which can cause food poisoning and stomach bugs.
The previous year, consumer watchdog Which? had examined 30 phones, concluding that the bacteria on one was ‘off the scale’ and capable of giving its owner a serious stomach upset.
The latest study looked at 50 phones, recording the highest bacteria reading for a smartphone in a leather case, which was also a wallet, and showed up almost 17 times the amount of bacteria on a toilet seat.
The average for a plastic case was 1,454, which is almost seven times the reading for toilet seat germs.
Experts believe phones become so dirty because they are taken into the bathroom, so are exposed to the same germs as lavatory handles and seats.
A survey of 2,000 people by Initial Washroom Hygiene found 40 per cent of people admitted using their smartphone while in the bathroom at work.
But only 20 per cent cleaned their phone after taking it with them into the toilet.
A toilet seat scanned this way shows up 220 bright spots where bacteria lurk but the average mobile phone had 1,479.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: ‘Swabbing a smartphone is almost like checking your handkerchief for germs – you are likely to find them because of the close physical contact you have with this device several times a day.
‘There will be norovirus on phones at this time of year but the bugs on smartphones will probably be people’s own bacteria so the likelihood of passing on disease is low.
‘However it might be ill-advised to pass smartphones around between people.’
Cell phone dirtier than toilet seat, keeping your phone out of the bathroom will help, but if you want to clean your phone, a few different methods will work. Many people just wipe their phones with a soft microfiber cloth, which will remove many of the germs. For a deeper clean, Whittier recommends using a combination of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. Mix the ingredients together, and then dip a cloth in the solution before wiping it gently across your phone. Unless you’re sick, doing this a few times each month is plenty, Whittier says. Stay away from liquid or spray cleaners, which can damage your phone.
Still, the best advice has more to do with you than the phone. Wash your hands several times a day, the experts say, and you’ll likely be just fine.