Our phones are with us everywhere we go. It’s likely the object we touch the most throughout the day without even realizing it. But where else have our hands been before reaching back to tap on our phone screens? Bathrooms, subways, and food – oh my! After all, we scoop up our phones unthinkingly and even more horrifyingly lift them up and press them against our faces. Our phones are being directly exposed to the many germs we encounter throughout the day. Here are some of the things that phones are shockingly dirtier than and how to clean up this mess.
A recent study carried out by scientists at the University of Arizona discovered that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. This is because everyday items like phones and remotes are often left out of the cleaning routine. Honestly think about the last time you cleaned your phone versus the last time you cleaned your toilet…
According to Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona and one of the researchers of the aforementioned study, the amount of germs on your device is not really the problem, rather how we spread the germs by sharing our phones amongst each other. Phones spend a lot of time in close proximity to our faces and mouths. If we are sick, our germs stick to the device. If we then let our family or friends use it, they’re then exposed to those germs.
Yep, you read that right. Considering 75% of Americans use their phone while in the toilet this actually should be expected! A study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London analyzed hundreds of swab samples from 12 U.K. cities. The study found that 16% of both hands and phones of the respondents had E. coli, a potentially illness-causing bacteria that is fecal in origin. That means 1 in 6 phones were contaminated with fecal matter.
95% of the respondents proclaimed that they wash their hands after using the bathroom, but the results seem to imply the opposite, or at least a large number of people were not being honest.
“This study provides more evidence that some people still don’t wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet,” says Dr. Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Another reason for this is because of a phenomenon called “toilet plume” – the dispersal of microscopic particles of feces, urine, or anything else in the toilet as a result of flushing. If you frequently use your phone while on the toilet you are exposing it to toilet plume. For your own sake, leave your phone out of the equation so to avoid fecal particles littering your screen.
If that’s not a motivation for a phone detox, I don’t know what is.
It’s a fact that our phones are dirty, but how dirty are they really?
A study by London’s Metropolitan University discovered that there are more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies on the phones of high school students in Estonia.
Good news is most of the pathogens found aren’t harmful but there were definitely a couple scary ones in the mix. Streptococcus, for example, was found on the phones and can cause sore throat or scarlet fever. Another dangerous bacteria found is Staphylococcus aureus, a germ that can cause various skin infections. Finally, E.coli was found, which can cause bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
This all sounds horrific, we know, but if you are mindful of (frequently) cleaning your hands and your screens, you’ll be able to avoid these issues.
“Your mobile device is something you want to clean regularly,” said Dr. Dubert Guerrero, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota. To do this, he recommends wiping your phone with a moist microfiber cloth. This is enough to get rid of common bacteria. However, more dangerous pathogens may require a sterilizing agent.
There are alcohol, bleach, and sanitizing wipes that are specifically designed to clean mobile devices. If you want to take a more economically friendly route there’s a DIY solution you can make at home:
Phone and tablet cases are made to protect your device from dirt but they can get grubby over time as well.
If your device has a case, take it off because it deserves a good cleaning too.
It’s impossible to keep your phone completely germ-free but there are some things you can do to keep it clean throughout the day. Here are some things to keep in mind:
As with any issue, being mindful and aware of its existence is a great first step. We may often overlook how many germs our phone is carrying around, or simply be unaware, but to avoid sickness and bacteria stay mindful and make sure you’re keeping your phone and your hands clean.