Posted by Naomi Nessim, January 11, 2017 (last updated on November 20, 2020)
It doesn’t take a germaphobe to know that bacteria lurks everywhere—doorknobs, restrooms, and even some unexpected places on airplanes. But one of the filthiest bacteria hot spots is something you probably have in your hand right now—your mobile device.
The average mobile phone contains roughly 25,000 germs per square inch, which makes it one of the germiest things you come in contact with on a daily basis, let alone press up against your face. In fact, studies show that the average smartphone has 18 times more potentially harmful bacteria than the toilet flusher in the average men’s public restroom. Which is horrifying.
The reason? We’re terrible about cleaning our phones, even after taking them into the bathroom. We also have a ton of germs on our hands all the time, which then get transferred onto to devices as we handle them.
Staphylococcus (aka Staph)
In a 2013 study, British researchers took samples from 30 tables, 30 phones, and an office toilet seat. The toilet seat had less than 20 units of staphylococcus per swab. The tablet? 600 units. And the phone? 140. Pretty bad, as staph can cause severe stomach sickness (amongst other problems).
Health care worker’s mobile phones have also been linked to the cross-contamination of MRSA in hospitals and communities. MRSA is a particularly nasty (and oftentimes drug-resistant) form of staph that can cause rashes and skin infections.
E. Coli (from Fecal Matter)
This is next-level disgusting: one in six phones are infected with fecal matter. The culprit here is usually neglecting to wash hands (with soap) after going to the bathroom and before using devices. People also tend to bring their phones with them into the bathroom—placing them on the dirty floor or atop the (also dirty) toilet paper dispenser until they’re finished. These disgusting behaviors can infect your phone with E. Coli, which can cause both diarrhea and more serious infections. And other bugs like norovirus and salmonella can be passed through feces as well.
Say you hand someone your phone to take a picture. Say that person happens to be sick, or has flu germs on their fingers. Chances are, your phone now does too.
There’s a simple answer to all of this—regularly wash your hands and disinfect your phone. Carolyn Forte, the director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, advises that you clean your device with an alcohol wipe every few days. “Buy a box of individually packaged ones and keep a few in your purse or car,” she recommends. iKlear is a good choice for a cleaning product. You could also level up and get PhoneSoap, which cleans, sanitizes and charges your device all at once. And if you’re worried about messing up your phone while cleaning it, Apple has some good tips about how to sanitize without damaging devices.
How do you keep your phone clean? Let us know!