How dirty is your cell phone?
You’ve probably never stopped to think about it, but you should.
According to a recent study the average American checks their phone about 80 times a day. In fact, as many as 10% of those surveyed said they check their phones as much as 300 times a day.
This means we come into contact with them so much, that any harmful germs or bacteria they have can easily be transferred to us.
More importantly, you’ve probably never thought about the surfaces where you’ve left your phones.
Just how dirty are those surfaces? And, what other objects have been there before your phone.
Below, we take an in depth look at just how dirty your mobile phone is. And, how you can keep yourself safe from infection by properly cleaning it.
How Dirty Is Your Phone?
Here’s a quick quiz. Which of the following common things you touch is the dirtiest?
a) Toilet seat
b) Door knob
c) Your dog’s food bowl
e) Grocery store checkout screen
f) Kitchen counter
If you said (d), your cellphone, you’d be current!
Yes, all of these items carry a lot of germs. In fact, they all have more than 1,000 germs per square inch. But, your cellphone has by far the most number of germs and bacteria among them.
In fact, researchers at the University of Arizona found that high school student’s cellphones contained over 17,000 gene copies of bacteria. That’s 10 times more than what they observed in toilet seats.
Depending on the research you look at, the total number of germs in cellphones varies quite a bit. This ranges from about 17,000 per square inch all the way up to 25,000 per square inch.
A lot of this seems to depend on who’s using the cellphone, whether or not they do actually wipe their phones down, and where their put their phones. It also depends on the person handling the phone. People who wash their hands often tend to have cleaner phones.
What Germs Are On Your Phone?
Researchers who’ve swabbed phones say that common germs found in phones include fecal matter, salmonella, e. coli, MRSA and streptococcus. All of which are pathogens that can cause serious health problems.
Our phones collect a lot of germs because the environment we live in isn’t sterile. Wherever we go, be it your desk or at the restaurant, there are all sorts of bacteria and pathogens on these surfaces.
Additionally, about 75% of people bring their phones with them when they go to the bathroom. If you use them while you’re on the toilet, they have a very high likelihood of containing a lot of germs from there.
Surveys show that between 38% to 75% of people use their phones while in the bathroom. About a third of all bathroom phone users do it for social media.
But, even if you leave your phone in your pocket, they may still be susceptible. Germs and other microbes float up into the air whenever we flush the toilet.
More importantly, if you don’t wash your hands properly after using the toilet, then touch your phone, you’re directly transferring any germs and fecal matter onto it.
Washing Your Hands And Touching Your Phone
According to a survey of 100,000 people, Initial Washroom Hygiene found that 62% of men and 40% of women don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
And, of the half that does wash their hands, about 97% don’t do it correctly. This is according to a 2018 study by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture).
They observed this by installing cameras in test kitchens which allowed them to see whether the participants correctly washed their hands.
The researchers found that the most common shortcomings when it came to handwashing was not using soap and water, and not washing for at least 20 seconds.
Because we can’t see or smell bacteria, it’s easy to assume that you’ve done a thorough job of washing your hands. But, that isn’t necessarily true. The only way to see whether there are bacteria left after washing your hands is by putting them under blue light.
Can Your Phone Make You Sick?
Just having these microbes on your phone won’t automatically make you sick, Whittier says, but you still don’t want to let them enter your system. Viruses can also spread on phones if one person is sick with strep throat or influenza and coughs on their cell phone before handing it off to a friend.
While there are a lot of germs on your phone, researchers say that you’re unlikely to get sick from your phone.
Most of the germs found in mobile phones are natural bacteria and microbes that come from your skin. These microbes naturally occur in our skin. And, they aren’t harmful to health. At least, for healthy individuals who don’t have the cough, cold or flu.
These, along with the oils and natural bacteria from your hands are transferred to your phone whenever your touch, text, call or swipe on your phone.
Unlike some of the other germs, these aren’t pathogens. So, they won’t make you sick.
Similarly, while there are some more worrying germs like staphylococcus there, these aren’t necessarily the same strains that cause staph infection.
That said, you do need to be wary about a few of the bacteria that stays on your phone. These often come from the surfaces it touches, where you leave them. At the same time, touching infected areas or coming into contact with sick people then touching your phone afterward also leaves these pathogens there.
As we touched on earlier, the bathroom is one of the worst places to use your phone. This makes it more likely to come into contact with fecal matter and e. coli. Both of which can make you sick.
How to Clean Your Phone
So, one of the most important things to keep your phone clean is to sanitize it regularly.
The good news is, it’s fairly quick and easy to do so.
All you need is a microfiber cloth. With that, just wipe down your phone’s screen as well as the sides and back. This is good enough to eliminate common bacteria that’s present on your phone.
But, to handle more serious pathogens like e. coli, you will need to use stronger cleaners. Alcohol and bleach are two effective ways of doing so.
All you need to do is mix a 40% of alcohol with 60% of water. Then dip the cloth not the mixture and gently wipe down your phone thoroughly. Doing this once a week or every two weeks will help improve the cleanliness of your phone. And, it will significantly reduce your risk of getting an infection from it.
Similarly, there are some special products that are available for cleaning your phone. These cost a bit more but get rid of the extra work on your part.
One example is the Phone Soap, which uses UV (ultra violet) light to sanitize your phone. The UV light effectively kills the germs and bacteria on your phone. So, all you need is to place it into the Phone Soap casing and leave it for a few minutes. The UV-C Light is designed to kill 99.9% of harmful bacteria on your phone.
Finally, it’s always important to wash your hands properly. This makes sure that you aren’t transferring a lot of harmful bacteria to your phone or anything else you touch. This includes your eyes, nose and mouth all of which can quickly make you sick.