Toilets have a reputation for being the most germ-laden thing around our houses, but a range of studies have shown that it’s actually more likely to be your smartphone.
So who’s who in the zoo?
After swabbing a series of phones, researchers found that up to 16 percent of phones harbour significant numbers of E. coli, a common food poisoning bug, found in poo. Along with E. coli, the most common bacteria found on phones tend to be:
- Staphylococcus, a ubiquitous bug that often causes staph infections of the skin
- Actinobacteria, a broad family of bacteria that can cause tuberculosis, diphtheria and bacterial vaginosis
- Citrobacter, which can lead to urinary tract infections, sepsis and meningitis
- Enterococcus, which can cause a range of infections, including meningitis.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are also surprisingly common residents of smartphones. Another study of healthcare workers’ phones found that multidrug-resistant bacteria was present in 69.9 percent of samples.
What do toilets have to do with it?
All of this is just as disgusting as it sounds. According to a study by the University of Arizona, phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.
But it seems toilets do have a role to play. A survey in 2018 found that three out of four people in the US admit to using their phone whilst on the toilet. Eww. And what if they don’t wash their hands??
It’s estimated that the average person taps, swipes, and clicks their phone screen 2,617 times each day. For heavy users, that figure doubles to 5,427 touches a day. In between these touches, our hands constantly pick up new microbial hitchhikers from touching handrails, shaking hands, pressing elevator buttons, and so on.
How to clean your smartphone and keep it germ-free
Fear not, though. Despite all of these findings, it is fairly easy to keep your phone clean and relatively germ-free.
First, remove any debris with a soft and lint-free cloth, then use a 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol-based wipe. The alcohol will kill off the most problematic pathogens and should evaporate away before entering the inner workings of the device.
Importantly, you should also wash your hands and keep them away from your face. Does this sound familiar? It should, all that advice was given when COVID-19 appeared. It was true before and it’s just as true now.