If you’re attached to your smartphone, keep reading.
Everyone’s best gadget-friend is also everyone’s germy friend. According to a study in the Wall Street Journal, our phones are typically dirtier than our toilet seats. Lab researchers tested eight phones randomly from an office in Chicago, and what they found was pretty eye opening.
The good news — none of the phones had any signs of E. Coli or staphylococci bacteria (staph infection.)
The bad news — all of the phones tested founded abnormally high levels of bacteria called coliforms, which marks fecal contamination. Yes, you heard us right: fecal contamination. As in poop.
The phones ranged from having between around 2,700 and 4,200 units of the coliform bacteria. Meanwhile, your drinking water is only deemed safe at 1 unit of coliform per 100 milliliters, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But it kind of makes sense, right?
Think About It: Your Phone Is Usually Glued to Your Hand
The world is obsessed with its technology. According to a study from Mobile Mindset, most humans are constantly connected to their devices. Fifty-eight percent of Americans said they usually won’t even go an hour without checking their phones. That number only shoots up as people get younger.
Even crazier, 73 percent of people surveyed said they would feel panicked if they misplaced their phone (84 percent of women, 63 percent of men). The bottom line is, Americans really love their phones — it’s their gateway to the internet, their loved ones, and more.
Now, think about where your hands have been today. You’ve probably been to the bathroom, maybe you cooked some food, and, if you’ve left the house, you’ve probably touched objects thousands — or even millions — of other people have touched. That’s a lot of transferred bacteria, even if you washed your hands.
Bacteria’s Best Friend
Student researchers at the University of Surrey took bacteria testing on phones one step further than the Wall Street Journal researchers. They wanted find exactly how much bacteria was on their phones, so they imprinted their phones on vessels in petri dishes that would show them exactly how much bacteria would grow.
The growth was surprising — and a little gross.
This time, these students found Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause skin infections. One expert said this might be caused by someone picking their nose then touching their phone. Sound familiar?
Experts also know bacteria grows in warm places, and it likely grows on our phones because we put them in the holy grail of warm places — our pockets.
Touchscreens Are Dirty
We’re not just attached to our smartphones these days. Any and all technology is culturally important in the 21st century. The tech site Which tested 30 tablets looking for bacteria, in addition to 30 smartphones and 30 keyboards.
One tablet even had as many as 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus — of which
even 20 units could be dangerous to humans.
The tablets were even found to be dirtier than the smartphones, possibly because of the device’s bigger screen.
Could Your Phone Make You Sick?
Possibly. One woman reports her dermatologist told her she was breaking out with acne from her smartphone, from holding it up to her face. And its possible the bacteria found on some of these phones could cause harmful skin infections.
Scientists have found all kinds of different bacteria on smartphones. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper even once had his Blackberry phone tested and found streptococcus on the device, a virus that can cause serious problems like strep throat or even scarlet fever (in rare cases).
And yes, it’s even possible you have types of mold on your phone. In a study in Turkey, health care workers found 10 percent of the cell phones they tested actually had mold on them.
Clean It Up
So what’s a smartphone user to do? Return to rotary?
Your best bet for keeping your phone bacteria-free is to keep it clean often. Don’t use soap and water because that could obviously leave your phone with water damage. Instead, use a damp cloth to wipe your phone’s surfaces, keeping the moisture away from any ports.
Meanwhile, keeping your phone clean also means keeping yourself clean. The Mayo Clinic recommends frequent hand-washing to avoid the spread of illness. Wash your hands before you eat or prepare food, after going to the bathroom, and before and after you treat a sick or wounded person.
If you’re really worried about bacteria growing on your phone, there’s also a more expensive (but not completely unreasonable) solution. The company Phone Soap makes an antimicrobial phone case, which the company claims kills germs.
And most importantly, don’t freak out. Coliform bacteria (that fecal stuff we talked about earlier) is gross sounding, but it’s rarely found to be harmful. If you take precautions in moderation, you probably won’t even get the common cold from your phone.