I’m going to start off by admitting: there is not one simple answer to this question. The level of a cell phone’s nastiness differs from person to person, day by day, and place to place. Personally, I literally just cleaned my cell phone. But right before I cleaned it? It was probably pretty gross. I didn’t take a petri dish to it, and I wouldn’t have wanted to. After spending time out in public places and touching door handles and cash and grocery carts, I can assure you that my phone ended up with some new bacteria today. See, how dirty your cell phone is really depends on a lot of factors. And these are things you should know. After all, your health depends on it.
Let’s play a game.
Time for a quick pop quiz to test your current knowledge of the daily grime.
- Your cell phone or a toilet seat?
- Your cell phone or your kitchen counter?
- Your cell phone or your pet’s used food bowl?
- Your cell phone or a public checkout touch screen?
- Your cell phone or your doorknob?
If you answered “your cell phone” for all of the above, you get an A+! According to Mashable, all of the other answers combined don’t even add up to the amount of bacteria per square inch on your cell phone. Yuck.
OK, so just how dirty is your cell phone?
As I mentioned before, there’s not just one answer to this question (unless you can take “pretty dirty” as an acceptable answer). Mashable’s shared that the average cell phone they tested contained over 25,000 germs per square inch.
According to a study conducted by mobile phone retailer Dial-a-Phone, your cell phone contains more bacteria than the soles of your shoes. They found the presence of skin bacteria including staphylococcus aureus on the phones in their study. Joanne Verran, Professor of Microbiology at Manchester Metropolitan University, commented, “Mobile phones, like many everyday objects such a telephones and computer keyboards, harbor bacteria. However, being ‘mobile’, they are stored in bags or pockets, are handled frequently, and held close to the face. In other words, they come into contact with more parts of our body and a wider range of bacteria than toilet seats! The phones contained more skin bacteria than any other object; this could be due to the fact that this type of bacteria increases in high temperatures and our phones are perfect for breeding these germs as they’re kept warm and cozy in our pockets, handbags, and briefcases. These bacteria are toxic to humans, and can cause infections if they have the opportunity to enter the body.” A Dial-a-Phone spokesperson added, “We take our phones everywhere, being in close contact with our mouths, hands, and faces, they’re bound to collect all sorts of nasty germs. The images make look scary, but our advice to phone users is to ensure they clean [their cell phones] regularly!”
Depending on how regularly you clean your phone and what types of bacteria-laden situations you encounter in your daily life, your cell phone can be more or less “dirty” than the next person’s. Microbiology Chuck Gerba once tested 25 cell phones from the Good Morning America cast and crew and said he was shocked at his findings, especially when he saw the results from the soundman’s phone. “This is the dirtiest phone I have ever tested,” Gerba said. “He has somewhere between 10 and 50 million bacteria on his phone. If there is ever a new life form on this planet, it will be on this phone.” Gerba adds, “With the advent of touch-screen phones, the same part of the phone you touch with your fingertips is pressed right up against your face and mouth, upping your chances of infection.”
A study involving 200 phones summarized details in Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials showed that researchers found that “94.5 percent of the phones were contaminated with some kind of bacteria, many of which were resistant to multiple antibiotics. By also testing the participants’ hands, the researchers were able to show that a significant number of germs were transferred from their hands to their phones, and vice versa. In fact, about 30 percent of the bacteria on the phones ended up on the owner’s hands.” Once the bacteria is on your hands or on your cell phone, it is easily transferred from one to the other, and then is transmitted to your face, eyes, and nose through touch, which allows the germs to gain access into your body.
How does your phone get dirty?
If you’re out in public, your cell phone’s level of dirtiness increases almost automatically. You touch something (e.g. a door knob, a restaurant menu), and then you end up touching your cell phone before you get to wash your hands.
Some common ways your phone gets dirty:
- Forgetting to wash your hands after meals can transfer oil and food particles.
- During or after playtime with animals.
- Placing it on other surfaces (e.g. counters, tables, desk, bag, drawer, pocket, seats, car cup holder).
- Using your cell phone in the restroom or after you use the restroom.
- Accidentally dropping a phone onto the ground.
- The sweat from your hands and face.
- Using your cell phone while on public transportation due to touching common surfaces.
- Letting other people use your phone (e.g. taking photos, making a call, showing something on your screen).
So, basically, all of your daily activities will somehow lead to bacteria building up on your cell phone. It’s nearly unavoidable that your touch screen device will get dirty.
If you clean your cell phone regularly, you can avoid the build-up on nasty bacteria on its surfaces. Check out our article for important things to know about how to clean your cell phone. The easiest solution for cleaning your cell phone regularly is to have the proper cleaning product on hand. Wireless Wipes are specifically designed to clean items like cell phones by removing dirt and bacteria without streaking or corrosion to your beautiful touch screen. Keep a pouch of wipes in your car, home, purse, or office to give your cell phone a regular cleaning.