Technology 4 min read

This is Really Scary: Your Phone is Dirtier Than a Public Toilet

Lenka Horavova |

Lenka Horavova |

Mobile phones are a real nest of microbes and you should think twice before putting them to your ear.

If you are a germophobe, this is either good information or something you should ignore entirely. However, it doesn’t take a true germaphobe to be scared of public restrooms, so what about smartphones?

Like me, you probably think public toilets are pretty disgusting places. If we had microscopic vision, we’d probably see armies of microbes all reproducing and excreting all over surfaces we use every day. Yet, there are some everyday items that are much less hygienic than a toilet–like our phones.

Our phones are part of us now. Anyone who’s stuck in the restroom without their phone knows, there are things worse in life than death.

Phones carry 10 times more germs than a toilet seat.Click To Tweet

If You’re Dared to Lick Something, Don’t let it be Your Phone!

Phones are one of the filthiest everyday objects we use. Apparently, they are dirtier than toilets seats, and that should probably make sense when you consider that we clean our restrooms often, but how often do we clean our phones?

In fact, according to a study, phones can carry 10 times more germs than toilet seats.

In a 2011 study, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found fecal matter on one out of every six cell phones.

We’ll pause while you disinfect your everything.

In a recent study, researchers found an average of over 17,000 bacteria crawling on the cell phones of high school students. Some strains of bacteria were even potentially pathogenic.

A study found fecal matter on one out of every six cellphonesClick To Tweet

Per another study, 94.5% of mobile phones tested positive for bacterial contamination. The average cell phone can host over 25,000 bacteria per square inch, far dirtier than a public toilet seat with only 1,200 bacteria per square inch.

Why are Phones Germ-Infested?

The short answer is: because we’re filthy and we touch them often. Americans touch their phone 47 times a day on average. If you isolate 18 to 24-year-olds, that number jumps to 82 times a day.

We keep our phones close by all the time. If it’s not in our hands, it’s in our pockets or bags. Occasionally, we hand our phones to others to show off our pets. We take our phones everywhere we go, even into the relatively clean restroom.

Every time we set our phone down on a kitchen counter or on the center console of our cars, it picks up germs.

Should you Worry?

Luckily, most of these microbes are harmless. They can nevertheless become more aggressive for weak or already sick people. The presence of these germs can nevertheless be worrying in sensitive places such as hospitals.

“There are microbes, fungal spores and fecal matter on your phone,” said microbiologist Jason Tetro. “But when it comes to bacteria, unless you have a habit of licking your phone, you should be okay.”

Those Other “Dirty” Things you use Every day

Thought to be inherently dirty, which is true, toilets seem to attract our disgust while our phones are our most important inanimate companions. Maybe you’re using one of these right now–are you? Don’t lick it.

Like the keyboard of a computer, bus ramp handrails, cash dispenser keypads, restaurant menus and handbags, our phones pick up disgusting matter all of the time.

CBT Nuggets swabbed five office items and listed them based on their average colony-forming units (CFU) or how much bacteria they host.

After the swabs were tested in a lab, it was revealed that an electronic ID badge was the dirtiest item, harboring over 4.6 million CFU per square inch, 243 times more bacteria than a dog toy.

Keyboards came in second with 3.5 million CFU/SQ. IN, followed by cell phones (1.6 m), a computer mouse (1.3 m) and, last, a trackpad (810,000).

For comparison, a toilet seat and a toilet handle host on average 172 and 30 CFU per square inch, respectively.

Read more: How to Make Memes With Bacteria

Who else is going to start disinfecting their phone? 

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

Comments (2)
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  1. Bob November 01 at 10:08 am GMT

    Sure most types of phone are missed concerning cleaning. Just like people hardly think of the germs they end up drinking.

    Keep your drink containers completely covered, no sippie lids or straws, use a Bug Not portable, reusable, washable lid to stop drinking other people’s stuff.

    Look around you right now, any drinks getting germs and stuff on them ???

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    JAMES EDE April 15 at 4:23 pm GMT

    Probably the most interesting and less “sciency” post I’ve read from Zayan.
    I knew of this fact before but couldn’t just stop reading

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