We Tested Our Phones For Bacteria And The Results Made Us Vomit

By Calvin J.

Imagine you’re sitting on the toilet.

In a moment of boredom, you look around for something to occupy your time. Perhaps a newspaper or a magazine, but that’s so 20th century. I mean, who even does that anymore? But you can’t possibly just spend your time on the toilet twiddling your thumbs, so what do you do instead? You pull out your smartphone.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Depending on the survey, somewhere between ~4080% of smartphone users frequently use them while on the loo.

But have you ever stopped to wonder just how disgusting that might actually be? As it turns out, a lot more disgusting than you might think.

A 2011 study by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medical found fecal matter in 1 out of every 6 smartphones. Another study by famed University of Arizona microbiologist, Charles Gerba, found that most cell phones had up to 10x more bacteria than even a toilet seat.

To see for ourselves just how disgusting our cell phones really were, we swabbed the cell phones of 3 participants and cultured the bacteria in Petri dishes. Here’s what we found:

The results were – needless to say – vomit inducing. Each phone had a range of different bacterial types present.

These results were much worse than what we found when we tested for bacteria at public washrooms. But as horrifying as it may be, it makes a lot of sense. Public washrooms get cleaned quite frequently because we associate them with germs and bacteria. But when it comes to other frequently touched objects such as cell phones, keyboards, and keys – not so much. As a result, they tend to get left out of our typical cleaning regimes and all of that bacteria starts to build up.

With the added help of our busy lifestyles, it’s often not surprising to find people checking social media, sending emails, or even talking on the phone all while sitting atop the toilet. When you then think about all the things you touch in between handling your phone – having lunch, touching products at a store, shaking hands with a colleague – all of that bacteria gets transferred over.

Common bacterial species found on our phones, such as Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus are also found in fecal matter.  They can both cause food poisoning and even infections. Flu bugs and the common cold can also jump ship from one person to another when you hand them your phone, or when you’re picking up a friend’s.

Cell phones are a cesspool of bacteria, with up to ~25000 microbes per square inch. And to imagine, they’re all just hanging out millimetres from your face every time you make a call.

A good habit to get into is not only washing your hands frequently – particularly once you’re off the toilet – but also giving your phone a good cleaning about once a week. The best way is to wet a microfibre cloth with a 35% isopropyl alcohol solution (just mix 70% isopropyl alcohol with water, 50:50) and give your phone a good rub down. Be careful as to not damage your phone, but that’s it. Trust us, it really works:

Look how much cleaner our participant’s phone became just after a quick wipe down with the 35% isopropyl alcohol solution.

So maybe next time you instinctually reach into your pockets to grab your cell phone while on the toilet. You’ll think again.






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