Whether you’re aware of it or not, you probably carry your phone with you everywhere you go– the grocery store, the gym, and even into the bathroom (why?). Just looking at your screen, you know your phone is one of the dirtiest things you own. Its filth goes beyond what you can see, though. There are up to hundreds of bacteria hanging around on that device right now. Thankfully, protecting yourself from the many germs on your phone is simple — and effective.
Some bacteria can hurt you — but not all of them
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are bacteria everywhere — even all over your body. However, most of these microbes are good guys — they’re essential parts of your immune and digestive systems. Bacteria that can make you sick, called pathogens, usually invade your system through your eyes, nose, and mouth, and are really good at learning to resist our defenses.
You’ll find more harmless bacteria on your phone than you will pathogens, but the possibility of infection increases the more you use — and share — your phone.
How does bacteria spread from person to phone?
You interact with strains of bacteria everywhere you go — so much so that touching a doorknob won’t necessarily make you sick. However, when you touch a doorknob, then touch your phone, then bring your phone close to your mouth, you’re at a slightly higher risk of infection. But there are less obvious ways to spread germs than touching your phone directly — TIME Health, for example, warns that flushing the toilet with your phone nearby can spread E. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria.
There’s a lot of bacteria in close proximity to your face
Refinery29 says your phone could house 150 types of bacteria or more at a time. A lot of these germs come from the environment (and can’t be helped), and most of them won’t usually make you sick. However, you’re not as much of an introvert as your smartphone addiction leads you to believe. There’s at least one high-five, handshake, fist-bump, or hug within a typical day, and the moment you hand your co-worker your phone to get a closer look at that viral GIF, your germs become their germs.
Don’t use your phone on the toilet
There’s a reason your phone is dirtier than your toilet seat — you probably clean your toilet, but rarely clean your phone. It shows. One study found that 1 in 6 cell phones were contaminated with fecal matter. How do you think it got there? It might not make you sick (if it’s your own), but you’re putting others at risk. If you can’t part with your phone long enough to do your business, at least wash your hands afterward to help prevent spreading germs by touching everything.
Why don’t more people clean their phones?
You wash your hands with soap to rid them of harmful bacteria (hopefully). You brush your teeth to keep bacteria from destroying your teeth. If your cell phone is just as important, why don’t you clean it daily? According to LiveScience, people likely don’t clean their phones because they’re afraid of damaging them. You definitely don’t want to spray your phone with a chemical, or run it under water. However, you can effectively clean it with an antibacterial wipe — especially before handing it over to someone else (or after).
The bacteria on your friend’s phone might make you sick
Even though it’s unlikely you’ll get sick from your own phone (they’re mostly your germs, after all), you can get sick if you come into contact with someone else’s. Business Insider says while there are many strains of bacteria on the average phone — most of them harmless — it’s still possible to experience an infection. Some of the most common strains should sound familiar:
- E. coli, which can cause a UTI or digestive problems
- MRSA, resistant to many routine antibiotics
- Streptococcus, which causes strep throat
These are the (other) dirtiest things you’ve touched today
Your phone isn’t the only frequently used item covered in bacteria. Mental Floss says some of the things you touch every day (or multiple times per day) are crawling with germs. These include:
- Kitchen sponges
- Your toothbrush holder
- The remote control
- Shopping carts
- Your computer keyboard
Also in the running: first-floor elevator buttons, toilet seats, and your car keys.