Think for a moment before you text your friends about this weekend.
When was the last time you cleaned your phone?
Chances are, it has more types of bacteria on it than the average toilet seat.
If you’re like most people, you check your phone at least a few times an hour, if not far more than that. Apple data indicates users unlock phones an average of 80 times per day and you probably touch that screen thousands of times every day. Your phone travels with you on the subway, on city streets, and into the bathroom — where a great many people keep using it.
You probably even pick up your phone after touching that most disgusting of household objects, the kitchen sponge.
Every time you pick it up, you transfer whatever microbes and viruses are on your hand. If you talk on your phone, you breathe out the microorganisms living in your respiratory tract (but who talks on the phone these days?).
Toilet seat comparisons are fun but really should be no surprise, since your phone comes into contact with so much more of yourself and the world — and toilet seats are usually cleaned more frequently.
Studies have found many different types of bacteria and viruses on phones. It’s common to find bacteria that live on skin and in the respiratory tract, as well as bacteria that live in faecal matter, according to Philip Tierno, a microbiologist and pathologist at the New York University School of Medicine.
Studies by various consumer groups have found all kinds of bacteria as well. British group Which? swabbed 90 phones, keyboards, and tablets and found Staph and E. Coli in high quantities.
To be clear, most of us aren’t getting sick from our phones, just like we don’t usually get sick from the potentially harmful bacteria on our sponges, sheets, or towels. Part of that is because many of the microbes living on our phones are our own — though using a sick friend’s phone would be a great way to pick up a cold or flu virus. But those bacteria are there and in some cases, they could potentially make someone seriously ill. There’s research indicating phones could transmit antibiotic-resistant pathogen infections in hospitals.
“It is wise to periodically clean your phone,” Tierno told Business Insider. “I [clean] mine at the end of each day with just a wipe.”
Most phone companies generally don’t recommend using harsh cleaners like alcohol on your delicate touchscreen, but there are other recommended cleaning products that can get the job done. A microfiber cloth will remove most (though not all) bacteria. And it might not be company recommended, but some microbiologists say the occasional antibacterial wipe couldn’t hurt.
As for frequency, Tierno recommended a daily wipedown. If you miss it once or twice, that’s ok. But try to remember.
“If you’re not cleaning your phone, you should,” he said.
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