/ Health, Technology

Is your mobile phone dirtier than a toilet flush?

Mobile phones on washing line

Keeping your mobile clean probably isn’t at the top of your must-do list, but after seeing the results of our mobile phone hygiene testing, maybe it should be. Read on and weep…

Volunteering my mobile phone for some research into the cleanliness of mobile phones seemed like a good idea at the time. Now I’ve seen the results I’m not so sure.

Thirty handsets were handed over and swabbed by a hygienist. After giving the mobiles a quick clean, the swabs were whisked away. I thought no more about it.

Then the results came back.

The hygienist had analysed the results as I expected, but he’d also compared them to other objects and surfaces – not so expected.

How dirty is your phone?

Of the 30 phones tested, seven were dirty and had warning or high levels of environmental bacteria (TVC). Another was so bad it was home to high levels of bacteria associated with faecal matter and Salmonella. Nice.

But it gets worse. The average mobile phone can harbour 18 times more living bacteria than a flush handle on a gents’ toilet.

Would you put a toilet handle to your face several times a day? The scary part is that many of us are pretty much doing just that.

Time to banish the bacteria

If these findings are representative of all UK mobiles, millions of our phones are exceeding the recommended acceptable levels of bacteria.

Volunteers haven’t been told the results of specific phones. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing. But I’m definitely sure of one thing – I’ll be cleaning my phone from now on.

Colin Chaston says:
27 July 2010

Thank goodness we do not share mobile phones. It proves people do not wash their hands, they cannot blame anyone else for touching their phone! At least its their own germs so should be immune.
BUT have never seen anyone disinfect supermarket trolley / basket handles, or even the toilet door handles in shops / cafe’s / supermarket / pub restuarant. Then it is someone elses germs!

Nick Robinson says:
28 July 2010

If this is true what about computer keyboards especially in educational establishments where lots of people use them all day?

Well, Which? has actually done research on computer keyboards as well – with one being five times filthier than a toilet seat: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2008/05/keyboards-harbour-harmful-bacteria-137708

Almost the first thing I did after reading the article was to put some antiseptic hand gel onto a tissue and clean my phone. I did my cordless phones too!

Charlie Lavender says:
29 July 2010

Better stop texting and pooing at the same time!

=O Comment of the week right there. Ha.

I used to have wipes for my desk phone in the office so it makes sense that mobile phones ought to be cleaned too. Having used these wipes before they aren’t wet but are damp and given the sensitivity of iPhones (or should that be Apple) what is the best way to clean your phone without risking any moisture damage?

Ruth says:
29 July 2010

Much ado about nothing? All this rather reminds me of the new mother that religiously sterilises their baby’s feeding equipment at the same time as said baby is crawling round the garden eating worms, soil and who-knows-what else.

On a lighter note, my old mobile phone fell out of my pocket at an awkward time and landed in the toilet bowl (luckily before I’d started to use it)! I fished it out, washed it under the tap and left it to drain/dry. Once dry, it worked perfectly and quite likely still does.

The ten second rule works for me, however unscientific!

Can I say ewwwww?

I’ve dropped my phone many a time (it’s a brick from the early 2000s) in water and on stone – just leave it to dry and it works perfectly fine. Don’t think you could say the same about an iPhone or HTC!

This is yet another non topic.

I used to do a Science Lab test with the pupils – it was to compare drying dishes with dish cloth drying with leaving them to dry and compare germ cultures – Most assumed the cloth was better but it certainly wasn’t – BUT neither caused a healthy person any problem at all.

In fact the over zealous cleaning and sterlisation is BAD for your health!! Dirt is good for you.

The vast increase in the prevalence of Asthma in children was shown by research ito be directly related to being so clean the children never develop the anti-bodies NEEDED. Whereas a child allowed to become normally dirty doesn’t suffer asthma. This is true very often for colds and flu.too – the terribly clean child goes down easily – the dirtier are rarely ill.

Its like the incredibly misleading adverts about certain disinfectants – The ENTIRE world is covered in germs and virii ‘ A healthy person is totally unaffected.

Normal washing hands will keep illnesses at bay. In fact as a boy scout I used to camp for a week or more without wahing at all – never ill. But I was healthy.and fit. Even E Colli is rarely a problem for the fit and healthy

The fact that phones are covered in germs only reflects that everything else is too!!

Although a lot of what you say is true – it doesn’t make this a non-issue. There are germs we shouldn’t be coming into contact with. Especially the one that had germs that are known to come from faeces…and you wouldn’t let your children play with…well, you know. Hep A etc…

Although the world has gone a little overboard with cleaning, giving your phone a wipe every now and again doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

If people use mobile phones when driving or walking down a steep flight of stairs, then there is a fair chance they use them in the bathroom too, and that is the reason for faecal contamination. Maybe someone should commission a time & motion survey to test this hypothesis.

Computer keyboards are often said to harbour lots of microorganisms and I’m not surprised. I am not house proud but I could not bring myself to use a keyboard encrusted with dirt an d grease, as can be found in many offices. At least no-one puts a keyboard in front of their mouth.