We run our fingers over them all through the day, even while we’re having a snack or eating lunch. But tablets, smartphones and office keyboards may have more bacteria lurking on them than a toilet seat.
Our latest investigation has found that touchscreen tablets and phones can harbour the kind of bugs that would make you think twice about touching them.
It’s easy to imagine that your shiny Apple iPad or Android tablet is as clean as its smoothly designed lines, but look a little closer and you’ll discover a myriad of potentially dangerous bugs lurking on that touchscreen. Grubby fingers, snacking while typing and rushed toilet breaks mean that your tech could be a health risk.
What really lives on a touchscreen?
We swabbed 30 tablets, 30 phones and 30 office keyboards and sent the specimens off for analysis. The results showed that shockingly, many keyboards and tablets were dirtier than an office toilet seat. And in some cases we had to immediately inform the owners that their tech needed serious cleaning.
Enterobacteria, which can include strains of infections such as e.coli and other bugs that cause illness, was present in high-risk levels in 8 of the 30 tablets we tested. High-risk represents more than 1,000 units of enterobacteria per swab, which compares to 10 units per swab on the toilet seat we tested.
Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause severe food poisoning, was found at high levels in three of the tablets and smartphones we tested. In one case we found a tablet with a count of 600 units of staphylococcus aureus per swab. By comparison, the toilet seat we tested had a count of less than 20.
How clean is your tablet?
Our expert microbiologist noted that if these levels of bacteria were found on the hands of anyone working in the food industry, then they would have to be immediately re-trained in basic hygiene.
We confronted our volunteers with our findings, and the reactions were often uncomfortable:
‘Learning that my keyboard was full of bacteria made me feel so queasy that I rushed out immediately to get some anti-bac spray to give it a thorough clean,’ one owner said.
The toilet seats, flushes and toilet door handles we swabbed all had lower bacteria counts than the tech items we tested because they are routinely cleaned. There’s something smartphone and tablet owners could learn from that approach. Even wiping a phone on your shirt is better than nothing.
We recommend cleaning your smartphone and tablet screens regularly using safe, hygienic products that won’t damage your touchscreen and can help keep the tummy bugs at bay. Although we wouldn’t suggest you do what we’ve done in this picture…