A typical handphone carries 25,000 bacteria per square inch, compared to a toilet seat (1,201), kitchen counter (1,736), pet food dish (2,110), checkout screen (4,500) and doorknob (8,643), studies show.
We touch this filthy device 2,617 times a day, holding it up to our eyes, nose and lips – key points for germs to enter the body. Many people also bring their phones to the toilet, which is bad, as germs, even coronavirus, can be transmitted through the potential faecal-oral route, says the US Centers for Disease Control.
According to scientists, coronaviruses and other germs can live on surfaces like glass, metal or plastic for up to 9 days. Although transmission of Covid-19 from surfaces has not been proven, infectious disease experts say you should clean your phone, which is akin to washing your hands. In fact, Singapore Ministry of Health’s director of medical services said that cleaning mobile phones was a more important preventative measure than wearing face masks.
All that hand washing and sanitising you do will still expose you to those same germs you just got rid of, if you keep using an unclean phone.
What TO DO
> Simply wiping your phone with a soft microfibre cloth will remove many of the germs. A 2013 study in the American Journal of Infection Control showed that a damp microfibre cloth fared better than an alcoholic swab at removing clostridium difficile – a diarrhoea-causing bacteria – from a contaminated iPad. When it comes to eliminating the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus or MRSA, both the cloth and swab did equally well.
> Clean the crevice between phones and phone cases – they contain significantly more bacteria than the screen.
What NOT TO DO
> Don’t use your phone on the toilet. When toilets flush, they spread germs everywhere, which is how phones end up with faecal bacteria like E. coli.
> Don’t share your phone with others. Viruses can spread on phones if a person has strep throat or influenza and coughs on their handphone before handing it to a friend.