Mobile Phones Are Dirtier Than Toilets Because of Cleaning Routines

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( — February 02, 2013) London, UK — Mobile phones have more bacteria on their surfaces than toilet seats, says Charles Gerba, a researcher in microbiology at the University of Arizona in the United States. These bacteria include a number that have been associated with gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, and similar stomach upsets. Pathogen levels on a typical mobile phone handset can be up to ten times higher than those found on toilet seats, according to this research.

The main reason why mobile phones are so germ-laden is because they are not part of a regular cleaning schedule, with many people overlooking this device and forgetting about it. In the case of office cleaning, mobile phones are often not left where janitors and other professional office cleaners can clean them. Toilets, by contrast, are cleaned on a regular basis and most people are aware of the potential for greater levels of bacteria in this area and thus take more precautions.

Another reason why mobile phones have such a high level of pathogens is that they are in frequent close contact with hands and with mouths. Furthermore, people are often likely to hand their mobile phone device to another person. “It makes me cringe when I think about it,” said a representative from Anyclean, a London based company that provides a range of cleaning services, including office cleaning. “People pass their phones around from person to person – even to strangers – and then they’re holding that phone close to their mouth. And as for those people who send texts or who take calls when they’re using the loo – I don’t even want to think about it!”

Uncertainty about how to clean a mobile phone is often the reason why they are not cleaned frequently. “People are afraid that using a disinfectant on their mobile phone will hurt the touch screen technology or that liquid will get inside ‘the works’ and damage the phone. So they just don’t clean them – ever.”

Other commonly touched areas that are seldom cleaned even though they have been found to harbour large amounts of disease-causing pathogens include computer keyboards and the steering wheels of cars. According to research, these can be up to five times dirtier than the average toilet seat.

The best way to clean a mobile phone and reduce the levels of bacteria on it is to wipe it down with antibacterial wipes that are damp but not wet. Most common disinfectant wipes will not hurt touch screen technology. Those concerned about toxins and who prefer natural cleaners can wipe down their mobile phone with a soft cloth that has been dampened with neat vinegar or strong alcoholic spirits. Other suggestions for reducing the level of pathogens on these devices and preventing them from becoming a vector of disease transmission include not sharing mobile phones, and not using the phone on the toilet or while eating. “But regular cleaning is really the best strategy,” said the Anyclean representative. “It’s not as hard as you think and it could save a lot of time off work sick.”

Editor’s note:

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