The real killer germs are not on the toilet seats but on your phones!

More germs can be found on your mobile phone than on your toilet seat
By Emeh Joy

You most probably think germs thrive more in toilets seats because we sit on it to poo. But, you'd be shocked to know that your mobile phone is 10 times dirtier than your toilet seat.

Think about it: what is the one thing that rarely leaves your side? What goes into your bathroom, kitchen and even toilet with you?

The answer is not far-fetched, right? It's your smartphone. So, do you still think your toilet seat which you use occasionally and wash often has more germs than your smartphone which you use regularly but barely clean?

A 2011 study carried out by some scientists at the London School of Hygiene, and Tropical Medicine showed that faecal matter could be found in 1 out of every 6 mobile phones.

Another company in the UK carried out a hygienic swab where it tested 30 mobile phones. 7 out of the phones had high bacterial levels while one had a high level of bacteria associated with salmonella and faecal matter.

What is salmonella bacteria?

Salmonella bacteria live in humans and animals' intestinal tracts and are usually transmitted to humans via contaminated foods; thus, causing salmonellosis.

How about your office desk where you place your phone every day of the week? A study by the University of Arizona found that a typical workers' desk harbours 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Why are there so many germs on your phone?

Mobile phones are inevitably part of our daily lives. Thus, they are prone to harbour lots of bacteria

Each time we touch surfaces of objects with or hands, there is a high tendency to contact germs. Thus, your hands and fingers pick up the germs.

The next time you pick up your phone (which you are likely to do almost every 5 minutes), you transfer the germs to your phone.

You get to wash your hands regularly, but then, the germs have already been transferred to the phone, and almost nobody remembers to clean up their phone.

Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, said, "All cellphones are going to have bacteria on them because we hold them up to our face.

"Normal bacteria that are being transferred from cheeks and ears isn't anything to worry about. But, if you are coughing into your phone, those viruses can live on those surfaces for hours and can be transferred to others".

Emily Martin, assistant professor of epidemiology at U-M's School of public health is of the notion that one of the ways that germs get to phones is when they are used in the toilet and bathroom.

"Taking a cell phone into the bathroom and then leaving with it is kind of like going in, not washing your hands and then coming back out".

Is there a way to keep smartphones clean?

There are things you can do to keep your smartphone free of germs. You can start by not taking your phone with you everywhere you go. You don't necessarily need it inside your toilet.

It is also advisable to wash your hands after touching many surfaces before you pick up your phone.

You can as well clean up your phones, decontaminating them at intervals. However, this would also depend on your phone type and model.

You can clean and disinfect your mobile phone to get rid of germs

For instance, Apple has advised against using bleach or submerging its products in cleaning agents. However, it did offer a detailed list of how to clean your iPhone depending on its model.

Google's Pixel phones gave the go-ahead to use household soap when necessary. However, you have to avoid getting soap or mixture into the openings like the USB port.

Motorola suggests that its users use a microfiber cloth with a little water or disinfecting wipes.

Some materials you might need for cleaning your device include:

  • Water
  • Cotton swabs
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  • Cleaning gloves

For waterproof phones, you can make your own cleaning solution with alcohol and distilled water. It is better to use rubbing alcohol as it sanitizes the device and also evaporates fast.

Spray the alcohol on the device and use a cotton swab to wipe it down. Wash your hands before the cleaning or put on hand gloves while at it.

For non-waterproof devices, you just have to be extra careful as they aren't water-resistant. Some wipes might be safe to use on your device. For instance, Lysol advertises that its swipe can be used on electronic devices, including tablets, smartphones and remote controls.

You might want to check out such wipes that are safe for use on your device and at intervals wipe off your phone's back and screen.

Are toilet bacteria harmful?

There is the common misconception that the more the bacteria, the more the disease. However, this isn't entirely true, as all bacteria are not harmful.

Are toilet bacteria harmful?

Jack Gilbert, an environmental microbiologist at Argonne National Laboratory, speaking about this said, "In the 150 years since we identified that bacteria were the cause of disease, we've become obsessed with the abundance of cells.

"The thinking is, 'bacteria equals disease; therefore, more bacteria equals more disease'. But that just isn't the case".

There are bacteria everywhere on the planet earth; in the air, in the soil, on water bodies, on your skin. You just can't avoid them.

We can't get rid of all of them because some of them are harmless and beneficial to man, for instance, the bacteria that fix nitrogen into the soil and the ones that live in our gut system and help with digestion.

So the question is how about the bacteria typically found in the toilet? Are toilet bacteria that dangerous to man?

A spoonful of soil probably has more bacteria than a toilet seat, but the question now isn't about the number of microorganisms present but about the type of microorganism you are exposed to.

Only about 0.1 per cent of microorganisms we come in contact with in our daily lives are pathogenic.

One major microorganism that thrives on toilet seats that is harmful to man is the Vibrio cholera. This bacteria is found in human faeces and thrives in places with poor water supply, poor sanitation and infrastructure.

Other harmful microbes you might find in the restroom include E.coli, hepatitis, streptococcus, influenza, Staphylococcus, Shigella and Salmonella. However, these microorganisms can be pretty much found on surfaces other than your toilet seat, e.g. your cell phone.

Unless pathogens like cholera are already present in your home, you need not worry much about getting ill from touching your own toilet. There is no scientific reason to avoid toilets and bathrooms over other places.

Many surfaces have more germs than your toilet seat

When we talk about places or items that have the potentials to harbour germs at home, people's mind tends to immediately drift to the toilet and the toilet seat primarily because that is where we pass out the faecal matter.

There a numerous other items that we should also be concerned about because they harbour more germs than the toilet seat (Image source:

But, you'd be surprised to find out that there is a whole list of other things that harbour even more germs than your toilet seat. Some of such dirty-prone items include:

  • Your smartphone
  • Kitchen desks, cutting boards and sinks
  • Refrigerators
  • Sponges
  • Handbags and grocery bags
  • Steering wheel
  • water tap
  • Elevator buttons
  • Computer keyboards
  • TV remotes
  • Mattress, pillows, bed sheets, pillowcases
  • Money and credit cards
  • Doorknobs and light switches
  • Toothbrushes

The word 'toilet' is often used to imply dirty, but many people wash their toilets at least twice a week but how many times do you remember to clean your doorknobs, your refrigerators, your PC keyboards or TV remote?

According to a study published on BBC, "Usually, there are about 200 times more faecal bacteria on the average cutting board than on a toilet seat".

The study also pointed out that the dirtiest item in the kitchen is the kitchen sponge which it said was 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat.

The bottom line is that you do away with the notion that your toilet seat is dirtier than the kitchen sink that you focus on washing the toilet and leave out the kitchen sink.

As much as possible, keep everywhere and all surfaces clean. Pretty much everything is covered in bacteria and has the potential to breed more germs!

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