Health & Wellness

Your Phone Is Gross

The average cellphone is dirtier than a toilet seat—here’s what that means

By Matt Smith


A study by a British company has confirmed what you may have suspected all along: your cellphone is decidely not a sanitary device. In fact, the washroom services firm Initial Washroom Hygiene reports that your phone is likely to be about seven times dirtier than a toilet seat. Leather-encased phones are the worst, being an average of 17 times more contaminated with germs than the commode.

While those are certainly alarming figures, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Most of the bacteria present are likely to have been transferred from the phone’s owner—you, so your body’s immune system is aware of and prepared for the potential threats. However, you may want to think twice before sharing devices, especially with somebody who’s ill or if you have a weakened immune system.

What can you do about this? Most phone manufacturers recommend against cleaning their devices with anything more powerful than a soft, slightly dampened cloth, so you can forget about using any heavy-duty cleaning products.

The safest way to sanitize your phone is with a diluted isopropyl alcohol spray, no higher than 70% concentration. Because you should always be careful with liquids around your devices, be sure to spray this solution on a cloth rather than on the phone itself.

The extra-cautious may want to consider buying a specially designed smartphone sanitizer. These devices bathe your phone in UV light for about five minutes, which has shown to be reasonably effective at killing off germs. Some models even double as a charging station, as well. But while they’ll leave your phone a lot cleaner than a manual wipe-down, they still don’t offer a perfect solution and can be fairly expensive.

The safest thing to do is to simply keep in mind how filthy your phone is, and to remember to wash your hands thoroughly after using it. Avoid using your devices while eating or preparing food, and try not to let others borrow your phone if you’re sick.

Photo: iStock/filadendron.