Some cell phones could carry more bacteria than a toilet seat, study finds

Tyler Gieseke

For many young people, cell phones are a necessity for everyday activities. But they may need to pay more attention to the cleanliness of their devices.

Kare 11 conducted a study investigating the cleanliness of ten devices belonging to both Kare 11 employees and others, including the cell phone of someone working out in a gym.

Although no ecoli, fecal matter or harmful staph were found on the devices, results showed that a cell phone could hold more bacteria than a toilet seat or bathroom door handle, Kare 11 said.

Swabs of the phones were taken and then tested for germs in a New Ulm lab, according to Kare 11. The devices had amounts of bacteria ranging from 90 colony forming units — a low count — up to 8900 colony forming units.

But the levels of bacteria found shouldn’t be concerning, especially if you wash your hands, Dr. Craig Hedberg told Kare 11. Hedberg is a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Apple recommends using a lint-free cloth to clean its devices in place of abrasive cloths like paper towels. Cleaners should not be sprayed directly onto devices, according to Apple.   

John Delahanty — from the New Ulm lab — told Kare 11 that a porous, rubber case is more likely to hold bacteria than the glass surface of a device.

In fact, the only device Kare 11 tested without a cover did have one of the lowest numbers of colony forming units. But another phone with a cover had low amounts as well, Kare 11 said.