Why you need to clean your mobile phone today (really)

They have become a lifeline – but research shows mobile phones are disgusting cesspools of germs that can even spread viruses.

Around 91 per cent of Australians own a smartphone, according to Deloitte’s 2019 Mobile Consumer Survey.

And each day, we spend an average three hours using it to talk to family and friends, to play and to work.

We take our mobiles with us almost everywhere – Australian research found 41 per cent of people take their phone to the toilet, and one in 20 people even check it during sex.

Some people touch their phones up to 5000 times a day. And with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 80 per cent of all infections are linked to our hands, it’s inevitable that our phones collect bacteria and viruses.

So how dirty are mobile phones?

Bond University associate professor Lotti Tajouri says mobiles are “five-star hotels with premium heated spas, free buffet for microbes to thrive on.”

In fact, new research led by Dr Tajouri warns that mobiles are “Trojan horses” for germs.

“(Mobile phones) have temperature control, we keep them in our pockets, we are addicted to them. We talk into them and deposit droplets that can be full of viruses and bacteria,” says Dr Tajouri.

“We eat with them, so we give nutrients to micro-organisms. And nobody – absolutely nobody – washes or decontaminates their phone.”

The Bond University review of 56 studies found golden staph and E.Coli were the most common bugs on phones, but the research was done pre-COVID-19 pandemic.

Can germy mobile phones spread diseases?

Dr Tajouri’s team of researchers say the coronavirus is probably present on phone and devices of COVID-19 sufferers, raising concerns about their potential role in community transmission of the virus.

Deakin University School of Medicine professor of infectious diseases Eugene Athan says mobile phones can host COVID-19 bacteria and other viruses that cause colds, flu and gastroenteritis.

“Mobile phones have been linked to outbreaks of viral and bacterial infections around the world,” Prof Athan says.

“Any surface on our body or in our environment that comes into contact with our hands can become contaminated and bacteria and viruses can last on those surfaces for hours and, possibly, days.”

Mobile phones have been linked to outbreaks of viral and bacterial infections around the world.

How often should you sanitise your mobile phone?

“Mobile phones mostly collect bacteria and viruses from our hands and even if you sanitise or wash your hands and then pick up your contaminated phone, you contaminate your hands again,” says Prof Athan.

“So think of your phone as your ‘third hand’ and wipe it down each day.”

Bond University researchers recommend that phones are decontaminated daily and regularly with either 70 per cent isopropyl or ultraviolet phone sanitising devices.

How to clean your mobile phone

  • Turn off your phone and remove the case.
  • Use a household disinfectant wipe (available at supermarkets) to gently wipe your mobile phone, avoiding any openings.
  • Apple recommends using isopropyl alcohol wipes available from computer stores or online.
  • Remember to clean your phone every day.

More on good hygiene practices:

Written by Sarah Marinos.