Mobile phone hygiene: Is my smartphone a germ?

Your smartphone is full of bacteria, isn’t it? Not necessarily, says a hygiene researcher. Why it is – and why using a mobile phone in the kitchen is more critical than in the bathroom.

We have it in our hands dozens of times a day, some even take it with them to the toilet: the smartphone. The touch screen must be full of germs, right?

The point is clear: Markus Egert, Professor of Microbiology and Hygiene at Furtwangen University. His research shows that the smartphone is not such a big germ spreader. Provided you apply good hand hygiene when you are not busy scrolling.

Question: Sir Eggertwhy sit in the smartphone not as many germs as expected?

Markus Egert: The touch screen does not offer good living conditions for microorganisms. Because it is very smooth, dry and relatively poor in nutrients. What sticks may be a few flakes of skin or a little fat.

In addition, we often inadvertently clean our smartphones – for example by wiping them on our pants or T-shirts. This removes germs mechanically.

As far as I know, this has not yet been studied in a structured way. However, we were able to show in a small study that simply wiping with a microfiber cloth removes 80 to 90 percent of the microorganisms.

Question: But the germs that sit on our hands inevitably end up on our hands smartphonethe?

Markus Egert: Yes, the smartphone looks a bit like a hand extension. However, not all germs from our hands end up on our smartphone. Some germs do better there than others – there is a choice.

However, the smartphone is an object that is commonly used and touched only by itself – no one else. Therefore, the importance of the hygiene of such a device for the individual is relatively impressive. It is different, for example, with professional smartphones or tablets in the hospital, which are used by many people.

Question: Many people also use their cell phones in the bathroom. What does this mean for them? bioburden?

Markus Egert: The script is: You sit on the toilet, take out your cell phone and read something. Then you pick up the phone, clean up and leave. Nothing happens to the smartphone when it comes to germs. Because the ambient air does not carry more bacteria to the cell phone than usual.

Your hands are the key. Of course, if you go to your smartphone with hands contaminated with fecal bacteria, they end up too. If you practice good hand hygiene, this should not happen.

But of course there are differences: If you are in a public toilet, there are of course more to it when it comes to germs. In most households, however, the bathroom and toilet are cleaner than the kitchen, for example.

Question: What exactly does this mean – in view of this smartphone?

Markus Egert: It is much more problematic if you use your mobile phone while cooking. Few people think about it. An example: Defrosting a chicken, listening to music on your cell phone or watching a cooking video.

In such a situation, you are much more likely to infect your smartphone with pathogenic food microorganisms. There are millions to billions of germs per cubic centimeter in such a piece of meat.

In addition, when you try something, you can put a finger in your mouth. You would never do that in the bathroom.

This is probably due to the fact that people have a basic fear of feces. Toilets are therefore places where hygiene is especially important – as opposed to perhaps the kitchen.

Question: What can I do about it? bioburden of smart phone to keep under control?

Markus Egert: Of course, if I wash my hands regularly, my smartphone stays clean. Otherwise wipe regularly with a slightly damp cloth. This is good to do after cooking or going to the hospital.

Personal information: Markus Egert is Professor of Microbiology and Hygiene at the University of Furtwangen. Among other things, it investigates the microbial load of glasses and dishwashing sponges.

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