Cell phones are hardly a luxury item in this day and age. People of all ages and from all backgrounds have cellphones and use them daily. One thing many people don't put much thought into, though: how dirty is your cellphone? 

Astudy published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health shows more than 17,000 bacterial gene copies on each phone of the high school students involved.Other studies have shown over 25,000 bacteria per square inch of cell phones. 

How Do Cellphones Compare?

There is no denying that cellphones are breeding grounds for bacteria, but it’s hard to understand 17,000 or 25,000 numbers in terms of bacteria. Thisstudy by Mashable.com shows exactly how cellphones stack up against other everyday, dirty items:

  • Toilet seat: 1,201 bacteria/sq in
  • Kitchen counter: 1,736 bacteria/sq in
  • Pet dish: 2,110 bateria/sq in
  • Store checkout screen: 4,500 bacteria/sq in
  • Doorknob: 8,643 bacteria/sq in

It’s a pretty terrifying thing to think about the cellphones we carry around with us and hold up to our faces daily carry more than three times the number of bacteria of doorknobs. 

How Does Your Cellphone Get So Dirty?

Without even thinking about it, we often bring our cellphones to specific areas that carry many bacteria, like restrooms and kitchens. On top of taking them everywhere with us, we frequently use them, increasing the spread from these places onto our phones.

The usual transmission process goes as follows: bacteria onto hand onto cellphone onto cheeks and ears. Touching a cellphone with a contaminated hand will lead to the spread of the bacteria. Up to 80 percent of all infections are transmitted via the hands.

What Are Common Bacteria Found on Cellphones?

Because we touch our cellphones on average once every 12 minutes throughout each day, it isn’t too surprising that the bacteria we touch from other dirty surfaces transfer onto our cellphones. 

But what if the bacteria found on phones are the most common and harmful? Here is one brief list, including the bacteria’s more common name:

  • Streptococcus (strep throat)
  • MRSA (staph infection)
  • Coli (E. coli)
  • Mold
  • Yeast (including candida)

It’s essential to be aware of bacteria’s ability to be transferred from surface to surface, especially when you consider how close your phone is to your mouth and nasal cavity. Even more crucial, what to do about it now that you know. 

Why Is It Bad To Have a Dirty Cellphone?

Aside from being downright gross, having a dirty cellphone is detrimental to our health as well. Even though some people frequently wash their hands regularly, they neglect to take the same care with their cellphones.

Cross-contamination from hands to phones and faces can make us sick. Additionally, our cellphones carrying bacteria can leave bacteria behind on surfaces to be spread even further to others via their cellphones. In the end, it can be a vicious cycle.

What to Do About Your Dirty Cellphone?

Now that you know just how dirty your cellphone is, the next question is, what do you do about it? Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting is just the beginning of the process. What else can you do? Follow these three simple steps to keep yourself healthy and protected.

1. Keep Your Hands Clean

To help minimize the spread of bacteria from other commonly touched surfaces to your phone, keep your hands clean. Through frequent and thorough washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting your hands, you can help slow the spread to your phone.

Clean vs. Sanitize vs. Disinfect

Although sometimes the words are used interchangeably, they do mean different things. It is essential to understand the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. 

  • Clean: removing visible debris from surfaces
  • Sanitize: reducing bacteria, viruses, and fungi from surfaces
  • Disinfect: eliminating pathogens and microorganisms on surfaces 

Sanitizing is typically a term used for surfaces that contact food and disinfecting for non-food contacting surfaces. 

When to Wash Your Hands

Regularly washing your hands is a crucial element in maintaining your health. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends washing your hands at minimum as follows: 

  • Before, during, after your food prep
  • Before you eat
  • Before, after you care for the ill
  • Before, after you treat cuts
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After you change diapers
  • After you blow your nose, cough, sneeze
  • After you touch animals
  • After you handle trash 

If or when soap is not available for washing your hands, consider a hand sanitizer as an alternative option. While it is best to follow both steps, one is still better than none. 

2. Keep Your Phone Clean

Besides keeping your hands clean, you can use the same practice on your cellphone to help minimize bacteria’s spread even further. Keep your cellphone clean, sanitized, and disinfected.

Limit Cellphone Use

Other health agencies recommend limiting cellphone usage in specific areas due to the number of bacteria they are known to hold. Some of these locations include:

  • Kitchens
  • Restrooms
  • Dining tables
  • Doctor’s offices


Try to be considerate of yourself and others by putting your phone away in these places, safely hidden from potential bacteria exposure.

3. Avoid Contact to Your Face

Consider alternative options to holding your cellphone to your face when answering calls or listening to music. Having bacteria from your phone close to your mouth and nasal cavity makes you more susceptible to transferring bacteria directly into your bloodstream. 

Check out these MaskFone masks, a new technology that helps you stay protected and still answer calls freely. Limiting the amount of time your phone touches your face helps to minimize your exposure to potential bacteria from your phone.


Cellphones are undeniably the dirtiest surfaces we regularly come in contact with daily. Considering the average person checks their phone every 12 minutes, it is worrisome to think about the number of bacteria being shed onto our faces every day.

Protect yourself and your immune system by cleaning your phone regularly and finding alternatives to help you limit the amount of time of your screen exposure to your face.