How unhygienic is it to use your smartphone on the toilet?

Do you swipe before you wipe? Many of us might be tempted to check our smartphones while using the toilet, but microbiologists aren’t sure that’s the most hygienic of habits.

Experts say the answer depends on how you handle hygiene as a whole, given the fact that your smartphone is an extension of your hand, in a way.

“If you go to your smartphone with hands that are contaminated by faecal bacteria, of course they end up there,” says Markus Egert, Professor of Microbiology and Hygiene at Furtwangen University, who is researching precisely this topic.

However, if you thoroughly wash your hands when you go to the toilet, you don’t have much to worry when it comes to germs, even if you use your mobile phone while using the toilet.

Bear in mind also that germs are not spread through the air, says Egert. “The ambient air in the bathroom won’t mean your mobile phone winds up with more bacteria than usual.”

In further good news, your smartphone’s surface does not offer microorganisms promising conditions to multiply as it is very smooth, dry and relatively low in nutrients, says Egert.

His advice is to make sure you wipe off your smartphone regularly, using a microfibre cloth or one that is slightly damp, which can remove about 80% to 90% of germs on the touchscreen.

When it comes to phone hygiene, it is also a good idea to wipe off your appliance after cooking in particular, says Egert.

After all, he says, if you defrost a chicken and then watch a cooking video, for example, you might get a lot of germs on your phone, as raw meat contains bacteria. In fact, the place to worry about phone hygiene is less the bathroom and more the kitchen, he says.