Taking a newspaper into the toilet is so 20th century. These days, people are more likely to flick through their newsfeed.
We all do it sometimes (admit it) even though it’s obvious sitting and scrolling isn’t the most hygienic activity. But it is really that bad? We asked three scientists about the dangers, and how to reduce the risk of picking up harmful bacteria.
Firstly, the bad news. It is a pretty minging habit, and you could be exposing yourself and others to germs like salmonella, E. Coli and C. Difficile by using your phone in the loo.
The main worry is if you wipe yourself, touch the flush or the lock then touch the phone without washing your hands (and as you need to carry it out the cubicle, that could happen quite easily.) But even just leaving it on the side could expose it to dangerous bugs. Uh oh.
You can protect yourself, though.
If you don’t want to give up those precious moments of ‘me time’, just be sensible about it.
Hygiene expert Dr Lisa Ackerley told Metro you could do a risk assessment (stay with us).
‘Read the book or phone in your right hand, then transfer it to the left,’ she said. ‘Wipe with your right, flush with the right, carry the book or phone out in your left hand without touching anything else and then wash your hands. Be aware of what your hands are touching.’
‘If you wipe your bum then pick up your phone, you may as well not bother washing your hands because all the bacteria you put on your phone will end up back on your hands,’ Dr Ackerley said. They might be your germs. They might be somebody else’s from the flush.’
Dr Ron Cutler, director of biomedical science degrees at Queen Mary’s University London, said: ‘Basically, you just shouldn’t (take your phone into the toilet) if you are at all concerned about the transfer of viruses and fecal contamination.’
He said that levels of contamination vary widely depending on where the toilet is. A small office may not be a problem, but a hospital or a cruise ship where viruses may be circulating are different.
Using it in your own bathroom isn’t too bad as you can’t get ill from your own fecal bacteria (but you could make someone else ill).
Taking it into a public bathroom risks lots of other germs floating around.
Are bugs just transferred by hands? That is the main way, but not the only way.
‘Spray could travel around six feet from the flush,’ Dr Ackerley said. That’s why you shouldn’t leave your toothbrush close to the toilet.
Theoretically, you could flush the toilet and tiny droplets could drift up and land on your phone, or on a surface your phone might touch.
If the toilet has a lid, put it down before you flush
For this reason, it’s best not to put your phone down on the toilet roll holder or any shelf that might be there.
Instead, put it back in your pocket or inside your bag when it’s time to clean yourself – but make sure the bag is on a hook rather than the floor.
How long could my phone be contaminated?
Germs could survive up to a couple of days on your phone.
‘Phones heat up a little bit giving bacteria a nice warm environment,’ Dr Ron Cutler said. ‘If people handle sweets and leave a sticky coating on the phone, that’s an even better place for bacteria.
‘The levels are, generally speaking, quite small. But you can contaminate your hands pretty badly without trying too hard.’
Should I just get a decontamination suit? Val Curtis, director of the Environmental Health Group at London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine, said she didn’t think using phones on the loo is SUCH a problem.
I would say you can carry on. ‘It’s important to get in perspective that there are germs everywhere’, she told Metro. ‘The question is really, ‘Could it make someone else sick?’
As you can’t get ill from your own germs, you won’t be in danger of passing yourself a bug from your own fecal matter. But you could pass it to someone else who borrows your phone – or you could pick up someone else’s bug from, say, the flush or the cubicle lock.
Dr Curtis said we risk getting obsessed with cleanliness and worrying so much we harm ourselves – when the real thing we need to worry about is dirty hands, not dirty phones.
So basically, don’t forget the soap and water and you should be fine.