Wellness

Your Cell Phone Is Grosser Than You Think

A scientist examining a petri dish containing bacterial cultures
A scientist examining a petri dish containing bacterial cultures

Unless you live in a plastic bubble, germs and bacteria are on every surface you touch. Apparently, even washing your hands promises very little protection; one study revealed 25 percent of the public soap dispensers tested contained fecal bacteria. But what surfaces are the most notorious germ farms? We all know door handles are home to high populations of germs, but how do they compare with a cell phone? And who is more germ-ridden, men or women?

1. Cell phone vs. bathroom door handle
Coliform Capital: cell phone
According to study findings published in the
, swabs taken from a sample of cell phones had up to 33,200 CFUs, or colony-forming units, on them. According to a website created by the City of Cleveland’s
, a restroom door handle only has 4 CFUs. A U.K. study detected environmental bacteria (TVC), Enterobacteriae and
in its tests of 30 mobiles. Surprisingly, a
is often much cleaner. Most people at least wash their hands after using a restroom and before touching the door yet our phones are set down on every surface imaginable.
2. Toilet seat vs. purse
Borough of bacteria: purse
Purses are teeming with bacteria. One study conducted by a British hygiene company found that the
inside of a handbag tended to be containers of lotions or creams, beating out a toilet seat for the amount of bacteria they carried. Leather handbags appeared to be prime real estate for bacteria because of the material’s spongy texture, the study report said. Scientist and germ guru Charles Gerba, a professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, believes that the bottom is likely the
part of a purse, as some carriers will place their bags directly on the bathroom floor. A toilet seat typically has somewhere around
on it.
3. Grocery cart vs. gas pump
Germ-opolis: gas pump
Gerba clearly loves to seek out germs; in another study, he and his team discovered that 72 percent of the shopping carts they tested contained fecal bacteria and 50 percent of the carts
-- a bacteria with the potential to make shoppers extremely ill. Potentially alarming as that is, other research has found that 71 percent of gas pumps contain
. This bout goes to the pump, because at least grocery stores typically have anti-bacterial wipes next to the carts.
4. Gym locker room floor vs. office desk
Mecca for microorganisms: toss-up
Your office desk may harbor 4
.(We’ll wait until you finish frantically wiping it down.) Gym locker room floors -- constantly damp and warm from both the freshly sweaty and the recently showered gym-goers -- are a top travel destination for bacteria, viruses and fungi (which, ironically, is not fun at all). Walking around in bare feet can lead to
and
, both of which are pretty gross and uncomfortable. We’re calling this one a draw.
5. Restaurant lemons vs. New York City Subway escalators
Microbe county: the restaurant lemon wedge
Alas, E. coli shows its ugly head again; a study published in the
found the bacteria … where? On the rind of many samples of lemon slices. The escalators in New York’s subway system do harbor a lot of
, which can cause respiratory issues for those who already have compromised immune systems, but this bacteria also occurs naturally in the environment.
6. Lady estate vs. bachelor pad
Germ town: bachelor pad
This verdict probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s walked into the apartment of a single man in his 20s. A team of scientists found our old friend fecal coliform on 30 percent of TV remotes, 62 percent of nightstands and 13 percent of the door handles tested in the homes of single men. Those icky nightstands trump the 33 percent of front doorknobs of women’s homes that contain the same bacteria. And other than that site, the
found in areas of a lady’s abode paled in comparison to a man’s.
7. Lady fingers vs. man hands
Bacteria city: women's hands
We’re just as shocked as you are, although this may explain those dirty door handles mentioned above. Just like a large, worldly city, women’s hands have a wider variety of microbes setting up residence than men’s. According to a
conducted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the average human hand had around “150 different species of bacteria living on it.” Researchers speculate that the higher bacterial diversity on a woman’s hand is due to the higher pH level of a woman’s skin. Men’s skin has a higher acidity than women’s, making it less conducive to bacterial growth. And we’re sorry to burst your bubble, but regular hand washing had virtually no effect on the bacterial diversity of a person’s hand.

Whether you're living in a germ metropolis or just have to visit a 20-year-old man's apartment, Clorox disinfecting products can help with even the germiest of surfaces.