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How Easily Can Bacteria Transfer from your Phone to your Hands?

Hand hygiene is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick. However, many forget that mobile phones can also harbour bacteria and viruses; it is the third hand that we never wash.  

But, can bacteria and viruses actually transfer from a phone to our own hands, leading to infection and disease? 

At CleanSlate UV, we took this to the test. 

Background

Pathogens can be transmitted from one individual to the next in many ways to create a chain of infection. These methods include airborne, waterborne, and fomite transmission.  

Fomite transmission is a common method in which there is the transfer of disease  between individuals due to pathogens living on inanimate surfaces – termed fomitesFomites are a concern in public settings, where there is constant contact of surfaces between different people coming and going throughout the day. 

Only certain surfaces and materials are prone to being fomites. And only certain pathogens can survive on fomites. So, are phones able to be fomites that hold viable and possibly disease-causing (pathogenic) bacteria and viruses?

The Study

We observed bacterial samples on three different surfaces: 

  1. Clean hands, disinfected with 70% isopropyl alcohol
  2. A cell phone
  3. Hands after being in contact with the cell phone for 5 mins 


After swabbing all three surfaces, the swabs were plated to observe any bacterial growth. The presence of colonies on the plates determines whether there were any bacteria present on the corresponding surface. Most importantly, only alive and possibly harmful bacteria from the swabbed surface produces a visible colony on the plate.

The Results

Below are the results after 48 hours of incubation: 

Figure 1: Bacterial growth from clean hands.

Figure 2: Bacterial growth from a cell phone.

Figure 3: Bacterial growth from hands after 5 minutes of contact with cell phone.

The Results

Below are the results after 48 hours of incubation: 

Figure 1: Bacterial growth from clean hands.

Figure 2: Bacterial growth from a cell phone.

Figure 3: Bacterial growth from hands after 5 minutes of contact with cell phone.

In comparing Figure 1 and 3, it is apparent how much viable bacteria has been transferred in just 5 mins of contact from a dirty phone to clean hands.

So What?

Given that the average person touches their phone for a total of 3 hours and 25 mins per day, we can image the multiplied bacterial transfer from this amount of contact time in one day1. 

In seeing fomite transmission between a mobile device and a hand, the importance of mobile device disinfection comes to light. Taking hygienic precautions can help prevent common fomite transmitted diseases such as2: 

  • The common cold (caused by rhinovirus)
  • Upper respiratory infections (caused by coronavirus)
  • Diarrheal diseases (caused by rotavirus)

 

Hand hygiene is the simplest and most direct way to eliminate fomite transmission. CleanSlate UV can also help to eliminate fomite transmission by sanitizing mobile devices, without risk of damage compared to chemical wipes.  

With the importance of hand hygiene at the forefront, CleanSlate UV is a safe and effective solution in breaking the chain of infection.

1: Zalani, R. (June 2, 2021). Screen Time Statistics 2021: Your Smartphone Is Hurting You. Elite Content Marketer. Retrieved from https://elitecontentmarketer.com/screen-time-statistics/  

2: Zoppi, L. (February 18, 2021). What are Fomites? News Medical Life Sciences. Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Fomites.aspx 

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