Old habits die hard and bad toilet practises provide some of the clearest examples of this adage. There are endless mistakes people make when going to the toilet that can prove harmful. One of the most common seems innocuous on the surface: scrolling on your phone while doing your business.
Hussain Abdeh, Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct, explained: “Using your mobile phone in the bathroom is one of the least hygienic things you can do.”
“Many people pass the time during a bowel movement by scrolling through social media, swiping on dating apps or playing online games.”
However, as the online pharmacist explained, bringing your phone into the bathroom means that it can become contaminated with germs such as faecal matter.
“As a result, even once you have washed your hands, you are still carrying seriously harmful bacteria out of the bathroom with you.”
Hygiene expert Jim Francis, who carried out the tests, said: “The levels of potentially harmful bacteria on one mobile were off the scale. That phone needs sterilising.”
The most unhygienic phone had more than ten times the acceptable level of TVC and seven were above the threshold.
The worst culprit also had 39 times the safe level of enterobacteria – a group of bacteria that live in the lower intestines of humans and animals and include bugs such as Salmonella.
It boasted 170 times the acceptable level of faecal coliforms, which are associated with human waste.
Other bacteria including food poisoning bugs e.coli and staphylococcus aureus were found on the phones but at safe levels.
Which? researcher Ceri Stanaway said: “Most phones didn’t have any immediately harmful bacteria that would make you sick straight away but they were grubbier than they could be.
“The bugs can end up on your hands which is a breeding ground and be passed back to your phone. They can be transferred back and forth and eventually you could catch something nasty.
“What this shows is how easy it is to come into contact with bacteria. People see toilet flushes as being something dirty to touch but they have less bacteria than phones.
“People need to be mindful of that by observing good hygiene themselves and among others who they pass the phone to when looking at photos, for example.”
Other ways germs and bacteria spread
According to the NHS, underwear is more likely to have germs on it than outer clothing like jumpers or trousers.
“Underwear may contain germs from traces of faeces (poo) and from genital infections, such as thrush,” warns the health body.
“However, you can also pick up germs on your outer clothes, for example if you nurse someone with an illness or clean up vomit.”