young man using his smartphone in the toilet

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  • Research that might make your skin crawl reveals nearly 9 in 10 adults typically bring their phone with them to the bathroom.
  • Despite being potentially filthy, two in five actually admit to having put their phone in their mouth when their hands were full.

TROY, N. Y. — Tens of millions of people carry their smartphone with them everywhere they go, including the bathroom. Our phones are always within our grasp, which means they are also constantly being exposed to whatever bacteria we may have accumulated on our hands. Unfortunately, a new survey of 1,200 Americans and their cleaning habits finds that one in four (23%) have never cleaned their phone.

Broken down by the gender, more than one in four men have never cleaned their phone (26%), and one in five women admit to the same hygienic oversight (20%). To put in perspective just how dirty most phones become, researchers estimate that a regularly used smartphone that has never been cleaned may hold more bacteria than an entire household bathroom.

According to the survey, conducted by antibacterial white light company Vital Vio, it’s common for smartphones to come into contact with various forms of bacteria and disease, including strep, staph, and E.coli.

If that isn’t enough to give you pause, consider this: When both hands are busy, two in five Americans (41%) even say they don’t hesitate to put their phones in their mouth. Besides phones, over half of the survey’s respondents (51%) admit to putting their keys in their mouth, and 54% have put a credit card in their mouth. Mystifyingly, 34% have even placed cash in their mouth when their hands were full.

Of course, not taking your phone with you to particularly dirty places — like the bathroom — would be one way to keep your phone cleaner. But that’s a bad habit it seems just about everyone is guilty of. In all, 88% of Americans usually bring their phones with them in the bathroom, and nearly half (46%) say they always take their devices with them to a public restroom.

Women (90%) are slightly more likely than men (85%) to bring their phones into the bathroom, but it’s clear from the survey’s results that this is an almost universal problem. For example, while nearly all millennials bring their phones in the bathroom (94%), three in four baby boomers also follow the same practice.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed that parents (93%) tend to take their phones in the bathroom more frequently than non-parents (83%). The survey’s authors theorize this is because parents use bathroom time as an opportunity to get away and catch up on emails, social media, etc.

It’s not just smartphones either. When was the last time you really took a close look at your home or office keyboard? Keyboards can harbor lots of bacteria, and while 48% of Americans regularly eat lunch at their desk, only one in three clean their desk once a week. A staggering number of employees aren’t washing their hands before digging in as well; one in five working Americans don’t wash their hands before eating on the job.

Overall, it seems many Americans need to step up their cleaning game as a whole. Over half (52%) of respondents say they only clean a surface in their home when it visibly appears dirty, but that approach isn’t sufficient against microscopic bacteria. Just because that TV remote you’ve had for seven years looks clean enough to touch and then use your hands to eat something, in reality it may be harboring a literal community of harmful pathogens.

While most Americans are pretty diligent about cleaning their bathroom (80%) and kitchen (87%) once per week, one in five report cleaning their bedroom (18%) and home office (21%) only once per month.

Here’s another noteworthy statistic: 50% of Americans would rather eat a meal while riding public transit over their own bathroom. On the surface, that makes sense, who would want to eat in the bathroom? Well, according to the research team, essentially all forms of public transit are probably dirtier, and harboring more bacteria, than your bathroom. The reason why is because many Americans insist on traveling while under the weather (39%). Even worse, three in five say they don’t wipe down or clean areas they’ve touched on public transit while sick. The findings may make you reconsider taking your phone out next time you’re on the bus or train, if you’re one of the 80% who do so regularly.

Suddenly, eating a sandwich in your bathroom doesn’t sound so bad.

For the survey’s full findings, click here.

About John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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