Gadgets grubbier than toilet seats

A new Which? investigation has found that popular gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and keyboards can harbour more germs than a toilet seat and, in some cases, could cause health issues. 

We swab tested 30 tablets, 30 smartphones and 30 keyboards to dish the dirt on popular tech. In one case we found a tablet with a count of 600 units per swab of an illness-causing bacteria called staphylococcus aureus that, in the right conditions, can create toxins that can lead to vomiting and diarrhoea. By comparison, a typical toilet seat has a staphylococcus aureus count of less than 20. High amounts, over 400, of the germ were also discovered on one other tablet and a keyboard we tested.

We also found a bug called enterobacteria, which can include strains of infections such as e.coli and salmonella, on some of the gadgets. High-risk levels, more than 1,000 units of enterobacteria per swab, were present in eight of the 30 tablets tested, 14 of the keyboards and seven of the smartphones. The worst tablet had a count of 15,000 units per swab, with four phones and five keyboards also registering this level. By comparison, when we tested a toilet seat, we found less than 10 units per swab of enterobacteria.

Our expert microbiologist noted that if these levels of bacteria were found on the hands of anyone working in the food industry, then they would have to be immediately re-trained in basic hygiene.


Which? editor Richard Headland, said:

“It’s shocking that a smartphone or tablet can harbour more germs than a toilet seat.  Gadgets should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly to avoid germs that could lead to illness.”


It’s essential to keep gadgets clean but be sure to do it without damaging your tech:

·         Do unplug any cables before you start cleaning.

·         Don’t use alcohol-based cleaners on iPads or iPhones, according to Apple’s advice for these products.

·         Do use a damp, soft, lint-free cloth to wipe clean. Use a dry lint-free cloth to remove streaks and dry your phone.

·         Don’t only rely on wiping your phone on a shirt sleeve or dry cloth.

·         Do avoid getting moisture in any openings or cable ports.

·         Don’t use an aggressive detergent that could erode fragile surfaces on phone or tablet touchscreens.

·         Do disinfect using specially-designed screen wipes. Apple advises against using alcohol-based cleaners on iPads or iPhones as these can damage the screen.

·         Don’t use a scratchy or abrasive material, as this would leave permanent marks on the screen.


Notes for editors:

1.    For a full PDF version of this article, please click here.

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