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How Quickly Do Germs Grow on Keyboards, Mice & Smartphones?

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How Quickly Do Germs Grow on Keyboards, Mice & Smartphones?
A person typing on a laptop computer with a cellphone and paper beside it

The use of computers, smartphones, tablets and all sorts of electronic devices have become ingrained in our daily lives.  The portability, convenience and necessity of many devices means we are using them almost everywhere and in any situation.
Therefore, it should be no surprise that it does not take long for any of these gadgets to become contaminated with tiny bugs and germs.  In fact, every screen, keyboard, mouse or remote control you touch today is probably already littered with bacteria; some of which can include viruses such as influenza and even E. coli.
However, there is no need to panic.

By the Numbers

Cell Phones

A study by the University of Oregon found an 82% overlap between bacteria on the tip of the index finger and the microbes found on the surface of a smartphone. In other words: if it’s on your hands, there’s an 82% chance it’s also on your phone.
An article from The Nerdist shows compelling visual evidence that bacteria growth on a cell phone centres around where the phone is touched. Moreover, the more a phone is used – and shared among people – the more bacteria is present.
Some sources claim phones harbor 18x more bacteria than a public bathroom. While that sounds far dirtier than it really is (not all bacteria on your phone is bad bacteria), it still highlights the reality that cross-contamination between your phone and other devices is very much a reality.

Check Out Our Infographic!

Inspired by what we discovered as we researched this post, we put together this infographic that calls out some important information! Click for full size.
Germs on Your Cell Phone: How Dirty is Your Phone?

Computer Peripherals (Keyboard & Mouse)

A study performed in 2011 found a staggering 95.5% of keyboards/mice tested contaminated with bacteria. In reality, this is not at all surprising given that humans regularly come into contact with, and are breeding grounds for, microbes.
Another study, first published in 2010, found a high rate of contamination across keyboards and mice. Like our first reference, it found multiple types of bacteria present on both keyboards and mice after testing 100 different devices.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Gadgets Helps

The use of disinfecting wipes or cleaners on your gadgets can provide basic protection from germs.  While self-cleaning is mostly practiced at home, devices at home and personal devices are typically found to be the most contaminated.
Many public places such as libraries or grocery stores offer sanitizing dispensers which can be used on your hands after using computers or touchscreens at checkout lanes.  These same places also employ janitorial staff to regularly clean surfaces that people come in contact with.
Before you clean your device, remember:

  • Different screens/screen protectors will react to cleaning agents in their own way. Read your owner’s manual before you scrub down your device to ensure that the product you’re using is safe.
  • Bacteria multiply, on average, every 30 minutes. Make cleaning a regular habit (a quick wipe once per day is usually sufficient).

Good Personal Hygiene is the Key

While cleaning your surroundings may temporarily reduce exposure to germs and bacteria, it is virtually impossible not to come into contact with contaminated devices on a regular basis.
Bacteria is omnipresent, and there should be no inherent fear for you to come into contact with it – as long as you wash your hands diligently and practice good hygiene.  This cuts off the part of the infection chain where viruses or bacteria are able to enter your body.
Generally speaking, viruses or bacteria found on your hands or fingers will not cause you any harm.  Direct transmission of germs or viruses from other people is a much more likely way to become ill.

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