Your Warm Little Smartphone Makes A Perfectly Cozy Incubator For Bacteria

Ladies and germs, you can wash your hands and refuse to touch the bathroom handle at work without a paper towel as often as you want, but you might be cradling a veritable incubator of bacteria right up to your face all day long anyway. Those warm little constant companions of ours, smartphones, could be spreading bugs nobody wants.

Your phone is nice and close to your ears, nose and mouth, which makes it easy for bacteria to hop from the cozy confines of the device right into your body, reports the Wall Street Journal. Cuddling up to your phone could give you flu, pinkeye or diarrhea, says the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and chief of family medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“Some things we think are personal are actually more public than we imagine.” Bacteria from a phone can cause flu, pinkeye or diarrhea, he added. Those germs are basically fed by our greasy faces and oily fingers. Eww.

So what do you do to make sure your phone is sanitized correctly? That’s a tough call, as some mobile-phone cleaning products can damage a phone or won’t even get rid of all the germs on it. Alcohol worked the best at cleaning bacteria in a test, but that doesn’t mean it won’t harm the phone’s coating.

“It’s really problematic because a lot of manufacturers don’t tell you what coating is on the phone,” says one doctor. “It’s hard to tell if an alcohol wipe will strip the oil-repellant coating and damage the phone screen.” Many phone makers warn users against using any kind of household cleaners, but don’t recommend a particular brand for cleaning.

The WSJ randomly tested phones on its own for the article, and found abnormally high numbers of a bacteria called coliforms that indicate fecal contamination. Yup. Don’t want that.

One good place to start? Wash your hands regularly, and look for screen cleaners and cloths that say they won’t harm your phone, even over time. Or check out a UV disinfectant wand, which cleans using light rays.

And then wait for this new, awesome sounding shark thing:

A start-up in Aurora, Colo. is using microscopic patterns that mimic shark skin—known for its unique design that is more resistant to bacteria than other animals’ skin. The company, Sharklet Technologies, is working on products for medical devices, furniture and countertops, but aims to release phone products by the second half of 2013.

Calling All Germs [Wall Street Journal]