Smart Woman: Let's Talk Dirty Phones

Published 02/24 2012 08:28PM

Updated 02/24 2012 08:36PM

To find out how much bacteria is at our fingertips and pressed up against our faces a reporter at CBS in Austin collected six cell phones in the newsroom.

The tests won't pick up viruses but they show what common bacteria is lurking on everything from the keypad to the screen. The petri dishes were incubated overnight to let the bacteria grow and then it was time to get the dirt on our hygiene habits.

"They had a few bacteria growing on them, a few fungi, molds but the sort of thing you would expect to find in a normal environment," said professor Shelley Payne.

UT professor Shelley Payne says each little dot represents growing bacteria, and the big spots are molds.

Payne said, "We live in a world that is heavily populated with bacteria, with molds and fungi, and that's the normal thing you find on surfaces."

It helps that glass and smooth plastic that stay dry don't give bacteria much to work with.

"It doesn't provide very good nutrition for the bacteria. They don't have a good source of food. They need a moist environment for the most part," said Payne.

Bottom line is, clean your phone at least once a week and don't let other people use it, their germs on your phone is an easy way to dial up a sick day.

99 percent of the bacteria hiding on your phone can be killed with an antibacterial wipe, or a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. That's not much help if the cleaning instructions for your phone say only use water and a microfiber cloth. In that case try an antibacterial screen protector, the coating kills many of the germs that could get you sick.

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