Is Using Your Phone in the Bathroom As Bad As It Sounds?

Not so long ago, a pile of newspapers or magazines stacked haphazardly near the toilet seat was a widely accepted bathroom convention. Many things have changed over the past decade, and most of us probably didn’t even notice how this friendly stack or printed media was slowly replaced by our smartphones.
This is an overwhelming trend. According to a Verizon survey from 2015, as many as 90 percent of phone users go to the bathroom with their phones. We’ve all done it at one point in time, and some have surely wondered, “Is using my phone on the toilet as bad as I think it is?” If this speaks to you, we’re here to answer that question as clearly and as concisely as possible because, when it comes to bathroom hygiene, even the smallest mistakes can have dire consequences.

Your phone is one of the germiest items in your possession.

Most of us wouldn’t consider our phones to be dirty. We put them in our pockets, leave them on the kitchen counter while we’re cooking, and even use them in bed without flinching. Unfortunately, the opposite is usually the case. Since most of us don’t clean our phones nearly as often as our hands and other items, some estimates suggest that the average smartphone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat.
Phone in the Bathroom woman using a phone
The reason why is simple - your phone collects all the germs that came into contact with your hands at any point throughout the day (and vice versa). And then, you press the phone against your cheek to make a phone call or rub your eyes or nose with the same fingers that were just in contact with the phone.

Doctors have known about the potential danger of phones for a while, and many point out that our mobile devices are an often overlooked source of infection. A number of studies found that an average phone can contain a wide variety of potentially dangerous microbes. A 2020 study from the USA that tested 3,500 phones showed that phones were contaminated with both harmful and benign bacteria.

A similar study from the UK suggests that 92% of the 300 phone swabs they tested were contaminated with dangerous bacteria; 16% of the samples came back positive for E. coli (Escherichia coli), one of the most common causes of foodborne illness. Research from Iran tested the phones of hospital workers and a control group. Phones in both groups carried concerning microorganisms, notably methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that’s very difficult to treat.

According to a statement by Cheryl Power, a University of Melbourne expert in microbiology and immunology, “Even if you've only done a number one, your hands and phone are in the area where fecal bacteria hangs out and may pick some up.” What’s worse is that you can then proceed to spread all those germs to other places in your home, such as the kitchen counter or the dinner table. All this means that using your phone in the bathroom could expose you to foodborne illness and other dangerous infections.

Phone in the Bathroom woman using phone
The solution: No, we’re not here to tell you that you must keep your phone out of the bathroom. Of course, that’s a good start, but that will not eliminate the entire problem, even if you’re washing your hands thoroughly with soap after every bathroom trip (which you definitely should). The obvious solution is the soundest one: we should all start cleaning our phones every day.
And by cleaning, we don’t just mean wiping them down with a dry cloth to remove smudges and fingerprints. Disinfection is a must. To do so, you can use specialized antibacterial screen wipes - these will not damage touch screens prevalent in most phones and other electronic devices these days. Using the same antibacterial cleaners you use to clean your home can damage the device.
Read more on the topic of disinfecting phone screens here: A Disinfectant Cleaning Guide to Phones and Other Devices.
If you insist on using your smartphone in the bathroom, close the toilet seat before you flush. Fecal particles spread into the air if you keep the seat cover open, and they will land on you, your phone, and any other nearby items in your bathroom, so it’s a good all-around hygiene tip. Lastly, do abstain from using your phone in public toilets, as these have a higher risk of containing dangerous pathogens.

Using your phone in the bathroom can increase your risk of hemorrhoids.

Phone in the Bathroom man in pain

Time flies when we’re on our phones. Reading interesting articles, watching videos, and playing games are all very engaging, which can easily make you lose track of time. When you’re in the bathroom, this is the opposite of what you need, as prolonged sitting can actually lead to a hemorrhoids problem.

With excessive sitting and straining, the hemorrhoids veins swell with blood, which could eventually lead to pain or bleeding. According to Dr. Karen Zaghiyan, a colorectal surgeon, “If a bowel movement is not produced after a couple of minutes on the john, don’t force it. Instead, get up and go do something else. When you have the urge to go again, you may return to the toilet.”

The solution: If your phone makes you spend more than 10-15 minutes on the toilet, you could be risking your colorectal health. Of course, leaving your phone outside of the bathroom is the easiest way out, but if you must use it and you know that it distracts you, set an alarm.

The bathroom is not the safest place for your phone.
Phone in the Bathroom shattered phone
Of course, the health concerns we mentioned earlier are the primary reasons why we should all keep our phones out of the bathroom. As we’ve mentioned, though, there is a way around these issues without having to sacrifice bathroom screen time. But there’s one more issue that won’t go away no matter what you do.
That issue is your phone’s integrity. Surveys report that around 1 in 5 people have dropped their phones in the toilet at least once. Gross, we know, but that’s not the only issue. Phones and moisture don’t mix well, and even a short plunge into the toilet bowl or sink can ruin your phone or result in a costly repair.
A tiled or concrete floor is another hazard for your device - dropping your phone on these hard surfaces can shatter the touch screen, built-in camera, and other crucial parts. The solution to these issues is simple - leave your phone out of the bathroom. And if you must stay entertained in the bathroom, the good old magazine or newspaper will always be there for you.
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