By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They’re in our hands all the time while we’re at work, on the go, even in the bathroom. Studies show our cellphones are 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. But what does that actually mean?

WCCO enlisted a couple of moms and a University of Minnesota associate professor to swab their phones and get the results.

Moms Jennifer Lundquist and Tina Dahlheimer are like many.

“When I’m not sleeping, eating, or driving, or working, [my phone is] generally in my hand,” Lundquist said.

“I use it for work,” Dahlheimer said. “I use it for personal use, use it for games, social media, of course.”

And their kids get a hold of them, too.

“Wanting to put it in her mouth and just touch it,” Dahlheimer said.

Their phones even go where they’re hesitant to admit.

“It’s sitting right there where all the dirty diapers go,” Dahlheimer said.

And into the bathroom.

“I’d like to know who doesn’t take their phone to the bathroom,” Lundquist said.

Dahlheimer wipes down her phone weekly. Jennifer had never cleaned hers, until right before she handed her phone over for testing.
We also took an old phone the kids use and their iPad to see how dirty our phones really are.

“I know it’s going to be bad but I don’t think I know how bad it’s going to be,” Dahlheimer said.

University of Minnesota associate professor of microbiology and immunology Dana Davis agreed to swab their cell cases. He gave each a once over, then put what he collected into a petri dish and let it grow in a temperature-controlled room for a few days.

“They’re as dirty as your hands are,” Davis said.

Davis says our phones carry what we carry on our skin. The primary findings on the phones and iPad were what’s called staphylococcus epidermidis and micrococcus, common skin bacteria.

He did DNA testing on other more peculiar colonies and discovered several types of bacteria found in soil, one species from the southwest desert. Another bacteria found on dogs.

The iPad Lundquist’s kids use had the most diversity.

“Kids germs, our germs, that thing hasn’t been cleaned ever,” Lundquist said. “So not surprising.”

The petri dishes may have a lot of growth and look gross but Davis says don’t worry, you get more microbes in one dog kiss.

“Most things don’t hurt us. We’re just exposed to so much stuff. What we’re getting on our phones, first of all, it’s already ours,” Davis said.

Even intestinal-related bacteria, which can be common, but is generally harmless.

“That’s great. That’s really good news,” Lundquist and Dahlheimer said.

The moms expected the phones to be dirty. They were relieved to learn what’s on them can’t hurt us.

“I’m actually really glad that I had you test my case because it was a lot better of an outcome than I thought it was going to be,” Dahlheimer said.

The time to clean your phone: if someone uses it who’s sick. Our expert says use a damp, lint-free cloth, like an eyeglasses cloth. Alcohol, Windex or baby wipes could all strip the protective coating on the phone.

We had Jason DeRusha’s and Kim Johnson’s phones tested, too. Who’s was dirtier? WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle will bring you the colorful results Tuesday on WCCO This Morning.

Jennifer Mayerle