Do You Use Your Phone on the Toilet? Here’s Why That’s a Bad Idea

March 31, 2016 Updated: April 1, 2016

Most of us do it regularly—we’re about to be sitting on the toilet, so we whip out our phones.

The phones come everywhere with us, and have long since replaced newspapers and books as the main reading choice while in the bathroom.

If you have a few minutes, it seems only natural to check the latest sports scores, see if you have any new messages, or play a quick game.

But it’s actually a really bad idea.

When you flush the toilet, water with feces and urine sprays about six feet in every direction.
— Kelly Reynolds, University of Arizona

Pretty much all of the surfaces in a bathroom are covered in germs, pathogens, and bacteria—mostly from fecal matter.

There’s also dirty toilet water all around the area, including the toilet paper holder that most people rest their phone on. 

“When you flush the toilet, water with feces and urine sprays about six feet in every direction,” Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental health, at the University of Arizona, told BuzzFeed.

That aerosolized water increases with every flush, making a public bathroom that much worse.

(athurstock/Shutterstock)
(athurstock/Shutterstock)

Every time you set your phone down it picks up germs and fecal matter, not to mention whatever the last person placed on there, noted Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology at the university.

Outbreaks of a number of diseases, such as E. coli and hepatitis A, have been linked to public bathrooms.

Studies at the university showed that 9 out of 10 phones had a potential disease-causing microbe and 16 percent tested positive for fecal matter. And a BuzzFeed poll that garnered almost 100,000 responses found that 83 percent of respondents take their phones into the bathroom with them.

“The average person uses their cell phone for two hours a day, so it’s very easy to recontaminate your hands and transmit the germs to yourself or someone else,” Gerba said.

They recommend leaving the smartphone in your pocket or somewhere outside the bathroom to keep it clean. If you must bring it in, you can use disinfecting wipes to kill the germs on the case, or a microfiber or lint-free cloth with a diluted alcohol solution to disinfect your phone and case.