When it comes to germs, the gold standard for grossness is the bacteria brewing in our bathrooms.
A variety of studies and reports over the years have put the average bacteria per square inch on a toilet seat somewhere between 50 and almost 300 for household potties and over 1,000 for the public varieties. Yet our own handheld electronics harbor even more bacteria than that.
Smartphones Your smartphone is home to your photos, music, contacts, productivity apps and odds are at least one game featuring a bird, zombie, fruit or farm. Oh, and there’s something else on your smartphone, too — loads of fecal coliforms. Joining the coliforms are Streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus and a host of other -ococci.
A 2013 project at the University of Surrey perfectly illustrates the situation.
Bacteriology students made imprints of their phones in Petri dishes, and after three days, they saw examples of many of the aforementioned bacteria — plus one particularly hairy case of Bacillius mycoides. It’s really not surprising that the device that goes everywhere from public transportation to public restrooms to not-so-public germ repositories (aka our own homes) is a hot bed for bacteria.
Even back in 2012, when iPhones only offered us 4.5 inches of germ-covered surface, University of Arizona microbiologist Chuck Gerba found cellphones carried 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. In 2013, Mashable put that number much higher, claiming that our phones may boast a whopping 25,107 bacteria per square inch. But your smartphone is just one of the worst offenders, not the only one, as this black-light-enhanced demonstration from British business services group Initial reveals.
Here are four more gadgets to rival any restroom when it comes to germs:
Tablets/e-readers — Just think of them as smartphones with fewer features and more surface area when it comes to the germ load tablets and e-readers pack. One iPad tested by British consumer magazine Which? found 600 units of Staphylococcus aureus alone.
Game controllers — With almost 5 times more bacteria than your toilet seat, your game controller has probably still seen scarier stuff (like that boss faceoff with Sephiroth). Still, E. coli is among the potential offenders.
Keyboards — Your keyboard could be home to anywhere from three times more bacteria than your toilet seat to almost three times that of a public toilet seat. Some studies found 3,000 bacteria per square inch on computer keyboards and 1,600 on the average computer mouse.
Remote controls — While likely cleaner than a public toilet seat, remotes still boast a bit more bacteria than some home-throne estimates with 70 present per square inch.
So how do we handle all of this bacterial buildup?
Step one: Remember the bathroom is no place for a phone (that you don’t want covered in fecal coliforms).
Step two: Wash your hands before handling your devices, or at least use a hand sanitizer.
Step three: Use gadget-friendly wipes to keep your favorite handhelds tidy.
But if you only do one thing, let it be step two.
After all, you know what else has more bacteria per square inch than a toilet seat? You do. A lot more.
Story originally appeared in Forbes