The Health Hazards of Using Your Smartphone in the Kitchen

Mobile phone use is synonymous with almost every aspect of modern life, including cooking. Phones make converting measurements easier; help to answer cooking questions on the fly and make any recipe imaginable available at our fingertips. But did it ever occur to you that those very fingertips could be soiled with pathogens as a result of touching your phone? We take a closer look at our kitchen and phone use habits and how they can be improved to better our food hygiene.


How dirty are our phones?

Mobile phones are some of the germiest everyday items that we use. In fact, the average mobile phone is thought to harbour 10-18 times more germs than the average public toilet. This is because we constantly touch our phones (super users are likely to touch their phones more than 5000 times per day) and hardly ever clean them.

The heat that a phone generates coupled with the fact that they’re often placed in dark, dirty places (like our pockets or in handbags) also create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

Recent information released by the CSIRO has also found that coronavirus can survive on surfaces such as the glass and metal on mobile phones for up to 28 days in some conditions, particularly if the phone is not cleaned properly.

Image Credit: FDA

When we prep for cooking, we wash our hands thoroughly as standard food hygiene and safety practice. But our phones, which are in the kitchen and used while we cook, aren’t given the same sort of attention. A study published in the Journal of Food Protection investigated the phone-use habits of survey participants in the US and found that of the 49% that used their phone or tablet while preparing food, only 37% washed their hands with soap afterwards.

We’ve all probably been guilty neglecting to wash our hands after touching our phones in the kitchen, or simply rinsing them in water. But given that we know just how dirty our phones are and how important washing our hands with soap is, we should really try to develop more hygienic phone use habits in the kitchen. Not sure how? Here are a few easy places to start.

Wash Your Phone Before You Bring It into the Kitchen

Before you bring your phone into the kitchen, give it a really good clean. This will keep any germs or bacteria that it has come into contact with elsewhere (like your bag, or from the many times you’ve used it throughout the day) out of the kitchen. It will also ensure that your hands and your phone are just as clean as each other, so if you do quickly touch your phone while you cook, you’ll know that you won’t be transferring germs from your phone to your clean hands.

A quick wipe with a sanitising wipe will clean your phone to some extent, but cleaning your phone with a UV light sanitiser is more effective. A UV phone sanitiser ‘bathes’ the device in UVC light that kills bacteria and pathogens by disrupting its DNA. It essentially cleans every surface that the light shines on, so all those nooks and crannies around your glass protector, phone cover, and camera will also be sanitised.

Cleaning your phone in a UV light sanitiser is like washing your hands thoroughly for the full 20 seconds, whereas wiping your phone with a chemical sanitser is like washing your hands with a bit of soap without lathering or scrubbing between your fingers properly. Your hands will feel clean, but you’ve likely left some dirt and bacteria behind because your hands weren’t washed thoroughly.

Avoid Cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when any physical, biological or chemical element is transferred to another item where it doesn’t belong. In the home, it can cause food-borne viral infections (such as E. coli or salmonella) and aggravate food allergies. Most of us will be attuned to how we can prevent cross-contamination by using designated chopping boards and utensils for raw food and cleaning surfaces thoroughly. But all of that effort can be undone if you touch your phone.

It’s important to wash your hands immediately after you handle any raw food or ingredients containing allergens, and that you do so before you touch your phone. If you don’t you run the risk of transferring contaminants from your phone when you touch it again later.

Set Your Phone Up for Good Hygiene

Along with these hygiene habits, you can also set your phone up to minimise the need to touch it while cooking.

It is a good idea to have a designated spot for your phone for while you cook in the kitchen. A stand that props your phone up so that it can easily be seen from where you are cooking or prepping will be handy. Place it somewhere central so that you minimise the need to pick your phone up and move it while cooking.

It’s also good practice to turn off the auto-lock function while you cook so that your phone doesn’t lock while you’re trying to follow a recipe. If you can, turn voice-activated commands on while you cook so that you can ask your virtual assistant to set timers and even do easy web searches for conversions or find answers to cooking questions that you come across. Both of these settings will eliminate the need for you to touch your phone, but will still allow you to use it while cooking.

Set and Forget

Some of the best tools in the kitchen are set-and-forget appliances that do hard jobs and get good results for you. A well-tested UV Sanitiser works in the same way to clean your phone. Just pop it into the container, choose your cleaning cycle, and wait for it to finish working its magic. Once it’s done you can be sure that your phone is as clean as a pair of thoroughly washed hands ready to work magic in the kitchen.

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