6 GIFs That Take An Ugly, Up-Close Look At Your Phone Screen

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Fact: Your phone is disgusting (but so is everyone else's). For years now, microbiologists have spoken out about the germ breeding grounds that are smartphones. Some studies have even found that smartphones may have more bacteria than public toilets. That's gross, but not shocking.

"We touch them all day long, throw them on the ground, have them in our bags — they're just extensively exposed to the environment, so that makes for a fair amount of bacterial growth," says Michelle Barron, MD, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Colorado.

Ultimately, our hands are to blame. Research has shown that they can harbor more than 150 types of bacteria at any given time. And since we use our fingers to snap, 'gram, text, and call, it's easy to see why the results aren't pretty.

We decided to swab six staffers' phones to see just how dirty they were. After rubbing the swabbed Q-tips on petri dishes (a major sixth grade science class throwback), we watched what happened over the course of a week. We sent gifs of the final growths to Dr. Barron for a look and she assured us that while they might look scary, the bacteria is not uncommon.

"Most of the bacteria on phones is bacteria that normally lives in the environment anyways," she says. This includes skin flora such as Staphylococcus aureus or coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, as well as (ugh) coliforms, the bacteria we associate with stool. Come on, we know we're not the only ones who have brought our phones to the bathroom with us.

Dr. Barron advises washing your hands after using your phone and cleaning your phone regularly to stay safe. (Apple has tips on how to do so without damaging your screen.)

Click through to see what was lurking on our phones — and probably on yours, too.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Regular Gym Goer

Where do you most often use your phone?
In between things, like on the subway, in a car (when I'm not driving, obviously), or when walking home. I also use it a lot at the gym.

What's the grossest place your phone has been?
The bathroom, and also on the bar at a dive bar.

What do you think might be on your phone?
All the worst things! Food, bacteria, chemicals, hepatitis (well, maybe not hepatitis, but...nothing good.)

How often do you clean your phone?
About once a week. I usually use one of those wipes at the gym to clean it off. I have no idea if that actually does anything.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Mom Of A Toddler

Where do you most often use your phone?

On the subway. It's one of the only times of day when I have a few minutes by myself. I also bring it with me when I go running in the park, and use it as a distraction device when my kid is being nuts.

What's the grossest place your phone has been?
I don't think this one has been in the toilet, but others have. It's in my daughter's mouth a lot. And I drop it all of the time. I don't know, my sports bra?

Where do you use your phone that you probably shouldn't?
I really have no boundaries when it comes to my phone. Life is too short.

What do you think might be on your phone?
Everything. Hopefully nothing that will kill me or my aforementioned kid...just cooties that will make us stronger.

How often do you clean your phone?
Every time I think about how gross it is or I randomly have a wipe handy. It probably nets out to a few times a week.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Makeup Wearer

Where do you most often use your phone?
Everywhere. It's terrible, but really, everywhere. I text a ton and talk at least once a day, but it's usually when I'm on the go, so I use earbuds.

What's the grossest place your phone has been?
In my own grubby hands after holding onto a subway pole.

Where do you use your phone that you probably shouldn't?
The bathroom. I'm guilty.

What do you think might be on your phone?
Makeup, sweat, and a fun assortment of bacteria.

How often do you clean your phone?
At least a few times a day. Sometimes I get in the habit of cleaning it multiple times a day. After this experiment, I've definitely upped the ante on cleaning it.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Indestructible Case User

Where do you most often use your phone?
On the subway when I'm listening to podcasts and playing 2048. Or, I'm talking on the phone while doing dishes.

What's the grossest place your phone has been?
My last phone took a dive in the toilet at the 40/40 Club once. My current phone goes into the NYC subway system every day, which, for my money, probably has more germs than a bathroom anyway.

Where do you use your phone that you probably shouldn't?
Bathroom...

What do you think might be on your phone?
Honestly, because it spends so much time in the NYC transit system, I wouldn't be surprised if it had Ebola germs.

How often do you clean your phone?
Rarely. Sometimes I wipe it down if I can see my foundation on it.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Case-Free User

Where do you most often use your phone?
I use it ALL the time. There's never a time when I'm not reaching for it. It keeps me entertained on the subway, up-to-date on work stuff after hours, and in-contact with family during the day.

What's the grossest place your phone has been?
I try not to bring it into the bathroom! It's been on the NYC subway and in some grubby takeout places, though.

What do you think might be on your phone?
I don't even want to know...

How often do you clean your phone?
Never.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
The Lucky One

We cleaned this phone with alcohol before swabbing it, explaining the lack of bacterial growth. But it's owner confirms that had it been tested as it was, the results would have been extremely disgusting.

She lucked out.
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