Do you use a paper towel to open the public bathroom door after washing your hands, but don’t think twice about sleeping with your phone plastered to your pillow?

According to a 2011 study done by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, fecal matter can be found on one out of every six smartphones. Another British company Which? did a study in 2010, where they had a hygienist swab and test 30 cell phones. Of the phones tested, seven had high levels of environmental bacteria, while an eighth one contained high levels of bacteria associated with fecal matter and Salmonella. In other words, ya nasty. 

How does your prized possession attract so many harmful germs? Turns out it’s your own fault. When you really think about it, practically every surface your phone touches is already drowning in bacteria.

Just how dirty is your phone?

Your phone most likely is lying on your desk at school or work right now. According to Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, your desk contains 21,000 germs per square inch, which is nearly 430 times the amount of germs your office toilet seat carries.  

But even if your phone is tucked safely in your pocket, you most likely brought your phone in the bathroom today (because 75 percent of us use our phones in there), and then you touched your phone... 

The good news? Your body is probably used to germs found on your phone by now. However, the second you allow your friend to use your phone, you introduce a whole new ecosystem of germs. Your phone holds onto germs because it acts as a warm little home. By holding your phone to your warm face, keeping it in your pocket or purse, or even the heat your phone naturally generates when it’s turned on produces conditions for these nasty germs to thrive.

So how do I clean my phone properly?

Dr. Dubert Guerrero, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., suggests that wiping down your phone with a moist microfiber cloth will sufficiently get rid of common bacteria. More dangerous bacteria like E. coli and the flu virus need to be attacked by stronger cleaners like bleach or alcohol.

An article from the New York Times suggests you should, “Fill a spray bottle with the diluted alcohol, lightly moisten a lint-free, preferably microfiber, cloth (no paper towels) and gently wipe down the screen and case. Never spray [disinfectant] directly onto [your phone]. To clean corners and around ports, use lint-free foam rather than cotton Q-tips.”

Power down your phone every once in the while, give it a nice clean with antibacterial wipes, and make sure you give the home button some extra special lovin’. Before you go ahead and rush out of your house, give the phone some time to dry.

Will these germs make you sick?

Though phones carry bacteria, a study out of the University of Surrey showed that most phones aren’t carrying Staphylococcus aureus (a bacteria behind pneumonia, food poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, and blood poisoning) and other dangerous bacteria.

Remember: Although your phone may not be transmitting deathly infections, it does not mean you can just slide past this germ talk. Eighty percent of common infections are transmitted through hands, and those hands are touching your phone. Break the germ cycle and CLEAN. YOUR. DAMN. PHONE.