How dirty are touchscreens?

How dirty are touchscreen devices?

Touchscreen devices have become an integral part of our daily lives. Whether it’s personal gadgets like smartphones and tablets or interaction with public self-service machines during our commute or while shopping.

Public facing devices can be touched by hundreds of thousands of people daily, becoming superhighways for transmitting pathogens. Touchscreens house and transmit bacteria from one individual, potentially to thousands more in the space of just a few hours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a greater recognition and public interest in sanitisation of highly touched surfaces, but even the most robust protocols cannot provide 24/7, complete protection.

Studies completed by the American Centre for Disease Control (CDC) have previously stated that up to 80% of viral transmission is through fomites - touching surfaces. With that in mind, it’s important to understand the threat that highly-touched surfaces can pose to the user.


The most frequented touchscreen devices

Smartphones and tablets are our most frequented touchscreen devices. On average, studies indicate that smartphone users pick up their phones up to 150 times per day, equating to thousands of individual touches.

Beyond personal devices, touchscreens have become integral to our daily lives when visiting supermarkets, travelling, banking, in schools and even in restaurants.

This kind of public equipment, used for accessing services and providing feedback, is typically touched thousands of times per day, by individuals each with differing backgrounds, hygiene standards and practices. As a result, such devices become the ideal hosts for transmitting infectious diseases.


What do you find on them?

In recent years, a number of prominent and well-publicised studies have confirmed the presence of pathogens on touchscreen devices. Many will remember headlines like “your smartphone is dirtier than your toilet seat” - but what is the real story?

Tests conducted by London Metropolitan University found that public touchscreen devices, such as those used to place orders in fast food restaurants, often house a host of potentially harmful bacteria that could cause serious illness.

Staphylococcus was found amongst the samples, a bacteria which can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome. Enterococcus was also present, a bacteria which commonly causes hospital acquired infections and food poisoning. Other discoveries even included faecal matter.

A study by the BMC on the smartphone contamination of healthcare workers found that over 94% of the phones they tested “demonstrated evidence of bacterial contamination with different types of bacteria”.

A similar study in the Journal of Hospital Infection found that over 99% of hospital staff smartphones were contaminated with potential pathogens.

In both, evidence of Staphylococci cultures were found on a majority of tested smartphones, alongside other concerning species including Enterococcus and Bacillus.

Those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of these types of viral threats, but the pathogens pose a risk for all through fomite transmission - typically via touch-hands-face delivery.


Limitations of sanitisation

The increased focus on sanitisation due to the global pandemic could lead many to believe that these issues no longer persist or aren’t as serious, unfortunately this isn’t true.

Strong hand hygiene works well, but it relies on the agency of the user to regularly and thoroughly wash their hands when oftentimes, there either isn’t the time or the opportunity to do so in real world settings. The great benefits of regular hand hygiene are then all but ruined once touching a contaminated surface like those profiled above.

For large organisations whose touchscreen devices are used by the public each day, it’s not practical to hope to re-sanitise after every use - leaving users open to ongoing viral threat between cleaning regimes.

Existing sanitisation practices still rely heavily on human intervention and chemical application - both of which can become a serious resource drain for businesses.

Reliance on human labour isn’t viable for long term mass protection against existing and future viral threats. The regularity and speed of application required to properly protect users makes this process impractical and inefficient.

Similarly, reliance on chemical intervention has major shortfalls. Durability is one major concern, alongside product availability and potentially damaging environmental impacts. 

Lastly, there are protective antimicrobial surface coatings. As we previously profiled, existing solutions for this type of protection are insufficient. This is due to the speed of reaction (sometimes taking minutes or hours to take effect) and poor durability.

Many protective films and chemicals have also been known to interfere with the performance of touchscreen devices. Most are translucent or semi-transparent, reducing the visibility and accessibility of touchscreens. The materials used in existing coatings have also been known to disrupt the functionality of the touchscreen either due to thickness or improper application.


So - how do we clean touchscreens effectively?

It’s clear that the ideal solution for these improving protection against pathogens on touchscreens must be:

  • Fast acting - providing rapid inactivation of harmful bacteria
  • Retrofittable to existing devices or be manufactured into the screen itself
  • Fully transparent and non-invasive
  • Highly durable
  • Doesn’t rely on chemicals or human intervention
  • Is environmentally friendly

To fight the filth, CodiKoat have developed a groundbreaking antiviral and antimicrobial touchscreen coating that uses nanotechnology to inactivate 99.9% of harmful bacteria and pathogens within 10 seconds of contact.

The antimicrobial touchscreen coating is self-cleaning and incredibly durable, capable of lasting a product’s entire lifetime with no drop in performance.

Crucially, this coating can be applied to any touchscreen surface retrospectively via an adhesive film, or can be implemented at the manufacturing phase, providing incredible protection from the start of a product’s lifespan. 

Through a combination of our innovative product development and the incredible materials used, this fully transparent coating ensures there’s no drop in visibility, accessibility or functionality when correctly applied.

By developing a durable, self-cleaning, rapid reacting antimicrobial touchscreen coating, our hope is to reduce the resource strain on businesses still reliant on human intervention, as well as the environmental impact of consistent chemical use.

This product will soon be fully commercialised and available globally, vastly improving user protection on touchscreen surfaces around the world.

Get in touch today to find out more about this revolutionary coating technology.