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Why you might not want to forgo cleaning your smartwatch

Researchers found most smartwatches contain various bacteria including E. coli as most Americans report not cleaning them.
Why you might not want to forgo cleaning your smartwatch
Posted at 10:44 AM, Sep 04, 2023

How often do you clean your smartwatch? It turns out the answer is probably not often enough. 

According to a new study published by Florida Atlantic University, 95% of smartwatch wristbands tested were contaminated. 

Staphylococcus spp and E. coli were among the common pathogens found on smartwatches, researchers said. The study was published in the journal Advances in Infectious Diseases

FAU researchers said despite smartwatches often being worn by users around the clock, users often forgo cleaning their watch. Those with plastic and rubber wristbands were more susceptible to bacteria than metal bands. 

“Plastic and rubber wristbands may provide a more appropriate environment for bacterial growth as porous and static surfaces tend to attract and be colonized by bacteria,” said Nwadiuto Esiobu, senior author and a professor of biological sciences at FAU.

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The research found staphylococcus spp was prevalent on 85% of watches, while E. coli was on 60% of wristbands. The research found that those who go to the gym had the highest amounts of staphylococcal on their watches. 

The researchers said staphylococcal can cause infections in the blood and lungs. The bacteria is often found in armpits and the groin. 

But the good news for users is items like Lysol are highly effective at killing bacteria. The researchers said Lysol spray kills over 99.9% of the bacteria within 30 seconds. 

“The quantity and taxonomy of bacteria we found on the wristbands show that there is a need for regular sanitation of these surfaces,” said Esiobu. “Even at relatively low numbers, these pathogens are of public health significance. Importantly, the ability of many of these bacteria to significantly affect the health of immunocompromised hosts indicates a special need for health care workers and others in hospital environments to regularly sanitize these surfaces.”

Although the bacteria may be cause for concern, smartwatches can enhance health if used properly. University Hospitals in Cleveland said smartwatches can help people track ​​sleep patterns, heart rate, calories burned and blood oxygen levels. 

“It gives me feedback I may use to increase intensity if I’m exercising and my heart rate isn’t where it needs to be,” Dr. Stephanie Griggs, who was involved in research using wearable technology, said in a press release. 

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