5 Dirtiest Things You Touch Every Day

It’s hard to find a bacterial researcher who doesn’t recommend eating off the toilet seat.” Everyone is afraid of butt-borne diseases, but toilet seats tend to be the cleanest things in the bathroom because we clean them so often,” says Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona.

Of course, Gerba and others who study your kitchen, bathroom, workspace, car and the dirtiest parts of your body don’t actually think you should be serving your next meal on a throne. But if you’re wondering which everyday items are the most germ-ridden, he says it’s helpful to think about those objects or places you overlook when you break out the mop and disinfectant.

One example. The hand towel hanging next to the bathroom sink.” Bacteria like to grow in moist, humid environments,” Gerba explains. Towels are meant to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great at stopping bacteria from growing.” Most people don’t wash their hands properly,” he says. So when you grab that towel, you’re rubbing bacteria into an ideal environment for growth – and few people bother to wash it more than once a week or every two weeks. You should wash all towels – including the one you grab after showering and using for two days, he says.

Another bathroom germ reservoir is your toothbrush holder.” People never wash them,” Gerba says. A 2011 report by public health organization NSF International found that 27 percent of toothbrush racks are home to coliform bacteria – a family of disease-causing microorganisms that includes salmonella and E. coli.

In the kitchen, your trusty sink sponge is the number one enemy of health. In fact, that sponge is likely the dirtiest item in your home, Gerba says.” It could be home to hundreds of millions of bacteria,” he says. The National Science Foundation agrees. Its researchers found that 75 percent of household dish sponges and wipes contain coliform bacteria.

You want a kitchen cleaning tool you can throw in the dishwasher to disinfect, like a brush, Gerba says. The same goes for cutting boards.” Most people just rinse or wipe them down,” he says. But the only way to get it clean is to run it through the dishwasher – or give it a good scrub with dish soap.

When it comes to the items you touch most often, Gerba says your phone is a big germ haven. Studies have found that one in six phones is contaminated with feces, though a simple wipe with a disinfectant wipe is enough to remove that nasty residue.

Finally, when you don’t leave your house, watch out for the supermarket shopping cart.” Almost 100 percent of shopping carts are home to E. coli because people are constantly touching the handles after holding the fresh food,” Gerba explains. Reusable grocery bags are also a nuisance – again, he says, because people rarely wash them.

While there are dozens of other everyday items that could be included on this list – shoelaces, wallets, car keys, keyboards, etc. – don’t run out and buy a lot of chemical-filled cleaners. For one thing, many of them don’t work. Another reason is that many cleaners contain substances that have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

Instead, worry about disinfecting your hands when you leave a public space. Gerba says most people pick up dangerous germs when they leave the house. By simply rubbing on hand sanitizer or washing your hands the moment you walk into the house, you may cut your odds of catching something in half, he says.