Think the toilet is the dirtiest thing you'll come across? Think again. We reveal the 20 germiest things you touch daily, and how to avoid the germs.
You avoid touching toilet seats, you stay away from garbage cans, but these aren’t even some of the germiest things you’re exposing yourself to.
1. Door handles
Especially public ones. How many people have used it? How many more people have used it after they had coughed and sputtered into their hands, or came out from the bathroom without washing up? You don’t want to know. It also doesn’t make sense to wash your hands thoroughly in the bathroom, only to use the same clean hands to grip the door handle which is harbouring billions of invisible germs. Yuck.
Avoid the germs: Tear off a hand towel or toilet paper from the dispenser and use it to open any doors. Alternatively, always carry some tissue paper or disinfectant wipes with you, and use these as a barrier between the door handles and your hands.
2. Your keyboard
Take a good look at your keyboard right now. Mmhmm, recognise the ketchup stain from the Ramlee burger you had two months ago? And that snot stain from yesterday? When was the last time you gave your keyboard a good cleaning? “There are about 200 times more bacteria on a keyboard than a toilet seat,” said Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. He reckons this is because nobody cleans their keyboards for decades.
Avoid the germs: You don’t need an IT specialist for this. Just use a soft brush (for example, a Chinese paintbrush like what you used at school) to brush out the dirt. Then, spray on some disinfectant and wipe off with a clean damp cloth. Do this weekly and you might actually start realising that you don’t get a cold as often as you used to.
3. The pantry at work
So you think the germs are lurking about in the toilet? Nuh-uh. A study has shown that the dirtiest surfaces in the workplace is the pantry. Hygienists swabbed nearly 5,000 spots in several office buildings, and found that sinks and microwave door handles were actually the dirtiest surfaces of all. “Usually the break room is a germ transfer point in the workplace; people eat lunches there, they cough. More colds and flus are spread in break rooms when they touch surfaces and share space with other people.” said Dr. Gerba.
Avoid the germs: Have a pack of disposable disinfectant wipes handy and use it to clean the microwave and fridge handles, kitchen sink handles, and all the other handles you’re going to come in contact with. Don’t forget the kitchen countertops. Also, remember what we were taught in kindergarten Hygiene 101 – always wash your hands before and after eating.
4. The photocopy machine button
Making a copy of a document? Why not take some copies of germs along with you? Anything that is used by multiple people is a magnet for germs. Light switches, air-conditioner remote controls, communal drawer handles, etc. There’s a high possibility that none of these have been cleaned since your big boss founded the company 15 years ago.
Avoid the germs: Disinfectant wipes! Enough said.
5. Your TV remote
Time in front of the telly for a good old serving of Game of Thrones? You’re probably picking up some germs while clicking on the remote too. University of Virginia Health System researchers, after conducting a study of the homes where the adults had early cold symptoms, found six out of 10 remote controls tested positive for rhinovirus (predominant cause of the common cold). This applies to air-conditioner, fan and any other remote you might have lying around.
Avoid the germs: Disinfect regularly with a spray (by regularly we mean something like once a week, not once a year). And you can stop blaming the weather for your perpetual cold now.
6. Nail clippers
You probably have one of these at home, which you share with your entire family. Um, why would you do that? If nail salons have to disinfect nail clippers before using them on different customers, maybe you should think about doing it at home too. Even if you don’t share it with anyone, your nail clipper is a hotbed of bacteria and fungus.
Avoid the germs: Disinfect your nail clippers in Dettol-water mixture after each use.
7. Your pets
Simmons College researchers in the US have found that some dogs, cats and other animals have become infected with the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, which can cause serious skin infections). There’s even evidence that MRSA can jump between humans and pets. In a recent test, MRSA was found in about one quarter of the homes – and cat owners were more likely than others to have it.
Avoid the germs: Before you put your pet up for adoption, note that scientists say pet MRSA infections are rare, as is transmission of MRSA from humans to pets. The best thing to do is protect yourself by washing or sanitising your hands before and after playing with Lucky.
8. The taps in your home
When was the last time you cleaned the tap spout? Most modern taps have metal filters fitted in and these need to be removed regularly to wash out dirt particles and more importantly – mould that has grown inside, which frequently occurs in our tropical climate.
Avoid the germs: Best thing to do after scrubbing these filters out with disinfecting detergent is to soak them for about five minutes in boiling hot water before fitting these back into the tap spout. Do this at least once a month for peace of mind, or more frequently if you can.
9. Toothbrush holders
Moist and dark, that’s where bacteria lurks. In fact, research has discovered a new bacterium – the Klebsiella michiganensis, hanging out in a toothbrush holder. The bacterium is in the same family as E.coli, and can cause pneumonia, respiratory and urinary tract infections.
Avoid the germs: Clean the holders with hot soapy water at least once a week. Close your toilet lid before flushing to avoid the poo spraying all over everything, including your toothbrushes.
10. Your pillow
Mmmm… nothing like a soft pillow after a long day right? Unfortunately, your pillow is also a hotbed for fungal contamination, thanks to all your nightly sweating and drooling sessions while you’re in dreamland.
Avoid the germs: Machine wash your pillows in high heat often (every two months) and change your pillow cases once a week to obliterate the germs.
IN THE KITCHEN
11. Your kitchen sponge
Be honest, when was the last time you threw out your holey, soggy sponge filled with food stains and other muck? Did you know that your kitchen sponge contains 200,000 times more bacteria than your toilet seat? AND you’re using that to wash your dishes which you eat from?
Avoid the germs: Experts recommend microwaving your sponges for 2-minutes every other day to zap away the germs. But make sure your sponge is wet and does not contain any metal or steel in it. Alternatively, you can boil your sponge for five minutes, which will also kill off the bacteria. It’s best to replace your sponge every month even if you disinfect it regularly.
12. Cutting boards
There are about 200% more faecal bacteria on your kitchen chopping boards than on the average toilet seat.
Avoid the germs: Sanitise regularly and use separate chopping boards for raw meats, fruits and veggies.
13. The inside of your fridge
A Hygiene in the Home Study tested 180 homes in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia (yup, we’re included), Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UK, and the US showed that fridge interiors came in second on the list of dirtiest spots at home. Germs found included Salmonella and Listeria, as well as yeast and mould. Surprised? Spilled raw meat juices and half-year old veggies from your last grocery shopping spree are germ havens.
Avoid the germs: Clear out and clean your fridge with mild detergent once a month. Keep raw meats in a plastic bag, and check your veggie drawer regularly for rotting ones.
14. Stove knobs
These accumulate grease and other muck as the years go by. A study conducted by the NSF revealed that knobs harboured bacteria, molds and yeasts.
Avoid the germs: Remove the knobs weekly for a bath in hot soapy water. Wipe down knobs with a clean cloth after each stove use.
OUT AND ABOUT
15. Salt & pepper shakers (and the soy sauce bottles, chilli sauce bottles as well)
Whether at the restaurant or at home, these are just bottle-shaped planets of germs. University of Virginia researchers found that salt and pepper shakers are teeming reservoirs of germs. “A person gets mucus on their fingers, then picks up the salt and pepper shakers,” says Dr. Owen Hendley of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville. Mucus salt, anyone?
Avoid the germs: Whip out your handy disinfectant wipes, once again!
16. Your bag
When Nelson Labs of Salt Lake City tested handbags for traces of bacteria, it was found that lipstick, pens, and other odds and ends had staph, E. coli, salmonella and pseudomonas, which can cause eye infections. Guys, you probably have the same in your backpacks and pockets of unwashed jeans.
Avoid the germs: While the basic rule is to wash your hands clean and get them dry before digging into your bag, it is also a good idea to empty and air out your handbag regularly. When not in use, hang up your purse and keep it off the kitchen counter. Wipe the bag with a mild soap or disinfectant. The same rule applies for belts, earrings, necklaces and rings. For men, sending your ties for dry cleaning regularly is always a good idea.
17. Your cellphones
One more item on this list which has more bacteria than a toilet seat, and you sleep with this guy every night. Cellphones pick up germs everywhere, since you take it everywhere with you, even to the toilet. And yet, it’s seldom cleaned. The University of Arizona tested 25 cellphones and found staph – which can cause skin infections – growing on nearly half of them.
Avoid the germs: Use disinfecting wipes on your phone regularly (we recommend once a day), and think twice about where you’re putting your phone down. Germs exist on your friends’ phones as well, so be careful about sharing them.
18. Shopping carts
A recent University of Arizona study found that the handles of almost two-thirds of shopping carts were contaminated with E coli. Drool, saliva and mucous from children also collect there. The shopping cart “is one of the most surprising places for germs we’ve come across,” says Gerba, who is also known as “Dr. Germ.”
Avoid the germs: Use the disinfectant wipe for the shopping cart handle. Also, bag your fresh produce and keep them off the seat where diaper-bottomed children have been sitting.
19. Your water bottle
Bacteria love warm, moist places. And your reusable water bottle is just that. The grooves on the mouthpiece of your water bottle also provide the perfect spot for bacteria growth.
Avoid the germs: Wash your bottle daily with dish soap. Disinfect every few days in boiling water.
20. ATM buttons
Studies show that ATM machines are heavily contaminated with pseudo-monads and bacillus (which can cause sickness and diarrhoea).
Avoid the germs: Remember that pack of antibacterial wipes we told you to get before? Use them.
While some bacteria can be dangerous, it’s important to remember that everything contains bacteria. You don’t have to go crazy with the cleaning, you just need to ensure that the right spots are cleaned the right way.
What other places do you think harbour dangerous bacteria? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.