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Health & Wellness

Do You Know the Dirtiest Room in Your House? It May Not be Where You Think

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Germs are lurking where you least expect them (hint: it may be time to toss out that sponge).

We consulted research by NSF International, a public health and safety organization, to find out where bacteria is lurking in our homes and out in public. After reading up on it, let’s just say we haven’t looked at our kitchen countertops the same way since.

Here are a few things NSF found when it comes to germ magnets in our homes in and public:

Homes

NSF wanted to find out where the most germs were in the home. So the organization performed tests on 30 common household items in 22 homes, and found that germs were, not surprisingly, everywhere. In fact, 81 percent of the houses tested positive for coliform bacteria, a family that includes e. coli and salmonella.[1] Any guess on the room in the house with the most coliform? It’s not where you flush things. It’s the kitchen. Here are the items that could use more than a little extra attention. (Read the full report here).

Sponges and dish rags

Three-fourths of families’ sponges and rags tested positive for coliform bacteria, 86 percent had yeast and mold and 18 percent had staph bacteria.[1]

Surfaces and counters

Flat surfaces are like magnets for bacteria: 45 percent of sinks, 32 percent of countertops and 18 percent of cutting boards tested positive for coliform bacteria. In bathrooms, 27 percent of toothbrush holders tested positive along with 9 percent of bathroom faucet handles.[1]

Pet toys and pet bowls

It’s no surprise that those slobbery chew toys and bowls are magnets for bacteria. Pet toys had staph in 23 percent of the households and pet bowls tested positive for staph in 14 percent of homes.[1]

Computers and remote controls

Germs seem to love gathering in the cracks and crevices of keyboards, remote controls and video game controllers. Here’s what NSF researchers found: keyboards had yeast and mold in 68 percent of households; video game controllers had yeast and mold in 59 percent of households and staph in 14 percent; remote controls had yeast and mold in 55 percent of households and staph in 14 percent.[1]

Public

NSF microbiologists sought to find the places in public with the most germs. They swabbed spots in schools, grocery stores and other places—26 in all—and found these were some of the dirtiest culprits (see the NSF report here):

Public park sandbox

If you always assumed the local sandbox was a toilet for cats and other critters, you were right. Researchers found that this was far-and-away the “it” spot for bacteria, yeast and mold.[2]

Restaurant trays

Think back to the last time you were at a fast food joint or cafeteria. Have you seen anyone wash a tray? According to NSF, these convenient food carriers are riddled with germs.[2]

School musical instruments

Drums, cymbals, recorders, keyboards—they’re as dirty as the dirtiest kids’ hands. Be sure and remind your kids to wash their hands after playing chopsticks at their next music class.[2]

Don’t let this info turn you into a germophobe—use it to your own advantage. Make sure to wash your hands frequently and switch up your cleaning routine, putting a little extra elbow grease in the places where bacteria love to tread.

[1] http://www.nsf.org/newsroom_pdf/2011_NSF_Household_Germ_Study_exec-summary.pdf

[2] http://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/studies-articles/germ-studies/germiest-locations-public-places

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