In a world where it seems like everything you come into contact with could affect your health, there may be some sacred items you still thought were safe that aren't. Sorry, but the truth is that surprisingly nasty things you didn't realize you're touching every day lurk about everywhere. Even if you're a fairly clean person, you have limited control over anything in public and the things you're interacting with day in and day out. Although it may seem a little overwhelming to think there are items you come into contact with on a regular basis that contain things like Coliform, E. coli, body fluids, and even cocaine (what the heck?), you've come to the right place to figure out what they are and avoid or clean them.
The next time you reach for a handle, travel, or even go to wash your hands, you should reference this article to see what needs a good wipe down first. And beware, some of the grossest things out there are in your own home and could mean an extra load of laundry is necessary each week – which in and of itself is far scarier than germs in my opinion. So, if you want to find out what everyday items are crawling with bacteria, you've been warned. Check them out here.
1. Soap Dispensers
Although thinking about all the nasty things you touch each day will make you want to wash your hands, pause for a minute to think about what the first time is that you touch after you flush the toilet. According to a swab study conducted by researchers Jonathan Sexton, Sheri Maxwell, and Charles Gerba and shared by Micrology Laboratories, roughly a quarter of soap dispensers "were contaminated with viable bacteria, including many pathogens." Is nothing sacred anymore?
2. Hand Towels
“Bacteria like to grow in wet, moist conditions,” professor of microbiology Charles Gerba explained in an interview with Time. The dish towel or hand towel sitting next to your sinks are made to absorb water, which is awesome if you're drying your hands, but a little off-putting when it comes to bacteria growth. According to Gerba, “'Most people don’t wash their hands properly,' so when you grab that towel, you’re rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment." To avoid bacterial growth, consider washing any towels throughout your home every two days. Although, to be totally honest with you, I might choose germs over more laundry.
3. Airplane Trays
If you're a frequent flyer, you'll cringe to find out that Micrology Laboratories also shared Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a "staph" germ, was found on a large majority of swab tests on airplane trays. So, next time you fly, bring disinfectant wipes to clean off your tray before touching it, laying on it, or letting your kid slobber all over it.
4. Toothbrush Holders
When's the last time you cleaned your toothbrush holder? Exactly. Because it's not an item that gets cleaned often, if ever. Let's be honest, no one thinks about adding it to the long list of chores. It's unexpectedly nasty. Toothbrush holders are also home to Coliform bacteria — which can include Salmonella and E. coli, according to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
Again, you'd think a sponge would be a beacon of cleanliness considering you clean your dishes with it every day, but surprise, surprise, it's not! According to Gerba in the aforementioned Time article, it's actually probably the dirtiest item in your home. Additionally, he added that "researchers found that 75% of home dish sponges and rags contained Coliform" ... so hold on while I go throw all of my sponges out for brushes I can throw in the dishwasher instead.
6. Door Handles
Although you've probably heard door handles in a bathroom are disgusting, have you ever applied that to door handles on really any other public setting you interact with daily? According to the aforementioned Micrology Laboratories article, MRSA was found in around 70% of grab bar and door exit handles, especially buses.
When's the last time you cleaned your keys? Because I don't think I've ever cleaned mine. I can't count the number of times I've dropped them on the floor, stepped on them, set them on the bathroom counter, or worse. According to One Good Thing, you handle keys all the time but they’re covered in all sorts of bacteria because they're not often cleaned. So, grab a disinfecting cloth and clean off those keys next time you reach for them.
NBC News shared that "paper money contains high traces of cocaine, regardless of whether or not the paper money came into direct contact with the drug." And guess what? U.S. bills are in the number-one spot for the greatest amount of the drug to cover paper currency. Additionally, think about how many people have handled your money, coins or paper, before it got to you. People who don't wash their hands, set it on the toilet, dropped it on the floor, sneezed onto it, and more. Money is filthy.
9. Reusable Grocery Bags
Think about the types of food you put into your grocery bags. If you're using them continuously without cleaning them, any bacteria or old food that's stuck inside are going to make them pretty disgusting over time, according to the aforementioned One Good Thing article. Consider cleaning them with hydrogen peroxide if your bags are vinyl or the dishwasher or washing machine if they're cloth.
Mental Floss shared that your smartphone is filled with countless types of bacteria, one of the worst being Staphylococcus aureus which can cause skin infections, food poisoning, pneumonia, and more. The site shared that some research even suggests smartphones contain 10 times as many germs as a toilet in a public bathroom.
11. Shopping Carts
Although the disinfect wipes generally sit right next to the shopping carts at stores, I doubt you often think about just how dirty a shopping cart could be (I know I don't). According to the aforementioned Time article, it's very likely that 100% of carts are home to E. coli. It really puts it into perspective to think about how many people are touching the handles after handling raw food products during their shopping trips.
Your personal remote at home is going to depend entirely on your hygiene and the cleanliness of those in your house, so especially with little kids running around, they can get pretty nasty. What's even worse, however, are public remotes. According to List 25, studies have found semen, urine, and even SARS on public remotes, and all the little crevices in a remote make them ideal for microbes, spores, and bodily fluids to hide.
13. Kitchen Sinks & Counters
As if you weren't already grossed out enough by your sponges and wash rags, it turns out around 45% of kitchen sinks and 32% of counter tops contain Coliform and potential fecal contamination, according to the aforementioned NSF study. Apparently, your kitchen just isn't safe at all when it comes to germs – break out the disinfectant and refill my wine, please.
The aforementioned Mental Floss article said, "Staph, Coliform, yeast, and mold are among the tasty treats likely to be hiding in the crannies of your favorite QWERTY keyboard." And my fingers are suddenly repulsed as I type this.
On that note, I think it's safe to say you and I both are officially gagging at half the things in our daily repertoire of items touched. Don't get too overwhelmed though. According to Gerba in the aforementioned Time article:
By simply rubbing on a hand sanitizer or washing your hands the moment you walk into the house, you’d probably cut your odds of catching something in half.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.