If you dropped a piece of fruit in your kitchen sink while rinsing it, would you think twice about popping it in your mouth? What if you dropped it in the toilet?
Germs like cold viruses and bacteria can live in some unexpected spots. Here are six surprisingly dirty places in your home — like your kitchen sink — and what you can do to protect yourself.
The Kitchen Sink
Although the mere thought of retrieving anything from your toilet bowl may be enough to make you sick, your toilet may be cleaner than your kitchen sink, says Eileen Abruzzo, director of infection control at Long Island College Hospital of Brooklyn, New York. Food particles from plates left to soak or rinsed from dishes on their way to the dishwasher can serve as a breeding ground for illness-causing bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella. They can get on your hands or spread to foods.
You put it in your mouth twice a day, but do you ever think of all the germs lurking on it? “You rinse it off after using it and put it away damp,” says Abruzzo. “Bacteria like the moist area and grow on it.”
If the germs from your own mouth weren’t enough to contaminate your toothbrush, the germs from your toilet certainly are. Research in the 1970s by Charles P. Gerba, PhD, of the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, found that flushing the toilet sends a spray of bacteria- and virus-contaminated water droplets into air. These germs, he found, can float around in the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush before landing on surfaces — including your toothbrush.
Your Salt and Pepper Shaker
Could one of the dirtiest places in your home be right on the table where you eat?
Unfortunately, yes, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Virginia. In the study, researchers asked 30 adults who were beginning to show signs of a cold, to name 10 places they’d touched in their homes over the previous 18 hours. The researchers then tested those areas for cold viruses. The tests found viruses on 41% of the surfaces tested, and every one of the salt and pepper shakers tested were positive for cold viruses.
Your TV Remote Control
It’s dropped on the floor, stuffed between the sofa cushions, coughed on and sneezed at. Everyone in the house handles it.
“Anything people touch a lot has germs on it,” A University of Virginia study of cold viruses on household surfaces showed the remote control’s surface is among the germiest. Researchers found that half of the remote controls tested were positive for cold viruses.
Your Computer Keyboard
If you eat at your computer, sneeze on your keyboard, or sit down to surf the Internet without first washing your hands, your computer keyboard could be a health hazard. In a recent study by a British consumer group, researchers swabbed keyboards for germs and found a host of potentially harmful bacteria, including E. coli and staph. Four of 33 sampled keyboards had enough germs to be considered health hazards. One had levels of germs five times higher than that found on a toilet seat.
The place where you clean yourself is not so clean itself. A recent study found staphylococcus bacteria in 26% of the tubs tested. A separate study had even worse findings for whirlpool tubs. When Texas A&M University microbiologist Rita Moyes, PhD tested 43 water samples from whirlpools, she found that all 43 had mild to dangerous bacterial growth. Almost all showed bacteria from fecal matter; 81% had fungi, and 34% contained staph bacteria.
According to Moyes, the main reason whirlpool tubs are so dirty has to do with the lining of the pipes. Water tends to get trapped in the pipes, providing a breeding ground for bacteria. When you turn on the jets, the germy water spouts out into the tub where you’re soaking.