Germs are everywhere—literally—including in the headlines, as the coronavirus out of China spreads across the planet. While the only way to avoid coming into contact with disease-causing bacteria, parasites, and other germy items is living in complete isolation (which obviously isn’t realistic) there are certain ordinary things you come into contact with that. Here are the 50 unhealthiest things that you touch every single day.
Those plastic gizmos you are given which the host uses to tell you your table is ready may be handy, but they are also, well, touched by many hands. “Restaurant pagers are handled by innumerable people whose hands were likely not clean,” points out Stephen C. Schimpff, MD MACP. “Their cold or flu becomes yours!”
When the server hands us a menu, most of us aren’t thinking about just how many hands have touched it. “Not to get everyone frantic, but menus are rarely cleaned,” Dr. Schimpff points out. When they are, they are usually just wiped down—not disinfected!
When the lines are long, it can save time to check yourself out—but you also may be checking in with germs, warns Thanu Jey, DC, Clinic Director at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic. “Studies have found that self-checkout kiosks can be covered in germs, especially ones used in fast-food restaurants and airports,” points out Dr. Jey. “Since kiosks are used by many people in succession, in areas that follow food and washroom usage, this makes them a bed for germs.” Because they are used constantly, there is no possible way to clean them in-between uses.
Most of are worried about getting gas on our hands at the gas station, when we should be worried about germs. “Gas station pumps and their screens are used in continuity by people that drive, which makes for an easy way to facilitate the transfer of bacteria and germs,” Dr. Jey points out. Since the pumps are difficult to sanitize, make sure you do a good job of cleaning your hands after use.
You know those trays at PSA where you put all your junk—including dirty shoes, bags, hats, and keys—before a flight? Think about all the germs that touch upon them. “Airport trays are covered in germs,” Dr. Jey maintains. “This combined with the potential of germs from around the world make these trays all the more concerning.”
People read and carry their books everywhere—from the bedroom to the bathroom and kitchen. Imagine the life of a popular library book—all the hands it passes through and places it is set down. Germs, germs, and more germs! “Books are also trickier to clean as there are many pages which can host germs,” points out Dr. Jey.
We love our pets. They are living, breathing creatures who love us unconditionally. However, they are also animals who run around outside, step in and sometimes even eat, poop. Therefore, touching them can contaminate you with everything from foodborne illnesses to parasitic worms, per the CDC.
Sure, it’s fun to pet adorable little animals at petting zoos, fairs, aquariums, and even that school pet. However, according to the CDC, animals sometimes carry germs that can make people sick. From 2010-2015, about 100 outbreaks of illness in people linked to animals in public settings like zoos, fairs, and educational farms were reported to public health officials. To avoid becoming a statistic, always wash your hands with soap and water directly after touching an animal or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
The CDC also warns that backyard chickens—which have become quite trendy in the last few years—are huge carriers of germs. The most dangerous and common is Salmonella, and the health organization offers several tips on how to stay clear of it here.
In addition to chickens, your pet snake, turtles, frogs, or even lizards can make you seriously sick, per the CDC. In addition to touching them, you can get Salmonella by touching anything in their habitat, as their feces likely comes into contact with everything from their aquariums to their food dishes.
When was the last time you washed your screen? Exactly. Use water and a lint free, scratch resistant cloth in soft strokes.
Multiple studies have found that the germiest item in your home is a sponge, due to the warm, moist environment it provides. One study found that in just one square inch of a sponge, a whopping 200 million bacteria are present.
For similar reasons, kitchen hand towels are also riddled with dangerous bacteria.
Because cutting boards touch everything from raw meat to fruits and vegetables, it’s incredibly easy for them to become contaminated with germs. In fact, 18 percent of them host dangerous bacteria.
Most of us toss our dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and then take them out to clean them. But according to one study a staggering 45 percent of kitchen sinks are contaminated with coliform bacteria— which includes Salmonella and E. coli.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the ickiest things to touch in your bathroom is actually your toothbrush holder. One study found that 27 percent of toothbrush holders were tainted with coliforms.
Think about everything your dog’s mouth touches—and then all the places they may drop their toys. That will give you somewhat of an idea about how germy that toy or ball that belongs to Fido or Fluffy actually is. One study found that in 23 percent of households, staph, a MRSA indicator, was detected on pet toys and that these items were more likely to carry it than any others in the home.
The same study found that pet bowls were also one of the germiest things in the home.
How often do you clean your remote control? Many of us fail to disinfect the gadget, despite the fact that we use them daily and touch them directly after coming into contact with other germy items.
For the same reason our remote controls are germy, so are our computer keyboards.
While 14 percent of video game controllers test positive for staph, the majority of them—59 percent—are covered in yeast and mold.
Consider this: 14 percent of household pens tested positive for staph. When you use a pen you find in public—like at the bank, work, or school—that has been touched by numerous people, think about the germ potential.
The inside of your coffee machine is one of the germiest places, hosting 548,270 normalized microorganisms per 10 sq. cm.
You may be saving the environment by using reusable bags, but they might be covered in germs. According to a 2010 study, many were contaminated with E. coli, due to the fact that they come into contact with contaminated food.
Most of us love to get our hands on money. However, your hard earned cash could be making you sick. One 2017 study found the average dollar pill hosted hundreds of species of microorganisms—ranging from ones that cause acne and skin bacteria to vaginal bacteria, microbes from mouths, DNA from pets, viruses, and even drugs.
The office coffee cup may seem harmless. Despite the fact that many different people use a certain mug, it is washed between uses. However, one study found that up to 90 percent of mugs in office kitchens are covered in germs, and, brace yourself—20 percent can carry fecal matter. This is due to the fact that most office sponges are completely filthy.
Sure, you know your dirty clothes aren’t exactly clean, but you probably have no idea just how gross they are. In fact, even your clothes fresh out of the dryer are harboring dangerous bacteria, due to imperfect cleaning methods. One study found that the average pair of clean undies has at least 0.1 grams of feces and up to 10 grams.
Most of don’t clean our purses, yet they go everywhere with us, hold numerous items that leak, touch other contaminated items, sit on dirty bathroom floors, and have our children’s dirty hands pawing through them. Does that give you an idea about how germy your handbag is?
In addition to money being dirty, so is the dispensary where we get it. One recent study found that ATMs in New York City were significantly more contaminated than public restrooms.
How many people have wheeled around the grocery cart you are using since the last time it was cleaned? The answer is, likely a lot. One study found that the average grocery cart hauls around over 360 times more bacteria than a bathroom doorknob.
Many of us wear gloves to avoid touching germs, but the second your hand touches your glove, it is likely being contaminated. Think about all the things your gloves touch—paired with the fact that most of us don’t wash them daily.
When we clean our homes, we usually focus on areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. We may even wipe down the television, windows, or other areas that look dirty. But most of us don’t think to disinfect every light switch—despite the fact many dirty fingers touch them daily.
It’s no secret that airplanes are hotbeds for disease-causing bacteria. What’s incredibly worrisome, is that many of the nasty bugs—such as E. coli and MRSA—can linger everywhere from your seat to your window shade for us to one week. Maybe the skies aren’t so friendly to fly, after all!
So many of us get sick after a trip, blaming it on the airplane. However, staying in a hotel room is probably just as risky when it comes to germs. One startling study found that over 80 percent of hotel room surfaces tested positive for fecal matter. Of them, the absolute worst offender was the remote control.
Even if you are tossing out your makeup by the recommended dates and regularly cleaning your makeup brushes, you are exposing yourself to dangerous bacteria. Byrdie conducted a recent study, testing makeup brushes that had been regularly cleaned. Guess what? Most of them contained harmful bacteria.
Reusable water bottles are crucial in helping save the planet. But keep in mind that harmful bacteria lurking inside and outside your water bottle. Think about all the places you set your water bottle down on, and the potential germs it could be picking up. One study found that 83 percent used plastic bottles at gyms were contaminated with bacteria. Make sure to wash your water bottle thoroughly in between uses—both inside and out!
It’s nearly impossible to avoid pressing elevator buttons, but try and keep in mind that The number of bacteria present on an elevator button is almost 40 times higher than on a public toilet seat, according to one study of hospital elevators.
Kids love to play in the sandbox, but just touching the grains of sand inside of them can be seriously hazardous to your health. NSF International sampled 26 various items found in public places—including toys at doctors’ offices, children’s library books, and playground sandboxes. Out of all the potential germ-breeders, they found that sandboxes were cesspools for germs, boasting nearly 2,000 times more bacteria, yeast, and mold per square inch than the door handles of public restrooms. Additionally, they can be contaminated with feces and parasites.
Your gym may help you achieve your health goals in so many ways. However, it can make you sick as well. One study found that harmful bacteria is lurking everywhere at the average public gym—from your free weights and to the treadmill.
If you are thirsty, you might want to consider avoiding the drinking fountain. Harmful bacteria is lurking in and around the hydrating contraptions. One investigation even found they were more germy than dog bowls!
Whether you are at the grocery store or farmer’s market, touching unwashed produce can put you at risk for food poisoning.
If you want to avoid getting sick, the main thing you should stop touching is your face. A recent study found that when people touch their faces and noses, they are transferring bacteria via “self-inoculation” — which is the main way that germs transfer from contaminated surfaces to us.
How many times have you reached down into your garbage disposal to check and see what is down there? In addition to your old food, there are likely harmful bacteria lurking down there—including E. Coli!
At some time or another, you are going to reach down and pick up your entryway rug or welcome mat. But keep in mind that many a dirty foot have touched down on them—and those germs could be lingering on your hands!
Your child’s car seat is basically a petri dish of bacteria. One study conducted at the University of Birmingham discovered an average of 100 potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi per square centimeter of a car seat — twice as many germs as toilet seats!
You may have washed your hands after going to the bathroom, but many others did not, points out Stephen C. Schimpff, MD MACP. He suggests avoiding germs by using your paper towel to open the door.
Someone goes to the bathroom, and then goes to the faucet to wash their hands. Dr. Schimpff points out that when they first touch that handle, their hands can be contaminated. The safest way to turn a bathroom faucet on and off is by a using paper towel when you touch it.
It should go without saying that toilet handles are filthy for the same reasons as door handles and faucets. (And in this case, it might have shoe-dirt on it, too.) Use toilet paper to flush.
Shards of used toilet paper, splashes of urine that miss the basin, and other unmentionables can end up on the bathroom floor. Yet so many of us place our belongings on it when we are using the restroom. Just don’t! There are hooks on bathroom doors for a reason.
Okay, public restrooms—and pretty much everything in them—are just gross. Dr. Schimpff urges you to think about how filthy that latch to the bathroom stall is. So be sure to wash your hands after you leave the stall—no matter what you were there for!
And to live your happiest and healthiest life, don’t miss these 101 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.