I hate to break this to you, so brace yourself: almost everything you touch on a daily basis is practically covered in bacteria. And believe it or not, your toilet seats — even public toilet seats — are still a lot cleaner than anything on this list. Why? Toilet seats are cleaned and disinfected pretty often precisely because you expect them to be disgusting.
It’s the stuff you tend to assume is clean (or that doesn’t come to mind at all) that’s actually going to light up a petri dish and potentially get you sick. So, all hands on deck — or not — for this grody roundup of the grossest things you touch every single day.
Your Cutting Board
Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology at University of Arizona, is nicknamed “Dr. Germ” for his work in the field — and he warns that preparing your food on a cutting board is basically cooking up a cesspool of bacteria. He explained to ABC News that the average cutting board has 200 times more fecal bacteria than a toilet seat does. Gross!
Why does that happen? Because many people just rinse off their cutting board after using instead of actually washing it. You can avoid being one of those people by wiping it down with a clean cloth using a pinch of bleach and some water.
Your Kitchen Sponge
How cruel is it that a tool you use to keep your house clean could actually be making everything worse? According to Reader’s Digest, researchers in Arizona discovered that 10 percent of kitchen sponges contain salmonella. In fact, all sponges showed an average of 134,630 bacteria per square inch — more than 456 times more than, yes, a toilet seat.
They also contained more E. coli and fecal material than any other surface in the home. Dry heaving yet? Don’t worry, there are some solutions. Each week, put your damp sponge in a microwave for 30 seconds to disinfect it (but not if your sponge has any metal in it) or toss it in the dishwasher. Replace them more often, or start using disinfecting wipes instead of sponges.
Condiments on tabletops, whether in your home or at a restaurant, may give you more than an extra kick of flavor. Microbiologist Kelly Reynolds, PhD told Prevention that restaurant ketchup bottles are nasty because, well, people are. Most people don’t wash their hands before eating, meaning that if you add ketchup to a meal when dining out, you’re also adding germs to your own hands. (This applies to any other tabletop condiment and seasoning, too!)
Dr. Reynolds recommends squirting a bit of hand sanitizer on the outside of the bottles to prevent you from getting an infection from your seasoning — and always remember to wash your hands before eating anywhere.
Your Refrigerator Door Handle
Dr. Birgit Winther shared (via Fox News) that your refrigerator door handle has almost as many germs as the inside of your refrigerator — and that you should probably clean them both more often. “We found that commonly touched areas like refrigerator doors and handles were positive about 40 percent of the time for common cold germs.” Here’s how to keep your refrigerator clean — using just hot water and dish soap — to keep yourself from getting sick.
Dish towels can be just as dangerous as sponges in terms of harbouring germs. Prevention reports that seven percent of kitchen towels contained MRSA, (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can often be life-threatening and lead to skin infections — and that’s all on top of high rates of E. coli and other germs.
To keep your kitchen towels from getting you sick, stick with disinfectant wipes or paper towels when cleaning up spills or surfaces, only using kitchen towels to dry freshly-washed dishes. Be sure to launder kitchen linens, changing them out at least twice a week.