Your home is teeming with uninvited guests, guests that go through your garbage, invade your pet’s dish and love to swim and swirl round your bathtub and toilet. Unlike in-laws who usually come by every few years or so, these guests — otherwise known as germs — relentlessly return. Our list of the five germiest places in the home is based on statistics from a Hygiene Council survey, funded by Lysol’s parent company of Reckitt Benckiser. The council sent researchers to 35 homes across America, swabbing for bacteria in 32 places. We combined some of the germiest entries to avoid redundancy — and ensure we could include the pet dish in there.
5. Garbage Can
Taking out the trash means getting rid of coffee grounds, candy wrappers and probably a few of the 411 bacteria per square inch that thrive inside the trashcan. No wonder the bag often feels impossibly heavy. Although a few hundred bacteria per inch is a fairly notable number, the trash can ranks lower on the germy list than places you frequently place your hands. The trash bin inside your home also has to be much more pristine than the one outside that’s full of grass clippings, dog waste and maggot eggs. But the Lysol people didn’t go there — so neither will we.
4. Pet Food Dish
When your pet starts eating out of the trash, he’s probably just trying to catch a break. After all, the inside rim of his pet dish is riddled with 2,110 bacteria per square inch, more than five times the amount found in the garbage can. You can probably bring the pet dish bacteria count down by foregoing that mushy canned food, or at least scrubbing out the mushy stuff when it turns hard and crusty, or actually washing the pet dish once in awhile. Most are dishwasher safe. Your pet is worth it.
Next time you think you’re alone getting squeaky clean in your bubbly bathtub, think again. The tub is splashed with 119,468 bacteria per square inch, at least around the drain where hair collects, soap melts and miscellaneous debris piles up when it clogs up. No numbers were immediately available for other areas in and around the tub, such as the interior shower mat, exterior bathmat or that soap dish that’s usually coated with enough scum to scrape together an entirely new bar of soap. Throw a rubber ducky or another toy in the tub and you’re adding a surface that contains 345 bacteria per square inch — which actually seems quite sterile, comparatively.
2. Kitchen Sink
The kitchen sink does not rank at the top in the Lysol germ survey, although well-known “germ guru” Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist and garbologist would definitely put the whole contraption as the No. 1 germiest place in the home. “There are no butt-borne diseases,” he said, adding that most people are scared of toilets and thus fastidious about cleaning them — not so with the kitchen sink. “There is more fecal bacteria in the kitchen sink than there is in most toilets,” Gerba said. “That’s why dogs drink out of the toilets.”
The kitchen sink ranks high with germs having a veritable party in just about every nook and cranny. The sink’s drain is packed with 567,845 bacteria per square inch; the area around the drain contains 17,964 bacteria per square inch and the handy dandy kitchen faucet handle is teeming with 13,227 bacteria per square inch. We’re not done yet. The sponge or cloth you wipe on your countertop and store soggily on the side of the sink has a hefty slosh of 134,630 bacteria per square inch, bacteria you smear around as you “clean” your countertops. The Lysol study found kitchen countertops have 488 bacteria per square inch, the kitchen table has 344 and the floor in front of the sink contains 830 bacteria per square inch.
In addition to stopping the dogs from drinking out of the bowl, the toilet lid exists for a reason. Actually, the lid exists for 3.2 million reasons — the number of bacteria per square inch teeming around the bowl. Such a number blows Gerba’s kitchen sink away, although we could surmise the bacteria may have been collected and the bowl inspected prior to heavy-duty bright blue gel cleanse. The 3 million toilet bowl germs are likely to mix and mingle with those on the toilet seat and on the floor in front of the toilet, with a bacteria per square inch count of 295 and 764, respectively. How much of the floor in front of the toilet seat is riddled with germs depends on things such as your young son’s aim.
The toilet bowl itself has good aim, or at least a good range for splattering germs when you flush it. Germs from the toilet bowl can spew as far as 10 feet away if you flush with the lid up, according to the Family Education Network. Keep that fact in mind when storing your toothbrush. That fact can also help explain why other areas of the bathroom are high on the germy list. The bathroom sink near the drain sports 2,733 bacteria per square inch, the sink faucet handle holds a hefty 6,267 bacteria per square inch, and the bathroom countertop has its own bacterial bash going on with 452 per square inch.