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Can you guess the germiest places in your home and office?

Posted at 10:13 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-21 12:42:24-05

Bacteria and viruses are on nearly everything you touch, but your toilet or the shopping cart you use may not be as dirty as you think.

So, can you guess the dirtiest room in your house? According to Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Arizona, "The germiest area in the home is the kitchen actually, and the cleanest area in the home is usually the bathroom."

Dr. Gerba said that's because the bathroom is the most scrubbed room in the home. Kitchens are just not cleaned as well as they should be--especially cutting boards. "The cutting board has about 200 times more fecal material than a toilet seat," said Gerba. "So you're safer making a sandwich on a toilet seat than your cutting board--because people clean the toilet seat regularly."

Dr. Gerba said the fecal material in your kitchen comes from raw meat and vegetable products, and the one way you can properly sanitize is to put everything in the dishwasher.

Here are the other places you may want to wipe down more often: the refrigerator door handle, your sponge, and the microwave. Dr. Gerba says pay special attention to the refrigerator door handle, "because everyone is opening that all the time and it gets really germy." 

Dr. Gerba says don't forget the bottom of the refrigerator because everything falls down to the bottom and it can get moldy.

And just because your kitchen may be dirtier doesn't mean you should stop cleaning the bathroom-especially when it comes to towels.

"In about 5% of face towels contain salmonella, E. coli within two to three days because they stay wet, they stay moist, the bacteria survive well," said Gerba.

Dr. Gerba says changing towels every couple days and using separate towels for your hands and face will keep you healthier.

"If you dry your face with a hand towel, you're gonna get more E. coli on your face than if you stuck your head in a toilet and flushed it actually," said Gerba.

So wash your towels often if you're at home, and if you're out in public, wash your hands or use santizers, especially for shopping carts, restaurants, and movie theaters.

Dr. Gerba says movie theaters with cloth seats and armrests can get particularly dirty. "When you put your hand down {on the armrest}, you create a cloud of bacteria," said Gerba. "It's just like blowing in the wind almost, and bacteria and viruses we find will survive for quite some time. Some viruses will survive a week or more in that."

But the germiest place you'll spend the most time: your office. Places like your keyboard, desk, and office phone harbor thousands of bacteria.

If your coworker is sick, your contamination risk skyrockets Gerba explained. "If a person comes into an office with a cold and touching surfaces he'll spread that virus to about 50% of the people within the room, within the office in about 4 hours."

So how do you protect yourself and your family? Here are some quick and easy tips:

  • Wash hands for 20 seconds anytime you get home, before and after eating, and after using the restroom.
  • Use hand sanitizers when not near a sink.
  • Use disinfectant wipes on shopping carts and reusable shopping bags.
  • In your kitchen, put as many dishes as possible in the dishwasher.
  • Clean the refrigerator door handle and refrigerator shelves with disinfectant every week.
  • Change bathroom towels every 2 to 3 days. Use different towels for your face and hands.
  • Take off shoes immediately upon entering your home.
  • In your office, wipe down your keyboard, phone and desk daily.
  • Cough into your elbow, not your hand.
  • If you're sick, stay home from work.