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When you think of the grossest things in your everyday life, the Toilet seems to be at the top of the list. What could possibly be dirtier than a toilet seat? Turns out, a lot of things. Things that you use just as often, and that put the commode to shame in the germs department.
Once you see this list, there’s no going back.
University of Arizona researchers found that the average cutting board has 200 times more fecal Bacteria
than a toilet seat. A big culprit: raw meat, since many fecal bacteria originate in animals’ internal organs. So, the last chicken cutlet you diced? The tiny grooves your knife left in the cutting board are a prime real estate for germs to get cozy. Clean it: Wash plastic cutting boards with liquid dish detergent and water, then soak thoroughly in a solution of 2 teaspoons bleach and 1 gallon of water. For wooden boards, do the same but use 2 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. Don’t soak overnight.
Your pet’s food bowl
One of the home’s dirtiest surfaces could be your pet’s trusty kibble dish. If your dog licks a toilet seat, he’s picking up about 295 bacteria per square inch. But if he licks the inside rim of his unclean dish, he just gobbled up 2,110 bacteria per square inch—and what dog licks just one inch? Clean it: To keep pets healthy, wash all food bowls after every meal with hot water and soap, or combine baking soda, warm water, and salt in equal parts and scrub the surface in circles before rinsing. If you don’t, bacteria will multiply on the leftover residue of your pet’s slobber and food bits, a little like if you used the same fork every day without washing it.
Your clean laundry
A load of underwear will transfer at least 100 million E. coli bacteria—the culprit behind diarrhea—to the washing machine, which becomes a breeding ground that can contaminate other clothing. With a front-loading machine, it’s worse; water settles at the bottom and creates the moist environment bacteria loves. Your toilet seat, on the other hand, is too dry to support a very large bacterial population. Clean it: Disinfect your machine by washing a load of whites with bleach first, or cleaning your washer with bleach at least once a month (pour 2 cups of bleach into the detergent compartment, and run empty on the hottest cycle before wiping dry; leave the door open after). To avoid spreading bacteria, wash underwear separately with hot water and a color-safe bleach replacement.
Your smartphone or tablet
In a 2013 study, British researchers swabbed 30 tablets, 30 phones, and an office toilet seat. The tablets had up to 600 units per swab of staphylococcus (also known as staph, which can cause severe stomach sickness) and the phones had up to 140 units. The typical toilet seat had less than 20 units. Another uncomfortable detail: In a 2011 survey, 75 percent of Americans said they use their smartphones while on the toilet to text, email, and talk. It’s not just teenagers—91 percent of Gen Y responders said they used their phone on the toilet, as did 80 percent of Gen X and 65 percent of Boomers. Clean it: Reduce your exposure to germs by cleaning your electronic screens with screen wipes or a damp, soft cloth—or leaving them out of the bathroom in the first place.
Fun fact: Bacteria love munching on dead skin cells. Considering that the average person sheds about 1.5 million every hour, that turns your rugs into a fine dining experience when you add food particles, pet dander, pollen, and other bits. About 200,000 bacteria live in each square inch of carpet (nearly 700 times more than on your toilet seat), including E. coli, Staphylococcus, and salmonella. Clean it: Since your vacuum cleaner can’t reach to the bottom of the carpet, hire a company to deep clean at least once a year.
Your faucet handles
Your bathroom faucet handle can have 21 times the bacteria of your toilet seat. Even worse—your kitchen faucet handles can harbor 44 times the bacteria of your toilet seat. Clean it: Disinfect and clean regularly along with the rest of your sink to make sure washing your hands isn’t making you dirtier.
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