HomeLifeNine everyday things hold more bacteria than a toilet

Nine everyday things hold more bacteria than a toilet

Toilets are often cleaned more regularly than other areas in the home, but that doesn’t mean they’re always the dirtiest places. In fact, there are many everyday objects and areas that are much grimier than your toilet. Here are nine of them.

Your mobile phone

Most people don’t give a second thought about using their phones everywhere, from their morning commute to the dinner table to the doctor’s office. But research shows that mobile phones are far dirtier than most people think, and the more germs they collect, the more germs you touch.

Scientists at the University of Arizona have found that cell phones carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats.

Luckily, phones are easy to clean with some rubbing alcohol, distilled water and a microfibre cloth. While you’re cleaning your phone, don’t forget to clean your earbuds and other accessories.

Read: How to clean tricky household items

Remote controls

Remotes that control everything from your TV to your air conditioner are likely handled multiple times each day. And just like your phone, these items harbour germs from every hand that’s touched them.

Remember to clean them with disinfectant wipes regularly.

Door handles and light switches

Can you be sure that everyone in your home washes their hands sufficiently after sneezing, using the toilet or preparing food? If not, then high-touch areas may be teeming with bacteria.

A quick wipe down with a disinfectant wipe will take care of the problem. But be sure to use one wipe per room because one wipe won’t disinfect all the handles and light switches in your home.

Chopping boards

You encounter thousands of types of bacteria every day, though less than 1 per cent of them can actually make you ill. Within that small percentage though, many of them are most likely to be found in the kitchen. Infectious salmonella and strains of E. Coli cause many of the most common illnesses in a household and cross-contamination from raw foods, mishandled food, unwashed produce, and improper food temperatures are all breeding grounds for these types of bacteria.

Chopping boards, especially wooden ones, can harbour these types of bacteria in the small grooves and nicks often found on the surface.

Cutting boards should be washed in hot, soapy water after every use and you should have separate boards for meats and vegetables.

Read: How to keep your washing machine clean

Kitchen sponge

In a 2017 study, published in Scientific Reports, researchers did a germ analysis of kitchen sponges with some startling results. There were 362 different kinds of bacteria lurking in the crevices of sponges they collected from ordinary homes, in astounding numbers – up to 45 billion per square centimetre.

Use a plastic or silicone brush. Brushes tend to stay drier when they’re not used, and they don’t have as many deep crevices as sponges where bacteria can grow.

Reusable grocery bags

Have you ever considered you may be carrying more than just your groceries in that reusable bag? A researcher at Loma Linda University Health found that almost all reusable grocery bags carry bacteria in them.

And 10 per cent of the reusable bags he collected from shoppers contained E. Coli.

Machine wash with hot water and laundry detergent and machine or line dry to keep them clean and fresh.

Handwash insulated polyester fibre and coated thermal film bags in warm water and soap, or wipe with disinfectant wipes, especially along seams.

Handbags and backpacks

Although you might not realise it, your bag probably often ends up on the floor of stores, offices, bathrooms, and possibly public transportation. Now imagine what else has touched that floor.

And it’s not just the outside, think about all the things you throw in your bag when you don’t have anywhere else to put them – used tissues, old receipts, rubbish.

Make sure you empty out your bag every week and clean the inside and the outside. If you carry around a simple cotton tote, toss it in the washing machine. If your bag is made with synthetic materials, vacuum the inside and run an antibacterial wipe or two along the outer surface.

Leather is harder to clean as you can’t use a lot of antibacterial cleaning solvents, so wipe down its fabric lining with hot, soapy water, use your leather conditioner to keep it pretty on the outside and, whatever you do, don’t ever rest the bag on a bathroom floor.

Toothbrush and toothbrush holder

While your mouth is left much cleaner after a thorough brushing, your toothbrush now carries the germs and residue from your mouth.

Your toothbrush is also probably stored in the bathroom, where bacteria can linger in the air.

The most basic go-to method of sanitising your toothbrush is to run hot water over the bristles before and after each use.

If a hot water rinse isn’t enough to give you peace of mind, you can soak your toothbrush in antibacterial mouthwash.

Wipe down your toothbrush holder with a disinfectant spray when you clean your bathroom sink.

Read: Hassle-free bathroom cleaning secrets

Coffee machine and maker

One study showed that bacteria can thrive in coffee machine drip trays and spread to the rest of the machine as they multiply due to moisture.

One of the warning signs of a dirty coffee maker includes an oily sludge and mineral build up. This creates stains, gums up the brewing process and produces bitter coffee.

Clean your coffee machine or maker monthly according to the instructions.

What other everyday items need extra cleaning? Let us know in the comments section below.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.


  1. We had to dispose of our office coffee maker – no-one took responsibility for cleaning it and the cockroaches took over – erK

    Also all drawer and cupboard handles, ditto fridge and dishwasher , all tap handles, kettle handles- I go through with a well known antiseptic wipe at home every week or more if needed

  2. And yet we’re all alive! The obsession with cleanliness and using anti bacterial products will kill us in the long run. Sure, be clean and keep your things clean, but no need to use products that kill the germs we actually need to stay healthy. Exposure to bacteria and viruses through everyday activities is very good for us, it builds our immunity. On the flip side, non exposure makes our immune systems weaker.

  3. Thankyou for the great article. I would like to highlight how dirty and contaminated all toilet door handles and buttons are. Especially the door lock inside each cubicle. I have noticed that some public toilets now have a bin placed behind the exit door. This is perfect for disposal of paper wipes upon final exit of the toilet area.

  4. You can sterilize everything too much. I was doing this with our daughter’s bowls when she was a baby and was told she needed to build up her immune system. We practise sensible practices like using different boards for meat and vegs. People using public toilets and not washing their hands afterwards are disgusting.

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