Men’s beards can be dirtier than the inside of a toilet – or so say a team of microbiologists in New Mexico, who have discovered alarming parallels between some beardy bacteria and fecal germs. Hipsters needn’t panic just yet, though: the study apparently wasn’t exactly scientific. Even so, those of us without facial fuzz still have cause for concern, as a little more digging reveals that toilet-dwelling bacteria are often found on everyday things like cellphones and menus. And seeing as how they aren’t always cleaned regularly, while restrooms hopefully are, these objects – and 18 more like them – may even be dirtier than the lavatory.
Image: Johan Larsson
Because of how often we use them, smartphones carry germs that can outnumber lavatory seat bacteria tenfold. The trick to staying healthy, though, is not to share your phone, as a device that has a germ set from only a single individual won’t pose a health risk to its owner.
Image: Laura Henderson
19. Computer keyboards
Alarmingly, your computer keyboard could be up to 500 percent dirtier than your toilet seat – that is, according to the findings of a 2008 study by U.K.-based consumer organization Which?. The team’s researchers, who examined 33 keyboards, were specifically looking for bacteria that cause food poisoning.
Image: Mary Beth Griffo Rigby
18. Ice cubes
The innocent ice cube may be dirtier than toilet water – at least according to a 2013 investigation by U.K. newspaper The Mail on Sunday. The publication discovered that the ice served at 60 percent of the well-known restaurants surveyed was more bacteria-filled than the water flowing through the establishments’ toilets.
Image: Basheer Tome
It may not come as a surprise to learn that menus are often dirtier than the average toilet; they’re what every hungry customer touches, after all. An investigation by Good Morning America revealed that the restaurant menus it studied harbored an average of 185,000 bacteria.
Image: Iain Watson
16. Remote controls
They’re touched by everyone in the family, so perhaps it’s little wonder that TV remotes are a hotbed for germs. Moreover, they could also make you ill. In 2008 University of Virginia researchers found that 50 percent of the remotes they swabbed harbored the super-contagious cold virus.
Image: Tom Carmony
15. Office desks
Even if it appears clean and organized, the typical office desk could nevertheless be dirtier than a toilet. The small section where a worker’s hands rest, for example, may hold approximately 10,000 bacteria. The typical restroom seat, by comparison, has just 50 germs inhabiting each square inch.
14. Chopping boards
Maybe we should start chopping vegetables on the toilet seat; after all, according to University of Arizona scientists, it would be cleaner. The research team discovered that compared to the lavatory, boards have on average an incredible 2,000 percent more fecal bacteria – most of which comes from uncooked meat.
Image: Raymond M.
13. Laundered clothes
Freshly laundered clothes, one would think, are the epitome of cleanliness. But environmentally conscious families using cooler washes may be unwittingly allowing bacteria to thrive, thus increasing the chance of members of the household catching an infection.
Here’s one that might leave a funny taste in the mouth: toothbrushes are technically dirtier than toilets. In 2014 a University of Manchester study was widely announced to have uncovered the fact that the average toothbrush harbors over ten million bacteria; and the closer the item is stored to the toilet, the likelier it is to host fecal germs.
Image: Michael Cory
Despite all the hard work spent vacuuming, carpets can remain pretty grubby. Philip Tierno, an immunology and microbiology specialist at New York University Langone Medical Center, found that rugs host around 20,000 germs for every square inch, making them approximately 4,000 times more covered in bacteria than toilet seats.
The inside of the fridge is potentially among the home’s dirtiest places. In fact, a 2010 Hygiene in the Home Study found that over four in ten fridge interiors tested harbored dangerous levels of mold and bacteria. Say what you like about the toilet seat, but it usually isn’t moldy.
Image: Paul Cross
9. Light switches
They’re used almost instinctively, which may explain why they’re not exactly at the top of our to-clean lists. And according to Healthline, an accumulation of dirt and grease means that light switches are up there with the grimiest fixtures in the home.
Image: Kate Ter Haar
8. Kitchen taps
Bacteria on kitchen taps can outnumber their toilet seat counterparts by a ratio of 44 to one. Furthermore, tests by the U.K.’s Hygiene Council discovered that 14 percent of taps in its sample had potentially dangerous levels of E.coli – an organism that can cause kidney failure.
Ladies’ purses are likely to harbor a greater number of germs than the lavatory. This is according to Initial Washroom Hygiene, which revealed that 20 percent of purse handles represent a potential health risk. And because of their absorbent texture, leather bags are the worst offenders.
Image: Sam Howzit
6. Elevator buttons
Press an elevator button and you’ll risk coming into contact with 40 times the amount of bacteria found on public toilet seats. This is the warning of Microban Europe, which made the startling discovery after examining elevator controls in airports, hotels, restaurants and businesses in 2010.
Image: Nik Stanbridge
This one’s bound to ruffle a few feathers: pillows contain billions of bacteria, most of which have lived on your face. Still, according to Professor Jack Brown, a University of Kansas at Lawrence molecular biologist, the tiny organisms remain harmless – as long as pillow cases are washed weekly.
Image: Mr. TinDC
4. Pet bowls
Failure to regularly clean the cat or dog’s bowl could see it become filthier than the lavatory seat – which, on reflection, makes perfect sense. According to public health specialists NSF, pet bowls are the home’s fourth-foulest item.
Image: Horia Varlan
3. Kitchen sponges
They’re supposed to keep our kitchens clean, but all that surface wiping and grime absorption makes the humble kitchen sponge one of the dirtiest things in the home. According to University of Arizona microbiologists, they can harbor 200,000 times the number of germs as compared to the total typically found on the toilet seat.
Image: Len Matthews
2. Toilet roll dispensers
Watch out when wiping. Toilet roll dispensers contain 150 percent more germs than the toilet seats they peer over – an alarming fact discovered by CBS show The Doctors.
Image: Moyan Brenn
Toilet seats are squeaky clean compared to banknotes, more than a quarter of which harbor dangerous quantities of germs. This is according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London, who discovered that some bills even host the potentially deadly E.coli bacteria.