The 101 dirtiest things we touch

Courtesy of Dr. Crutchfield

Protect yourself from getting sick: Disinfect items and wash your hands

It is no surprise that our world is filled with millions of germs. Some germs are both wanted and important. In fact, we have populations of germs that live on our skin and inside our bodies that are essential for life. This group of microbes and germs is collectively called a microbiome and will be the subject of a future article.

Unfortunately, many germs are not essential to us and are downright dangerous for our health. The most important thing you can do for good health is to wash your hands on a regular basis.

Many of these germs live on ordinary, everyday objects that we use all the time. Some of the items around us we would expect to be dirty. Some of the other things around us may be very dirty, and the list of them may come as a complete surprise.

Even if you are not a total germaphobe, when we look at the list of 101 of the dirtiest things we encounter and touch every day, it should make us more motivated to wash our hands regularly.

The List

  1. Airports security bins
  2. Armrests at public places like theatres, doctor’s offices, lecture halls, airplanes and other forms of public transportation (including the food trays that are stored in airplane armrests)
  3. Appliance control knobs
  4. ATM buttons
  5. Banisters at home and in stairwells
  6. Bar games (pinball buttons, video game buttons, darts, hockey game handles, etc.)
  7. Bathtubs
  8. Bathroom door handles, especially inside, leading out
  9. Bathroom sink faucet handles
  10. Bowling balls (free loaners at the alley) 
  11. Car interior controls, including shifter knobs, radio, climate control, and touchscreens
  12. Car seatbelts (insertion parts)
  13. Carpeting
  14. Casino dice
  15. Cell phones
  16. Children’s toys
  17. Coffee mugs at restaurants
  18. Coffee pot handles and all things commonly touched in the office break room
  19. Computer keyboard
  20. Computer mouse
  21. Copy and fax machine buttons
  22. Credit cards
  23. Crosswalk buttons
  24. CPAP masks and keypad
  25. Diaper changing stations
  26. Doorknobs
  27. Door handles
  28. Doorbell buttons
  29. Drinking glasses at bars and restaurants
  30. Drinking fountains
  31. Elevator buttons
  32. Escalator handrails
  33. Eyeglasses
  34. Fruit (like limes) squeezed into cocktails, beer and other drinks. Often, the bartenders are in a hurry and grab the lime or other fruit slices with their bare hands. Then they squeeze and drop the fruit down into your drink. The germs from their fingers are now on the fruit that is floating in your drink or Mexican beer. As one person said, it is the same as going into the bar and asking the bartender if you can lick their fingers. Oh my!
  35. Gaming controls
  36. Garage remote controls in our cars and on the garage wall
  37. Gas pump handles
  38. Grill handles
  39. Hairbrush handles
  40. Handles on subways and trams that are used to hold on to when the vehicle is moving
  41. Handshakes
  42. Hearing aids and eyeglass frames
  43. Hot tubs
  44. Hot and cold-water dispenser knobs/levers
  45. Hotel room telephones
  46. Keys
  47. Kitchen sink
  48. Kitchen sink sponges and towels
  49. Kitchen towels
  50. Laundry. Use bleach on whites, hot water washes, and long hot, dry cycles
  51. Light switches
  52. Litter boxes
  53. Locker door handles at the gym
  54. Loofa sponges
  55. Lunch boxes
  56. Magazines in reception rooms
  57. McDonald’s play areas
  58. McDonald’s play area plastic balls
  59. Money, including coins and paper
  60. Mailbox handles
  61. Microwave keypads
  62. Office telephones and telephone receivers
  63. Paper towel dispenser levers
  64. Parking meters
  65. Pens on a cord or chain (like at the bank) or the stylus pen at the credit card signing station
  66. Pet toys
  67. Pet dishes
  68. Pet leashes
  69. Playground equipment, inside and outside
  70. Poles on subways and trams that are used to hold on to when the vehicle is moving
  71. Public bathrooms: inside stall latches
  72. Purses
  73. Railings in stairways
  74. Refrigerator door handles
  75. Restaurant menus
  76. Restaurant salt and pepper shakers and table condiment containers
  77. Restaurant table tops — especially if wiped down with a sponge or cloth from the same tub of water used over and over, or the sponge or cloth is used repeatedly on all tables.
  78. Restaurant utensils and dishes, including shared utensils to serve food at buffets. Studies have shown that almost all restaurant silverware has detectable amounts of norovirus, E. coli, and Listeria.
  79. Security door keypads
  80. Security system alarm programming pads
  81. Self-checkout stands at the store
  82. Shoes, especially the bottoms
  83. Slot machine buttons
  84. Soap dispenser buttons
  85. Sports balls (basketballs, volleyballs, footballs, etc.)
  86. Sports equipment at the gym, inclkudindf bikes, treadmills, weights)
  87. Steering wheels (cars)
  88. Stove and oven control knobs
  89. Shopping cart handles
  90. Shower handles
  91. Testers (e.g. make up) and sample jars at stores
  92. Toilet seats
  93. Toilet flush handles/levers
  94. Toothbrush and toothbrush holders
  95. Touchscreens
  96. TV remote controls
  97. Urinal flush handles
  98. Vending machine button
  99. Wallets
  100. Water bottles that are regularly refilled
  101. Straps on subways and trams that are used to hold on to when the vehicle is moving

Many of the things around us can and should be cleaned on a regular basis. Most things should be cleaned daily or weekly. Use a commercial disinfectant spray or wipe according to directions. For cell phones, use a microfiber cloth and a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol solution.

You can’t clean everything, so your best defense for good health is to wash your hands regularly and especially after touching the items listed above. Click here for a great article on proper hand washing