The Germiest Things You Touch Every Day

January 2nd 2016

Laura Donovan

Germs are all around us. They're on your smartphone, on your keyboard, and most definitely in your bed.

But many people are more concerned about germs in public places. Some obsessively wash their hands, frequently do laundry, avoid wearing shoes at home, and even wear surgical masks in public to dodge sickness. Here are the places and things that germaphobes might consider the most about when going out in public.

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1. Airplane bathrooms

Airplane bathroom

Because traveling is such an unpleasant experience nowadays, it's not a shock that airplane bathrooms are abundant with gross germs. Though traveling site recently found that plane tray tables are actually dirtier than the bathrooms, experts say that plane bathrooms are just as disgusting as they seem. E. coli or fecal bacteria can often be found on the door handles and faucets because it is difficult for a people to sufficiently wash their hands in the tiny sinks. As many people know, flushing an airplane toilet tends to be very loud and powerful, and this can lead to toilet germs hitting the floor and wall, too.

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2. Grocery carts

Grocery cart

Several years ago, the University of Arizona conducted a study that found nearly two-thirds of tested grocery carts had fecal bacteria. Dr. Victoria Millet, an infectious disease specialist, said at the time that the researchers discovered more fecal matter on the cart handles than one would typically find in a bathroom. Professor Charles Gerba, the study lead, tested the handles of 85 carts in four states for bacterial contamination. He told CBS LA that nearly 75 percent of the carts tested positive for fecal bacteria.

It makes sense that cart handles are dirty, considering that they are touched by dozens of people daily, and they also regularly come into contact with raw foods.

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3. Restaurant menus


Like grocery cart handles, restaurant menus go through a lot of hands everyday, and they're rarely cleaned well (if at all). A few years ago, former ABC News consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy went undercover at 10 restaurants to take swabs of common things people touch in restaurants. Dr. Philip Tierno of the New York University Microbiology Department lab went on to test the swabs and turned up some pretty disturbing results. One menu had the bacteria that causes staph infections and another had germs that cause strep throat.

"You probably have about 100 times more bacteria on that menu than you do a typical toilet seat in the restroom," Dr. Gerba told "Good Morning America" in 2010.

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4. Lemon wedges

Lemon wedges

Lemon wedges might look fancy on your drinks at restaurants, but a 2007 study in the Journal of Environmental Health found that nearly 70 percent of the lemon wedges on restaurant glasses have disease-causing microbes.

Researchers came to this conclusion after ordering drinks at more than 20 restaurants. They discovered 25 different microorganisms on the 76 lemons they used, including E. coli and fecal bacteria.

"Although lemons have known antimicrobial properties, the results of our study indicate that a wide variety of microorganisms may survive on the flesh and the rind of a sliced lemon," the authors wrote. "Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes."

As noted by debunking website Snopes, the findings didn't determine the likelihood of customers getting sick from these lemon wedges or include examples of this happening. Even so, it's still gross to think about when you're relaxing with a soft drink or tea at a restaurant.

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5. Hotel remote control

Remote control

Most people want to watch TV when they stay in hotels, however a report from the TODAY show's Rossen Reports segment found that remotes were the dirtiest things in hotels. Rossen Reports booked rooms at five top hotel brands in the U.S. and swabbed each room after maids cleaned them. The remotes turned up extremely high levels of bacteria, with one delivering the highest reading measured.

"That's how a lot of infectious viruses are transmitted," bacteria expert Dr. Luisa Ikner told Rossen Reports, adding that one remote had colonies of E. coli. "This indicates there was fecal contamination on the remote. So perhaps someone used the restroom and didn't wash their hands when they were done."

One remote also had MRSA, an infection "caused by a type of staph bacteria that's become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections," according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, and wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant wipe," Dr. Ikner advised.

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