Ewwwww! Surprising Sources of Bacteria You Might Not Know About

Did you know that your cell phone likely harbors more germs than your toilet bowl? OK, most people do that by now. However, similar comparisons can be made to your kitchen sink, the bottom of your purse or briefcase, the TV remote control, your toothbrush, and your bathtub.

And then there are some really surprises sources of bacteria, viruses, microscoping bugs, and other nasty critters. Being forewarned is being forearmed, so read on, but be prepared — learning about the following places where you’ll find pathogens might just turn you into a germaphobe.

Condiment Bottles

Ever take a long, hard look at the salt and pepper shakers, Sriracha or Tabasco bottles, or other condiments on the table at your favorite restaurant? You probably should. A 2008 study conducted by University of Virginia researchers found that cold and flu viruses are remarkably common on household salt and pepper shakers. Just imagine how much worse their restaurant counterparts are, given the number of people who use them each day

Although servers are often instructed to “marry” condiments like ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce — combining the contents of partially empty bottles so that there’s always an ample supply on each table — they don’t spend a lot of time cleaning the bottles and shakers themselves. If they do, it’s usually a cursory swipe with an already germy rag.

Just marrying condiments in the first place can lead to some decidedly disgusting results. The practice can cause fermentation, and it also means that the condiment in the bottom of any given bottle may be as old as the restaurant. And since not every server is conscientious about sanitation measures, you just never know what could be lurking in that container of Heinz

People Wearing Hospital Scrubs

It’s a common sight, particularly in big cities with major teaching hospitals: hordes of nurses, technicians, PAs, surgeons, orderlies, and others wearing their scrubs while commuting or stepping out on their lunch breaks. These scrubs, as well as lab coats, are more than just comfortable uniforms — they’re highly efficient transportation systems for bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff), enterococcus and staphylococcus.

  1. diff, MRSA, and other so-called superbugs are not just resistant to antibiotics. They are incredibly difficult to eradicate from clothing and ordinary surfaces such as restaurant chairs or booths, because they can’t be destroyed by laundry detergents or common cleaning products.

The experts at hospital linen supplier Nixon Medical say that one way to prevent medical personnel from carrying germs to and fro is for hospitals and health care facilities to provide fresh, clean uniforms for their workers each day. Unfortunately, that’s simply not realistic. So, the next time you’re in line at Chipotle behind a nurse or other professional wearing scrubs, be very careful not to touch any surfaces his clothing has come into contact with.

Your Children’s Cuddly Toys

If you’re the parent of a young child, this one’s for you. It’s adorable to see how much your son loves his stuffed kitty, or maybe you get a little exasperated by the fact that your daughter has to drag Octavia the Octopus everywhere. Either way, it’s imperative that you keep these beloved stuffed animal friends clean.

Especially when your child takes his or her toy everywhere, a lot of germs can accumulate on a stuffed animal or doll. And, of course, children are not really well-known for being neat freaks. Even if they don’t chew on a stuffie’s ear or paw once in a while, they are almost guaranteed to wipe their nose, suck their thumb, or otherwise transfer germs after snuggling with their plush pal.

Most stuffed critters can survive a trip through the washer on the gentle cycle, inside a pillowcase for extra protection. Check the label, though, and handwash if necessary; there’s nothing more devastating to a child than losing a familiar and comforting animal to a harsh detergent, too-hot water, or the ravages of a tumble dryer.

Another health tip: don’t accept second-hand stuffed animals or purchase them at thrift stores or garage sales. That’s a fairly easy way to open your home to illness in the form of a bedbug infestation, which is something you want to avoid if at all possible.

Cold, Hard Cash

Do you carry a lot of cash with you? It’s not a smart idea to do so — and not just because it makes you a target for robbery. According to a study published in Southern Medical Journal, fully 94% of paper money has bacteria, viruses, fecal matter, and all sorts of other nasty stuff on it. It makes sense, given how many hands touch paper bills and coins over the currency’s lifespan.

Not only that, but those dolla dolla bills can play host to live flu viruses for up to 17 days! Switch to Apple Pay or use your debit card as much as possible to eliminate coming into contact with these pathogens. Any time you must handle paper money or coins, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly or use antibacterial hand sanitizer.