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March 2018

Rank these by their cleanliness [Quiz]

Written by Nicole Horne
Cleanliness and Hygiene

Have you ever wondered how clean the objects are that you come into contact with?

The below items may seem quite ordinary to you, but have you ever really wondered how clean they are? We have put together a list of items and surfaces we touch daily, and the levels of bacteria that can be found on them!




Us ladies take our handbags with us wherever we go. Whether it is to the office, in our home, doing groceries, visiting public bathrooms and restaurants, the list is endless. Our handbags are almost as necessary as one of our limbs!

In 2012, Initial shared research findings after swab testing 100 surfaces and items from 25 different handbags. Frightening enough, the study found that 1 in 5 handbags harbour levels bacteria related cross-contamination. This poses a risk to cross contamination to other surfaces since we regularly come into contact with other surfaces. To combat this, ensure that your handbags is wiped with antibacterial wipes and your hands are also regularly sanitised. Find out how to limit the risk of cross-contamination from your hand bag.

Gym bags

On the subject of bags, in another Initial Hygiene study, swab tests carried out have shown that more than 35% of bags harboured coliform bacteria on the handle. These bacteria indicate poor levels of hygiene and, outside the body, are primarily found in faecal matter. Coliform bacteria carries a significant threat of illness and cross contamination. Alarmingly, during the course of this study it was found that the dirtiest bag within the test carried seven times the acceptable level of coliform counts!

As is with handbags, we also transport our gym bags with us to various areas, leading to cross contamination. Furthermore, the spongier texture of leather bags is a more welcoming area to thrive compared to nylon or canvas material bags. Be sure to sanitise your gym bag regularly, or wash it if possible.

To find out more about bacteria that could be hiding in unexpected places, read this blog on 7 Bacteria hotspots we bet you didn’t know about.


For those of you who enjoy a cup of tea, this fact might shock you… Compared to the average bacterial reading for a toilet seat (which was 220), researchers found an average 3,785 germs on an office teabag.

If you consider the activities that involve tea-making, filling up the kettle (a kettle handle contains a reading of 2483 bacteria!), using your favourite mug (1746 bacteria) and opening the fridge (a door contains 1592!) - it all adds up.


Another comparison to a toilet seat… according to CBT Nuggets, an office keyboard contains 3 543 000 colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria per square inch contains 20 598 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.  A computer mouse isn’t much cleaner - harbouring 1 370 068 CFU per square inch. Gross! To avoid this, why not follow our 5 ways to keep your laptop clean

Mobile phones

For most people, their mobile phone is the object they come into contact most during the day. Here is a scary fact - your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs per square inch. An iPhone 6 can carry approximately 240,000 germs!

No one really thinks of disinfecting their mobile phones, this spreading the risk of cross contamination to everything else they touch. Dr Gerbera mentions that the risk of contracting influenza, E. coli and MRSA is much higher as our phones are in close contact with our noses and mouths.

Kitchen sponges

In a study by NSF International, 75% of kitchen sponges were found to be contaminated by coliform bacteria. Dr Gerba says that the kitchen sponge (or cloth) is in most cases, the dirtiest item in the home, with your kitchen sponge can very well be 200,000 times dirtier than your toilet seat. It also found that 45% of kitchen sinks were contaminated by coliform bacteria.

Kitchen sponges are not the only places where bacteria could be lurking in the kitchen. Check out these 10 disgusting kitchen habits and find out more.

Toilet seats

This statistic is the most surprising of the all! According to Dr C Gerbera, the average toilet seat contains roughly 50 bacteria per square inch (6.5 sq cm). This also relates to an average bacterial reading of 220 - which is the spot that contains the least germs compared to all the other mentioned objects in this blog!

David Coil, a microbiologist at the University of California at Davis is of opinion that a toilet is is a terrible yardstick of germy-ness. Having swabbed toilet seats on several occasions, he says he has “found nothing too exciting” and “we use so much Lysol and the like on toilet seats that microbes don't have an opportunity to accumulate there; a spoonful of soil has more bacteria and far greater diversity.”

Who would have thought toilets seats are cleaner than mobile phones, kitchen sponges or teabags! Not because items look clean mean they are necessarily clean and vice versa!

Want to find out how dirty your laptop is? Take this simple test to find out how clean your laptop is.

Find out how dirty your laptop really is

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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