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September 2018

Top 6 surfaces to avoid in public spaces

Written by Bakang Kganyago
Cleanliness and Hygiene

Have you ever taken a moment to notice the surfaces you come into contact with on a daily basis? There are some environments we tend to be more aware of than others. You are probably accustomed to the idea that surfaces like public door handles, escalator hand grips and bathrooms are bacteria hotspots, but I’d like to introduce you to a few more surfaces you may not previously have thought of as being a hygiene risk.

Restaurant Menus and Condiments

Have you ever seen waiters or waitresses disinfect menus or condiments before handing them to you? Now imagine how many people touch those menus in a day, let alone a week or month! Do you know if all the restaurant patrons washed their hands before touching these items? An optimistic guess might be 10%.  Compounding this risk is the fact that a number of bacteria are known to survive on hard surfaces for a long time; as an example, the flu virus can survive on a hard surface for 18 hours.

Soap Dispensers

The truth is that soap dispensers harbour a number of germs and bacteria due to the sheer volume of people who come into contact with them.  Ironic isn’t it?

You could argue that you don’t touch the dispenser after you wash your hands but I’m willing to bet you haven’t thought of it!

Cross-contamination is the term we use for the spread of germs from person to person or from a surface to a person’s hands (and vice versa). This is why at Initial Hygiene our soap dispensers are manufactured from tough, durable materials that contain silver ion anti-bacterial technology to help prevent the spread of germs.

Ensure that you wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and remember that drying your hands afterwards is just as important as washing them.

Download our Hand washing poster for help ensuring everyone is using good hand hygiene practices.

Shopping trolleys

In the blog Don’t buy that! How to grocery shop in an age of listeriosis we looked at grocery stores and how they can be unsanitary, with the worst, in my opinion, being shopping trolleys. A large number of people use them daily and they are never sanitised after being used.

Some grocery stores are now providing sanitising wipes so that you can sanitise the handle of your trolley. Through keen observation (my regular trips to the shops), I’ve noticed that very few people actually use those, so imagine how contaminated the trolleys must be after a hard day’s work carrying food around. Do remember to carry a small bottle of hand sanitiser in case the store which you’re going to doesn’t provide wipes.

Movie Theatres

The most obvious health hazard in any public environment is airborne bacteria. The movie theatre brings a lot of people into one enclosed space, exposing them to possible airborne pathogens like the flu or colds. Don’t forget, a cough can travel up to six meters, and a sneeze can travel up to eight meters, which means that you don’t need to be sitting next to someone to be exposed to possible contamination. And as we mentioned before, bacteria can live on surfaces for up to eight hours, so that’s quite a few movies that they can hang around for!


Similar to movie theatres, aeroplanes force people into close proximity with one another for long periods of time. Furthermore, some people may be more susceptible to falling ill on planes due to the lower humidity levels within the cabin (generally about 20%). According to the World Health Organisation people are usually exposed to around 30% humidity. The dryer than usual air affects mucus, which is your immune system’s first defence against bacteria, thus leaving you vulnerable to getting sick.

The grimiest surfaces in an aeroplane are the tray tables. A 2015 study done by TravelMath found that hard surfaces in aeroplanes contained 8 times more bacteria than the average toilet handle, and it was found that of those hard surfaces the aeroplane tray had the largest colony of bacteria growing. It’s found that plane cleaning crew do not have enough time between flights to properly disinfect the plane, nor do they have/use proper equipment like Initial’s antibacterial fogging service to ensure that it’s expertly sanitised.

Gym Equipment

The local gym is one of the dirtiest places you can visit. According to AskMen.com free weights contain 362 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, and the treadmill has 74 times more bacteria than an average bathroom tap! Shocking isn’t it? But then again, think about the last time you saw someone sanitise the dumbbells or barbell at your local gym. (I often feel the need to introduce gyms to Initial’s antibacterial fogging service).

According to a study by FitRated on bacteria found on gym equipment, they concluded that 70% of all the bacteria analysed were potentially harmful to humans and that 31% of those bacteria were largely resistant to antibiotics. It is important to ensure you use the sanitiser provided to disinfect the equipment before and after use. Don’t touch your face during your workout session and immediately change out of your gym clothes when you’re done with your session.

Now that I’ve scared you, please don’t think I’m trying to turn you into a germaphobe.  After all, you can’t avoid coming into contact with contaminated surfaces completely. Managing your risk will help you to reduce illness and minimise cross-contamination.

Get a copy of our comprehensive handwashing guide and you'll get access to all the best handwashing resources.

Download your handwashing guide

Or contact us today to speak to an expert who can help you minimise your risk while in the office.

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Bakang Kganyago

Bakang Kganyago

Bakang is a Digital Marketing Executive for Rentokil Initial. A germaphobe at heart, he's passionate about learning and sharing insights on how to defeat the enemy we cannot see. Join his journey as he writes about the impact of germs in our daily lives.

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