Part One of a Two Part Series

Germs have been all over the news. We are in the middle of flu season, and now the media has been broadcasting the potential spread of a new global crisis: The Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Thank goodness you are safe from germs in your own home… Or are you?

Charles Gerba, a professor of public health, environmental science, and immunology at the University of Arizona, has completed numerous studies related to germs on almost every surface you can imagine. An article written by Sandee Lamotte for CNN Health summarized some of Dr. Gerba’s more notable findings (Lamotte, 2019):

  • Because toilets are excessively cleaned, there is more fecal bacteria in a kitchen sink than in your toilet after it is flushed.
  • Bacteria from the toilet during the flush spreads up to six feet. This leads to bacterial collection on toothbrushes and hand towels.
  • There are more bacteria on your cutting board than your toilet seat.
  • 362 species of bacteria were found to be living on sponges, with salmonella on 15% of the sponge samples. 82 billion bacteria were living on one cubic inch of one sponge. Dr. Gerba’s study also showed that microwaving, boiling, and dishwashing could not prevent the bacteria from immediately growing back.

Dr. Gerba also studied bacteria levels on footwear. After ten participants wore shoes for two weeks, the shoes were swabbed. Coliform bacteria (a potentially harmful type of gram-negative bacteria) was found on 96% of the shoes, and E. coli was on 27% of the shoes (CIRI, 2008). Alam et al. (2017) completed a study that found dangerous clostridium difficile on 26.4% of shoes. Other areas with high levels of unwanted bacteria are refrigerator handles, cutting boards, sinks, bedsheets, toothbrush holders, stove knobs, pet bowls, faucet handles, and the water reservoir for coffee makers (NSF, 2019).

While it is impossible to completely rid your home of bacteria, there are things you can do to reduce the amount present. The Environmental Protection Agency (2019) has a website that recommends cleaning products that meet their “Safer Choice” standard. The general rule seems to be that if something can be washed in the dishwasher or washing machine, wash the item frequently. If an object is unable to be removed, the recommendation of the National Sanitation Foundation (2019) is to use a bleach-based cleaning product. When bleach is not the optimal choice, vinegar solutions can be used in devices such as coffee makers.  Dr. Gerba found that wipes are more effective than spraying a cleaning product and wiping (Lamotte, 2019).

Next week, Part 2 will focus on germs outside of the home, and how to protect yourself.

 

 

References

Alam, M. J., Walk, S. T., Endres, B. T., Basseres, E., Khaleduzzaman, M., Amadio, J., … Garey, K. W. (2017). Community Environmental Contamination of Toxigenic Clostridium difficile. Open Forum Infectious Diseases, 4(1). doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofx018

CIRI. (2008). Study Reveals High Bacteria Levels on Footwear – Article. Retrieved from https://www.ciriscience.org/a_96-Study-Reveals-High-Bacteria-Levels-on-Footwear

EPA. (2020). Search Products that Meet the Safer Choice Standard. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/products

Lamotte, S. (2019). The germiest place in your home and the best way to combat those microbes. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/07/health/germs-home-wellness/index.html

National Sanitation Foundation. (2019). Cleaning the Germiest Home Items. Retrieved from http://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/cooking-cleaning-food-safety/cleaning/clean-germiest-home-items