So, is it actually possible that the fixtures in your bathroom, the ones we all think of as germ hotspots, are cleaner than the ones in your kitchen? We decided to investigate…
And we found a 2008 study from a group of environmental scientists that suggests this might well be the case.
The scientists, working on behalf of a cleaning products manufacturer, took samples from 20 family homes in seven regions including the UK – and their findings were alarming.
Internationally, 90 per cent of kitchen cloths, 46 per cent of kitchen sinks, 38 per cent of bathroom sinks and 14 per cent of children’s toys had a total bacteria count of more than 100,000 per square centimetre.
Professor John Oxford, a virologist at St Bartholemew’s and the Royal London Hospital, led the study. He is also chairman of the UK’s Hygiene Council – read its recommendations here.
He warned that families put great effort into cleaning toilets but not nearly as much time into keeping their kitchens clean: “You could eat your dinner in a US toilet but there is a lack of appreciation that kitchen sinks can be contaminated with faecal organisms, either coming in with fruit and vegetables or from pets and children.”
The moral of this tale: wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. And disinfect high-risk areas, which apparently includes your bath and kitchen sink every bit as much as your toilet.
Dispense with all your horrible old cleaning cloths and replace them, as this is where many of the nasties live. Or give them a one-minute spell in the microwave, as this is a sure-fire way to kill bacteria.
(Except you probably don’t want to do that with the bathroom ones.)
This video from American channel MSNBC will certainly give you food for thought. In a recent segment on its Today programme it enlisted microbiologist Joe Rubino to give householders a few tips.
His main areas of concern? The aerosol effect of a flushing toilet that sends fine droplets of water flying into the air – something to think about when you consider where to store your toothbrush. Closing the lid on flushing is a great precaution to take.
And baths can become a soup of bacteria if not regularly cleaned, according to Joe. He recommends removing bath mats and let them dry thoroughly to ease the problem.
You might also consider replacing soap bars with liquid bacterial soap.
Or you might consider, apropos of the old proverb, that if we must eat a peck of dirt before we die, then we’d better get on with it.
• For reliable advice on this tricky subject you can check out the home hygiene section of the NHS Choices website. Learn more about common household germs and food safety or check out how clean and healthy your home is with its interactive tool here.