We've all have it drummed into our heads that we shouldn't sit on public toilets because of germs, or that we should replace our toothbrushes every few months because bacteria grow on them. But what about surprising places where germs congregate and multiply faster than fruit flies? Here are some of the biggest bacteria hotspots:

  • Refillable liquid soap dispensers. These range from basic plastic to ultra-fancy models that match other bathroom accessories. And they're much classier than a grimy bar of soap. Unfortunately they're also a magnet for fecal bacteria. "[The bacteria] love to grow in the soap," says Dr. Charles P. Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona. "In one study of soap dispensers, 25 percent had fecal bacteria growing in them, and one-quarter of the samples had E. coli growing in them." Your best defense? Use only nonrefillable containers if you like liquid soap.
  • TV remotes. This makes sense—everyone in the household touches them, possibly multiple times a day. According to Dr. Gerba, one study showed that in homes with children suffering from the flu, 60 percent of the remotes harbored the influenza virus. Clean and disinfect remotes regularly.
  • Cutting boards. Get ready for this one: The average kitchen cutting board has 200 times more fecal bacteria on it than the average toilet seat. Surprised? The main culprit here is meat, which is often contaminated with fecal bacteria from animals (and unhygienic people who handle it). Home cooks often cut meat on cutting boards and then fail to do anything more than wipe them down. They need to be disinfected regularly, ideally once a week. Try diluting one tablespoon of bleach with a quart of water, soaking the board for five minutes and rinsing it. Or mix one part vinegar with five parts water, and do the same.
  • Sponges and dishcloths. Wipe down your kitchen table with a previously used sponge or cloth and you could be spreading germs around. Try throwing sponges in the dishwasher and/or microwaving them. Cloths can be laundered in a bleach solution. It's probably best to simply replace your sponges and dishcloths regularly.
  • Your purse. Yes, that purse you carry around from store to store is a surprising magnet for nasty little germs such as fecal bacteria. The worst offenders are women who place their purses on the floors of public restrooms—up to one-third of bags become contaminated this way. But even if you don't drop your bag, it still picks up bacteria wherever it's placed. Clean it with an antibacterial spray or disposable wipes, or wash it down with a soapy washcloth.



Source: Dr. Charles P. Gerba, University of Arizona