Watch out! These household items have more bacteria than a toilet seat

From water bottles to chopping boards, these household items are a breeding ground for bacteria…

We often think of our toilet seat as being covered in unpleasant bacteria – but according to research, it seems that this might actually be one of the cleaner household items. Perhaps it’s because we’re so careful about cleaning the bathroom, but many studies have found that there are more bacteria hiding in other places than on the toilet seat.

From E coli to mould, there are certain household items that, if not cleaned properly, can pose a health hazard.

To avoid these dirty dangers (and a potential upset stomach), these are the items that you should pay special attention to.

Person holding up toilet seat to show bacteria at homeCredit: Shutterstock/Fongbeerredhot
Did you know your toilet seat is cleaner than a whole host of popular household items?

1. Water bottles

Your water habit could be harmful

While keeping hydrated is important for our overall health, drinking out of a reusable bottle could actually be more harmful than helpful.

According to a recent study, reusable water bottles were shown to contain 40,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Even more concerning, the same study showed that only a quarter of users wash their water bottles a few times a week, while nearly one in five clean them only a few times a month.

The worst styles of bottle for this were spout-top and screw-top lids, which contained the most bacteria, with 30 million colony-forming units (CFUs) found on each variety.

The presence of bacteria such as E coli, Klebsiella, and mould in your water bottle can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses, urinary tract infections, and even pneumonia, so it’s important to clean them regularly.

How to clean your water bottle

  1. Rinse the water bottle with warm water to remove any residue.
  2. Fill the bottle with warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap.
  3. Use a bottle brush or a sponge to scrub the inside of the bottle, paying special attention to the bottom and the cap.
  4. Rinse the bottle thoroughly with warm water to remove all the soap.
  5. For a deeper clean, perhaps once a month, you can soak the bottle overnight in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
  6. Rinse the bottle again with warm water to remove any vinegar smell.
  7. Allow the bottle to air dry completely before using it again.

2. Coffee machine

Bacteria with your cappuccino?

Coffee lovers, brace yourselves. Mould and yeast absolutely thrive in your beloved coffee machine, and this can be one seriously filthy spot in your kitchen if not cleaned properly.

Water reservoirs, coffee pots and drip trays can all become bacteria hotspots – organisms grow in moist and damp areas. One study revealed up to 67 types of bacteria could be lurking in your drip tray. One of the two most commonly found bacteria in the coffee machines was Pseudomonas. This strain of bacteria is known to be pathogenic, meaning it has the potential to cause disease in people with weaker immune systems.

Whether you need to clean your coffee pod machine or cafetière, the most important thing is to do it regularly, especially those parts where bacteria can lurk.

How to deep clean your coffee machine

Josh Clake, manager at removal company Clear It Waste advises giving your coffee machine a deep clean at least once a month.

  1. Use a deep cleaner for the water reservoir, or water and vinegar based solution, and let this soak for about 15-30 minutes.
  2. Scrub if necessary, and then rinse this thoroughly before air drying (run a water-only cycle to completely get rid of the vinegar if needed).
  3. It’s also important to deep clean the drip tray. Use an antibacterial cleaner to ensure all traces of mould are removed, as studies have shown rinsing is not enough to kill bacteria.
  4. Finally, make sure you descale your coffee machine every three to four months to prevent build up. Use a descaling solution that’s made for your machine to make sure no internal parts get damaged.

3. Chopping boards

Extra cleaning is required

While you might expect some bacteria from chopping raw meat on your board, you perhaps wouldn’t expect to find faecal matter on there. But that’s exactly what one study by the University of Arizona discovered. In fact, researchers found that the average cutting board has 200 times more faecal bacteria than a toilet seat – yuck!

Microorganisms get stuck in the surfaces of your chopping board, especially the small grooves created by knives. Once they’re trapped, bacteria can survive for extended periods of time. When you use the board again, they then spread to other foods, which could potentially lead to food-borne illness.

Rinsing alone may not get rid of these, so it’s important to make sure you give your chopping board a thorough clean after each use.

How to clean your chopping board

  1. Keep all cutting boards nice and clean by giving them a good wash with hot, soapy water and a brush after each use.
  2. Then, simply give them a quick rinse and let them air dry or gently pat them dry with some handy paper towels.
  3. For cutting boards made of non-porous acrylic, plastic, glass, or solid wood, you can also conveniently clean them in an automatic dishwasher. Don’t put wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher as this can damage them.
  4. Clake also recommends regularly sanitising your boards. You can use white vinegar or a food-safe disinfectant for this. Simply flood the surface with your chosen solution and let it stand for a few minutes.
  5. Make sure you have separate chopping boards for meat and poultry to prevent cross contamination.

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4. Keyboard

Think before you type!

Research conducted by microbiologist James Francis showed that harmful bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus were discovered on keyboards. These bacteria can cause skin infections and make people ill.

In fact, one of the keyboards examined in the study had to be removed from the office because it was found to be five times dirtier than a toilet seat, harbouring 150 times the acceptable limit of bacteria.

One of the main contributors to this issue was eating at the desk, which led to debris falling between the keys and providing a breeding ground for millions of bacteria.

How to clean your keyboard

  1. Unplug the device first – or turn off the wireless capability.
  2. Turn the entire keyboard upside down, give it a good shake and see what comes out. You may need to give it a couple of good bangs to remove stuff that’s really stuck.
  3. Take a keyboard brush – or even a toothbrush – and brush between the keys to dislodge the smaller bits of dust and debris. You can also use a an air duster – compressed air, which dislodges grime with a pressurised blast of air.
  4. To give your keyboard a good deep clean, reach for some antibacterial slime or putty. It’s not advisable to use any liquids on keyboards – such as sprays – as this can affect the inner workings, however, slime is a good option. Just rub it over the keyboard and it will stick to any bits, while also leaving behind some protection against any invisible germs.

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5. Kitchen sink

Ktichen sink drama!

While you wash dirty dishes and pour away cooking water, you might not think that your kitchen sink is that dirty. But you’d be wrong.

Tim Call, a microbiologist who posts his discoveries on TikTok, has done a number of investigations into how clean your sink might be.

After just rinsing with hot water, he discovered well over one million bacteria samples lurking there. He did the test again, this time washing with soap and hot water, and discovered around 45,000 bacteria samples remaining.

How to clean the kitchen sink

As Call shows on his TikTok account, soap and water isn’t enough to kill off those bad bacteria. In another video, he shows that bleach is one of the best ways to remove all bacteria from the sink. The key is to leave it on for a minimum of five minutes so it can kill the germs, before rinsing away.

Call actually tested lots of cleaning methods including vinegar – which he found wasn’t effective at killing bacteria – and also isopropyl alcohol (70%). This was by far the most effective and left behind barely any germs. Obviously it’s not appropriate for all surfaces, so check before you spray.

6. Knife Block

Time for a deep clean

A study conducted by the National Sanitation Foundation discovered that knife blocks can be one of the most contaminated items in your kitchen. This can potentially result in various unpleasant symptoms if an infection occurs.

Let’s be honest, have you ever cleaned out your knife block? Not only can moisture residue from your knives contribute to the growth of mould if not properly sanitised, cleaned, and dried, but harmful microorganisms such as Salmonella, E Coli, and yeast can also be hiding in those knife slots.

How to clean your knife block

  1. Clake recommends completely drying your knives before sliding them back into the knife block. This will help prevent the build-up of excess moisture.
  2. Give the knife block a thorough clean at least once a month says Clake. He recommends using warm water and soap. Don’t use too much water though as you don’t want to risk too much moisture within the wood.
  3. Finish it off by sanitising it with a mild bleach solution.

Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor at Saga Exceptional. She cut her online journalism teeth 24 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars. A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Woman&Home, Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

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