12 Everyday Things That Are Dirtier Than a Toilet

Your Most-Used Items May Surprise You

a toilet harbors germs, but so do many other unsuspecting objects around the home

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

Since toilets are known for harboring germs, they are cleaned more often. But there are plenty of other germy things around your house that are typically not cleaned as much because you probably don't think they are dirtier than a toilet seat. No single item wins the award for being the dirtiest thing you touch every day. But take a look at these 12 things around your house that routinely become covered with germs and be prepared to grab some cleaning supplies to prevent you from becoming ill.

  • 01 of 12


    cell phone on bed

    Nitchakul Sangpetch / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Your cell phone can carry 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats. Ew. If you take your phone into the bathroom with you, it could register fecal bacteria because flushing toilets spew plenty of germs. But, even if you never take your cellphone into the bathroom for a little toilet time scrolling, it is still covered with the bacteria from everything else you touch and every surface it touches.

    Cleaning it is very simple with the right supplies: a bit of rubbing alcohol, distilled water, and a microfiber lint-free cloth. While you're cleaning your phone, don't forget to clean your earbuds and other accessories.

  • 02 of 12

    Keyboard and Remote Control

    Woman using computer keyboard

    ilona titova / Getty Images

    How many times each day do you touch your laptop, keyboards, or the remote controls that operate everything from the television, gaming system, or even your ceiling fan? Just like your phone, these items harbor germs from every hand that's touched them.

    Cleaning a dirty laptop and other controls is easy if you use a disinfectant wipe made for electronics. This should be done at least daily and more often if someone in the household has a virus or infection.

  • 03 of 12

    Bathroom Doorknob

    Bathroom door

    Dmitry Bakulov / Getty Images

    Does everyone in your house wash their hands faithfully each time they use the bathroom, sneeze, or prepare food? You just can't be sure. In fact, roughly half of Americans properly wash their hands after bathroom use, which can spread problematic strains of E. coli that are possibly present in the waste.

    It's not just the bathroom doorknob that's dirtier than a toilet, it's all the doorknobs, handles, light switches, and electronic keypads around your home that are probably teeming with bacteria or virus-laden. A quick wipe down with a disinfectant wipe will take care of the problem. Be sure to use one wipe per room because one wipe won't disinfect an entire house full of knobs.

  • 04 of 12

    Cutting Board

    Carrots on cutting board

    Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

    There are thousands of types of bacteria all around us, though less than 1 percent of them can actually make you ill. But within that small percentage, you will find food-borne bacteria in the kitchen, such as infectious salmonella and strains of E. coli, which cause many of the most common illnesses in a household. Cross-contamination from raw foods, mishandled food, unwashed produce, and improper food temperatures are all breeding grounds for these types of bacteria.

    Cutting boards, especially wooden ones, are some of the worst offenders because bacteria can become embedded in the tiny cuts and nicks on the surface. Cutting boards should be washed in hot, soapy water after every use and there should be separate boards for meats and vegetables.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Kitchen Sponge

    A kitchen sponge in a soapy sink

     deepblue4you/ E+/ Getty Images

    That foul smell from your sponge is the odor of coliform bacteria (salmonella or E.coli) lurking in the sponge's pores. Regardless of whether your kitchen sponge is cellulose or another type, a sponge is made to trap bacteria-filled residue. And when you use that sponge to wipe down countertops, you are spreading a fine layer of that bacteria all over your surfaces.

    Rinsing the sponge with hot water or zapping it in the microwave for a few minutes just won't do the trick. The sponges must be sanitized in the dishwasher or by soaking in vinegar to thoroughly clean them, but it's best to simply replace them every few weeks.

  • 06 of 12

    Reusable Grocery Bag

    Reusable Grocery Bag

    Dougal Waters / Getty Images

    You may already be aware of just how contaminated areas of a grocery store can be, and that includes your reusable grocery bags. Though they're great for the environment the germs they carry can pose a hazard to your family's health. Each time you load in groceries, the bacteria from a leaking meat package, unwashed produce, and other dirty packages go in the bags, as well. Studies show that reusable grocery bags can carry and spread E. coli, noroviruses, and coronaviruses.

    Emptied bags are often stashed in the trunk of a hot car until the next shopping trip. The heat encourages the growth of any bacteria that remain in the bags.

    It is important to wash the bags used for meats, vegetables, and raw foods after every use. Sanitize bags by washing cloth bags in hot water and disinfecting soap and wiping plastic ones with a strong disinfectant. In addition, designate one bag for any chemical cleaning products to prevent accidental cross-contamination.

  • 07 of 12

    Food Bowl and Pet Toys

    dog playing with toy

    Chris Winsor/ Moment/ Getty Images

    Pet bowls and toys are filled with bacteria from your furry friend's mouth. Add in all those leftover food particles, and you have perfect conditions for germs to quickly multiply. Your pet's bowl and toys will also begin to smell bad as the germs fester. Pet parents of all kinds could all do a little better with feeding bowl hygiene to clean out the infectious E. coli that studies have found festering in dishes.

    Bowls should be washed after every meal with hot water and soap. The same treatment should frequently be done to pet toys, though all-fabric toys that aren't shredded can often be tossed in the wash on the hottest cycle.

  • 08 of 12

    Purse and Backpack

    Basket purse on floor

     Pedro Alberto Perez/ EyeEm/ Getty Images

    Purses are commonly contaminated with bacterial growth, such as infectious types of bacillus and staphylococcus, both of which can make you ill. It happens because purses and backpacks often end up on the floor of stores, offices, classrooms, bathrooms, and possibly public transportation. Now imagine what else has touched that floor. The handles harbor the bacteria from everything your hands have touched throughout the day. Don't forget what's inside your purse, too. How about all the germs you transferred onto your wallet after you touched the shopping cart, money, gas pump, and pressed all those elevator and ATM buttons?

    When we toss a handbag or backpack on the kitchen counter or table, all those germs and bacteria come along. If the purse or backpack can be washed, do it often or use a disinfectant wipe to clean the bags often and keep them away from food preparation and eating areas. As far as leather bags go, clean out the inside of any germy contents and condition the outside.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Car Interior

    Car interior

    Paulo Sousa / EyeEm / Getty Images

    When you are in a car, you're confined in a space that's filled with potentially harmful airborne and surface pathogens (bacterial spores, viruses, etc.), allergens, endotoxins, particulates, and volatile organics that have come into the car from the outside world.

    Reduce your exposure to these health risks by keeping your automobile's windows open to circulate air, but remember that open windows will attract outdoor airborne pollutants such as dust. Keep your car's interior clean with regular vacuuming, clearing garbage, and keeping the air conditioning and heating in good working order to reduce dust accumulation in vents. If you have a child's car seat, wipe up, disinfect, and vacuum spills daily.

  • 10 of 12

    Coffee Maker

    Coffee Maker

    tashka2000 / Getty Images

    Stick your finger into any orifice of your coffee maker, but especially the water reservoir. Chances are, it may feel slimy. That slime is the result of pathogenic bacteria, mold, and mildew that have grown in the dark, damp parts of your coffee maker.

    Clean your coffee maker monthly but read the user's guide for specific instructions for your model. However, it's safe to clean it by adding undiluted white vinegar into the reservoir and letting it stand for up to an hour. Turn on the machine and let the vinegar cycle through the machine. Immediately follow up with several cycles of fresh water to rinse out the vinegar (and the smell).

  • 11 of 12

    Toothbrush and Toothbrush Holder

    Toothbrushes and toiletries

    Alexandr Vorontsov / Getty Images

    Back in the bathroom, be wary of your toothbrush and your toothbrush holder, both of which attract germs from the air, your hands, and your mouth. Your holder, which is basically a covered jar with a few holes, is perpetually damp from humidity and the drips from your toothbrush make their way to the bottom of the container to create a petri dish full of germs, mold, yeast, and fungi.

    Try to keep your toothbrush and toothbrush holder as far away from your toilet as possible. Clean your toothbrush frequently, using any method, from rinsing it in hot tap water to placing it in a UV sanitizing device. Place a dishwasher-safe toothbrush holder on the top shelf once or twice a week or handwash with hot soapy water. In between washings, wipe down as much of the holder as you can with a disinfecting wipe.

  • 12 of 12


    Child playing on carpet

    Beatriz Vera / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Carpets, along with toilets, get a bad rap when it comes to how dirty they are, but it's with good reason. You'd put your shoes back on if you tallied up the number of pollutants that are trapped in a carpet, even after it's vacuumed. You'll find dust mites, bits of other dead bugs, mold spores, grime, and plain old dust particles that are not only tangled in the fibers but are also stuck at the bottom of the carpet where a vacuum's suction power can't always reach.

    Protect your health by vacuuming carpet at least once a week using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which traps particles. Routinely clean your carpets until you can have them professionally cleaned annually to lift embedded dirt.

The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Your Cell Phone Is 10 Times Dirtier Than a Toilet Seat. University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

  2. Wash Your Hands After Using the Bathroom. Cleveland Clinic.

  3. Bacterial Infections. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

  4. Coronavirus and Reusable Grocery Bags: Use Them or Pitch Them? Loma Linda University Health.

  5. Luisana E, Saker K, Jaykus LA, Getty C. Survey evaluation of dog owners’ feeding practices and dog bowls’ hygiene assessment in domestic settings. PLOS ONE. 2022;17(4):e0259478.

  6. Biranjia-Hurdoyal SD, Deerpaul S, Permal GK. A study to investigate the importance of purses as fomitesAdv Biomed Res. 2015;4:102.

  7. Sattar SA, Wright KE, Zargar B, Rubino JR, Ijaz MK. Airborne infectious agents and other pollutants in automobiles for domestic use: potential health impacts and approaches to risk mitigationJ Environ Public Health. 2016;2016:1548326.

  8. Vilanova, C. et al. The coffee-machine bacteriome: biodiversity and colonisation of the wasted coffee tray leach. Sci. Rep. 5, 17163; doi: 10.1038/srep17163 (2015).

  9. Tomar P, Hongal S, Saxena V, Jain M, Rana K, Ganavadiya R. Evaluating sanitization of toothbrushes using ultra violet rays and 0.2% chlorhexidine solution: A comparative clinical study. J Basic Clin Pharm. 2014;6(1):12-18.

  10. How Can Carpet Impact Health? American Lung Association.