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U.S. Homes Losing Battle of the Germs

Study Shows Housecleaning Habits of Americans Leave Something to Be Desired
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 14, 2009 -- Your home is loaded with disease-causing germs, including some that migrate from bathrooms, a new study shows.

The study by the Hygiene Council found that Americans and people in seven other countries are losing the battle of the bugs, mainly because we don't clean up well enough, or we don't wipe down the right stuff.

For example, in the U.S., television remote controls are a lot cleaner than kitchen taps or toilet handles, council member Philip M. Tierno Jr., MD, associate professor of microbiology and pathology at the New York University School of Medicine, tells WebMD.

The council was formed in 2006 as a disease-fighting initiative involving public health experts around the world. Sponsored by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser, maker of Lysol brand products, its goals are to formulate easy and practical recommendations for better hygiene.

The council sent teams of germ detectives armed with swabs into houses in the U.S., U.K, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Africa, India, and Malaysia. The teams sent samples from the homes to labs for microscopic analysis.

The latest analysis found that:

  • Faucets and sponges in kitchens harbor more germs than bathroom surfaces such as flush handles.
  • Americans' kitchen hygiene actually got worse in 2009, compared to 2008.
  • Despite claims of Americans that they clean kitchen sink faucets at least once a week, 60% of the faucets swabbed failed the scientific group's hygiene test, compared to only 25% in 2008.
  • 65% of Americans claim to clean or change kitchen sponges or cloths every month, but 70% of those failed the tests because they were loaded with bad bugs.
  • The U.K., Germany, and Saudi Arabia all had cleaner kitchen sink faucets than the U.S.

In the eight countries checked this year:

  • Cleaning cloths were the most contaminated items sampled. Thirty-one percent of cloths were contaminated with E. coli and 21% with Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Kitchen taps were the second most contaminated.
  • 19% of people whose homes were checked said they cleaned to make areas look clean, rather than to kill germs.


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