Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on March 11, 2021

Touch Screens

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While it may come as no surprise that these are germy -- they are “touch” screens, after all -- one study found some disturbing kinds of germs on them. Tests on screens at eight fast-food restaurants found fecal bacteria that cause the kinds of infections you can pick up in a hospital (Enterococcus faecalis), as well as staphylococcus, which can cause blood poisoning. You’re better off dealing with the line and ordering at the counter.

Hand Dryers

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Every time you flush, a spray of bacteria-filled droplets flies out into the bathroom air. Scientists call that a toilet plume. Where do all those germs go? Maybe into that old-fashioned wall-mounted dryer. A new study says they’re spreading germs with every blast of air. What about those fancy jet dryers? One group of researchers says they, too, shoot germs into the air at warp speed. But their makers say they’re fitted with a special filter to prevent that. The safest bet may be old-fashioned paper towels.

Swimming Pools

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A water park full of kids can have 22 pounds of poop floating around. Youngsters can carry as much as 10 grams of leftover feces on their rear ends. They don't wash it off before they jump in, either, and all that poop just rinses off into the pool. It adds up, and chlorine doesn't kill everything. Your best line of defense? Try not to swallow any water.

Gyms

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If your gym offers a way to clean the equipment before you use it, do it. Even though you go there to get healthy, the place is home to a wide range of germs. That’s because bacteria make the leap from our skin to anything we touch. One study showed that free weights and elliptical machine handles were home to species commonly found in restrooms.

Restaurant Menus

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Some have 100 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Even though tons of people touch them, most only get wiped down once a day, if that, and usually with a dirty rag. Don’t wash your hands before you sit down. Instead, scrub up after you order. And never lay your silverware on top of the menu.

Fruit Wedges

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Like to squeeze a little lemon into your water? Researchers looked at dozens of wedges from the rims of restaurant glasses. They found that nearly 70% of the lemons had disease-causing microbes, including E. coli, and feces that could lead to some nasty stomach issues. Next time, take your iced tea lemon-free.

Water Fountains

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Think twice before you take a sip at your kid's school. That water spout could be dirtier than the bathroom! That’s because the bathrooms are cleaned regularly. Have you ever seen someone clean a drinking fountain? Just carry a water bottle with you instead.

Soap Dispensers

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These sudsy pumps are a breeding ground for bacteria. Think about it: From the stall to the sink, there’s no telling what your hands can pick up. Scrub for at least 20 seconds, or carry hand sanitizer. And before you reach for that door handle, think about how many people don’t wash after using the restroom. The CDC says only 31% of men and 65% of women do.

Shopping Carts

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You might pick up way more than just a loaf of bread at the store. Your cart’s handle could be home to 11 million microorganisms, including some from raw meat. And just think about all the dirty diapers on that seat -- the same one you put your produce on. Many stores offer antibacterial wipes these days. Use them.

Elevator Buttons

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If you shudder when you have to touch a door handle, be wary of elevator buttons, too. Push them with your elbow, take the stairs, or have sanitizer on hand.

Hotel Rooms

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There are quite a few more extras in here than the mint on your pillow. The TV remote is the dirtiest item. Give it a quick wipe before you channel surf. Other germ sources: the bedside lamp switch, bedspread, hair dryer, telephone, and unwrapped drinking glasses.

Playgrounds

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Grubby little fingers grab slides and swings one after another. But playgrounds are rarely cleaned. The worst spot is the sandbox, with 36 times more germs than a cafeteria tray. That’s because bacteria love nothing more than hiding out in warm, moist places. Come stocked with hand sanitizer and wipes.

ATMs

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Keypads, cash, and a revolving door of bank customers equal ick. In fact, the flu virus can live on a dollar bill for 17 days! But no one uses gloves or tissues to handle money. As for ATMs, companies hope to roll out touchscreens with antimicrobial glass to fight cold and flu. For now though, your best defense is to press the buttons with a pen.

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