12 Everyday Things That Are Dirtier Than a Toilet

A toilet is often thought of as one of the dirtiest places in a home or public space. However, there are many seemingly clean everyday items that can harbor more germs and bacteria than a toilet seat. Being aware of these unexpectedly dirty things can help you take steps to clean or avoid them and reduce your risk of illness.

Cell Phones and Tablets

Cell phones and tablets are handled frequently throughout the day, yet rarely get cleaned. The average cell phone or tablet has been found to carry 10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Some of the bacteria, like staph and strep, can cause painful skin infections, respiratory illness, and more.

To clean your device, use a microfiber cloth dampened with a mixture of 60% water and 40% rubbing alcohol. Avoid getting moisture in any openings. Disinfect your phone daily and anytime it has been handled by someone who is sick. Also avoid setting your device on public surfaces like restaurant tables.

Kitchen Sponges

That kitchen sponge you use to clean dishes can end up being dirtier than the dishes themselves. Studies have found kitchen sponges often contain:

  • Salmonella
  • E. coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Klebsiella oxytoca
  • Proteus mirabilis
  • Enterococcus

These bacteria can cause foodborne illness. The warm, moist environment of the sponge allows bacteria to thrive. It’s recommended to replace your kitchen sponge at least once a week. Disinfect it daily by microwaving it for 1-2 minutes or putting it through a cycle in the dishwasher.

Kitchen Sink

The kitchen sink holds a lot of germs from handling raw meat and produce to washing dirty dishes. Studies have found the average sink has around 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Salmonella, E. coli, and staph bacteria can be present.

Give your sink a thorough cleaning at least once a week using hot water, dish soap, vinegar, and baking soda. Disinfect with a bleach solution. Clean and disinfect the sink before and after food preparation. Dry with a paper towel rather than leaving wet.

Kitchen Counters

Kitchen counters are another hot spot for germs in the kitchen. Bacteria from uncooked meat and produce can be spread across the counters as you cook. Crumbs and spills also end up on counters. Tests have found the average kitchen counter has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Clean counters with hot soapy water before and after cooking. Disinfect regularly with a cleaner containing chlorine bleach or alcohol. Avoid leaving spills sitting for long periods. Spot clean as needed when you see drips, crumbs, and sticky spots.

Dish Towels and Sponges

The dish towels and sponges used to dry and wipe down kitchen surfaces often end up covered in bacteria. If not cleaned frequently, they can spread illness-causing germs throughout the kitchen. Dish towels and sponges should be washed and disinfected daily. Replace frequently, especially when someone in the home is sick.

Cutting Boards

Cutting boards harbor bacteria from raw meat juices, blood, and other contaminants. Studies have found coliform bacteria, E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus present on used cutting boards. Always clean cutting boards with hot soapy water after each use. Disinfect with a bleach solution. Avoid cross contamination by having separate boards – one for produce, one for raw meat.

Refrigerator Handles

The refrigerator door handle gets touched frequently with dirty hands. It’s right in the kitchen where raw meat and produce are handled. This combination means refrigerator handles can be teeming with germs.

Make it a habit to wipe down refrigerator handles each day with a disinfectant cleaner or solution of water and vinegar. Pay extra attention after food prep. Give them a deeper weekly cleaning as part of your weekly kitchen cleaning routine.

Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are eco-friendly options but need regular cleaning. Bacteria from leaking meat packages, spilled milk, andproduce residue can collect in reusable bags. Studies have found bacteria levels as much as 10 times higher in reusable vs plastic grocery bags.

Wash reusable grocery bags at least weekly – more frequently if carrying meat. Turn them inside out and wash in the washing machine with hot water and a bit of bleach. Alternatively, hand wash in hot soapy water and let air dry before reusing.

Kitchen Garbage Cans

The kitchen garbage can contains spoiled food, meat juices, and other grossness. As a result, it can become home to mold, bacteria, and other germs. Make sure your garbage cans have tight-fitting lids. Empty frequently, especially after discarding meat and seafood.

Thoroughly wash garbage cans inside and out on a regular basis using hot soapy water. Disinfect with a bleach solution. Replace if cracked, pitted, or warped. Use bag liners for easier cleaning.

Toothbrush Holders

Toothbrush holders frequently harbor germs from the bathroom environment. Toothpaste residue also collects in them. Studies have found toothbrush holders can contain fecal bacteria and mold.

Clean your toothbrush holder at least weekly using hot water and strong disinfectant. Consider switching to a holder that allows more airflow and drying. Never share a toothbrush holder with anyone else. Store your toothbrush upright and allow to air dry between uses.

Laundry Machines

Laundry machines need to be cleaned to avoid transferring bacteria onto clean clothes. Residue from dirty clothes can build up inside washers. Moisture supports mold and bacterial growth. Clean washers monthly using hot water and bleach or other sanitizing cleaner. Disinfect the rubber seal.

For laundry hampers, use one with washable liner bags. Empty hampers frequently and launder the liner bags. Clean the hamper with disinfectant. Let laundry air dry rather than leaving damp in a hamper.

Makeup Brushes

Used makeup brushes can harbor bacteria, dead skin cells, oil, and product residue. If not cleaned regularly, they can cause breakouts and skin irritation. Wash makeup brushes at least once a week using gentle soap and water. Disinfect periodically with alcohol or special brush cleaner. Always fully dry.


Loofahs used to exfoliate in the shower provide the warm, wet environment bacteria love. Dead skin cells and soap scum also build up on them. This combination makes loofahs a hotbed for germs.

Discard and replace your loofah every 3-4 weeks. In between, allow loofahs to completely dry between uses to discourage bacteria growth. Do not share loofahs with other people.

Bath Towels

Your bath towels come in contact with dirty and wet skin every time you use and dry off with them. If not frequently laundered, they can harbor germs that can contribute to acne, infection, and illness. Wash towels regularly on the hottest setting safe for the material. Avoid sharing towels with family or guests.

remote controls

TV remotes, gaming controllers and other handheld electronics are handled frequently but rarely cleaned. Tests have found cold and flu viruses and fecal bacteria can live on the buttons and surfaces of remotes.

Disinfect remotes frequently by wiping down with disinfectant wipes or spray. Do not use products that could damage the electronics. Provide wipes and encourage guests to clean shared remotes and game controllers before and after use.

Yoga Mats

Yoga mats are exposed to sweat, body oils, dirt, dead skin cells, and other gunk. Bacteria love to grow in the crevices and foam-like material. Clean your yoga mat after each use with gentle soap and water. Disinfect periodically with hydrogen peroxide or tea tree oil solutions. Allow to fully dry. Replace mats frequently.

Pet Toys and Gear

Toys, food bowls, leashes, collars, carriers and other pet gear are handled by both you and your pet. These items can easily pick up bacteria and parasites. Regularly wash pet items (except electronics) in hot soapy water or the dishwasher. Disinfect with veterinarian-approved products.

FAQs About Everyday Items Dirtier Than A Toilet

Here are some frequently asked questions about keeping clean some everyday items that can be even dirtier than a toilet:

How often should you clean your cell phone and tablet?

You should clean your cell phone and tablet at least once per day. Disinfect the screen and case using alcohol wipes or a mix of water and rubbing alcohol. Avoid moisture in ports or other openings. Also clean anytime the device has been handled by someone sick.

What is the best way to disinfect kitchen counters?

Use a cleaner containing chlorine bleach or alcohol-based disinfectant. Make sure to wash counters first with hot soapy water before disinfecting. Let the disinfectant sit for a few minutes before wiping. Repeat disinfecting regularly, especially after food prep.

How can you thoroughly disinfect a kitchen sink?

Clean using hot water, dish soap, vinegar, and baking soda. Rinse well. Disinfect by spraying a bleach solution or other disinfectant over all surfaces. Let sit 5 minutes before rinsing. Wipe dry with clean paper towels. Repeat weekly and after heavy use.

Should you use the same sponge for dishes and countertops?

No, it’s best to use separate sponges for countertops vs dishes. Dish sponges used on countertops can spread kitchen bacteria onto your clean dishes. Have designated sponges and dish rags for each purpose.

How often should you replace kitchen sponges?

Replace kitchen sponges at least weekly. The warm, moist environment allows bacteria to rapidly multiply to dangerous levels. Disinfecting daily in the microwave or dishwasher helps but doesn’t eliminate the need for frequent replacement.

Can you fully disinfect wood cutting boards?

It can be difficult. Hot soapy water and sanitizers reduce bacteria, but pores in the wood can still harbor germs. Using anti-microbial wood boards helps. Avoid cutting raw meat on wood. Opt for plastic, silicone or rubber boards for meat.

Should you use bleach to clean the toilet?

Yes – bleach is an effective disinfectant for killing germs in the toilet bowl. Make sure to also scrub the toilet thoroughly before disinfecting. Wear gloves when using bleach products. Allow the bleach solution to sit for 5-10 minutes before flushing.

How should you regularly disinfect laundry machines?

Run empty washing machines monthly using hot water and bleach or other sanitizing agents to kill bacteria. Scrub the rubber seal. Clean dryer vents to allow airflow. Disinfect hampers. Use removable washable liner bags. Don’t leave damp laundry sitting.

What is the safest way to disinfect electronics like remotes?

Use disinfectant wipes or sprays made specifically for electronics. Avoid getting moisture in openings. Don’t use bleach or other harsh chemicals that could damage the devices. If very dirty, you can sanitize with 70% isopropyl alcohol.


Many everyday items and surfaces we assume are clean can harbor more germs than a toilet seat. Cell phones, kitchen sinks and sponges, laundry machines, and bath towels are some examples of “dirtier than a toilet” items. Stay healthy by regularly disinfecting these germ hot spots, replacing items like sponges frequently, avoiding cross-contamination, and encouraging good hygiene habits in your home. Paying a little more attention to cleaning and hygiene for these unexpected problem areas can reduce your risk of illness.