FOX 5 Investigates: Dishing The Dirt - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX 5 Investigates: Dishing The Dirt


Think about all the items you touch in one day, from the morning to the evening. Most of us do our best to keep it all clean. But where do most of the germs really lurk?

“There’s bacteria everywhere,” said Dr. Nancy Zeller, a biology professor at American University. “In my house, I think it would be the kitchen towel. I think we forget to change that."

FOX 5 teamed up with some of Zeller’s biology students from American University to uncover the true dirt. Each student will test five spots. The process is pretty easy. But it has to be done correctly to prevent any contamination. So, they practice in class first, using a sterile swab they’ll rub the surface of any item they choose. And then they’ll swab an agar plate. A few days later, they will see what, if anything, grows on the plate.

“I'll be excited to see what happens,” said student Eric Wilkens.

Students pick the spots in their own home they think have the most bacteria.

“My toothbrush, I’m just wondering I don't know. You use your toothbrush everyday. So, I feel like it might be really dirty,” said student Sonia Gaillis-Delepine.

Graduate student Ariel Aspiras is most concerned about two things in his apartment.

“I think probably the sponge. But I think the [computer] mouse is pretty dirty because I haven't changed it in like three years," said Aspiras.

In total, more than 200 items are tested in our little experiment - from toilet seats to towels - door knobs to sponges. And yes, even the kitchen sink. Also, things we can’t seem to keep our hands off – laptops, cell phones and that TV remote.

“I expect them to find germs. I hope they find germs,” said Dr. Gary Simon, Chief of Infectious Diseases at George Washington University.

He said most of the germs we come in contact with are harmless and necessary.

“Exposure to a variety of germs leads to a development of an immunity against more pathogenic organisms," said Simon.

But there are some germs to worry about. Back in the lab, the results are in. According to Dr. Zeller: “The number one dirtiest spot … was the kitchen sponge. Okay, that was definitely the winner."

Almost all of the samples for sponges are covered in growth.

The kitchen houses two of the other biggest germ growers, the dish towel and the trash container.

In the bathroom, we find the most germs on towels. Surprisingly, toothbrushes and toilet seats come back pretty clean.

“Many of the toilet seat samples were completely clean, had no bacteria at all,” said Dr. Zeller.

Most of the bacteria on these plates won’t hurt you. But some samples do concern our professor.

“Everyone has heard of Strep and Staph," said Zeller.

Zeller sees potential pathogenic bacteria on samples from laptops, house keys and TV remotes.

“Things, again, that your fingertips are touching that you might not clean all the time," said Zeller.

There’s no need to freak out. The best thing you can do is to wash your hands often and clean using good old soap and water according to Dr. Simon.

As for that number one germ getter, the sponge, Dr. Simon said: “People rarely wash their sponges. If you’re worried about it, try throwing it in the microwave for a minute. I think it will fry the germs."

For more tips on getting ride of germs in your home, go to:

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