Microbiologist reveals germiest place in your house (it's not the loo)

·4-min read
Cleaning with spray detergent, rubber gloves and dish cloth on work surface concept for hygiene
Your floor harbours more bacteria than anywhere else in the home (Getty Images)

After two years of the pandemic, we've never been so clean, thanks to regular hand-washing, shopping trolley-wiping and door-handle spraying.

But that's when we're out and about. According to a new study by Currys PC World in collaboration with expert microbiologist Dr Jonathan Hughes, the germs lurking in your own home may not be COVID-19 - but they could still give you a nasty bout of digestive trouble.

Their research pinpointed the most germ-ridden place in the average home - and while you might assume it'd be the loo, or perhaps even the bin, you'd be wrong. Turns out it's the biggest area we come into contact with daily - the floor.

Carefree happy young woman cleaning house living room have fun dancing with mop, smiling overjoyed millennial girl feel excited enjoy making home chores sing entertain using floor broom or Swiffer
Sing as you clear pathogens from your home. (Getty Images)

According to the study, 100% of the floors swabbed tested positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P.aeruginosa) bacteria, which can cause disease in plants, animals and humans. It can infect any part of your body, and symptoms can depend on where the infection is but may include redness of skin and lesions. Yet only 65% of people clean the floor of their dining area in a weekly basis.

And if you assumed a tiled or laminated floor was more hygienic, think again - bacteria is less likely to transfer from carpeted floors than from less porous surfaces like tile and laminate.

No wonder 55% of Brits make guests take off their shoes before they walk into their homes and at least 28% completely enforce a ban on wearing shoes in the house.

Read more: 'Sixty times more bacteria than a loo seat': The bathroom bits you need to deep-clean

Young girl is wearing cute soft 3d llama slippers, standing on the gray flooring with yellow wall background, trendy colors of 2021
Many home owners insist on slippers. (Getty Images)

But despite that, an astonishing 87% of Brits would eat food dropped on the floor or have done so in the past - regardless of the three-second rule being completely debunked.

Luckily, 87% of Brits clean their kitchen floor every day, while a respective 80% and 79% clean the lounge and bathroom daily, and clean the carpets most, with 15% of respondents stating they vacuum every day.

But when it comes to harbouring pathogens, it seems sponges are the worst culprits. Those tested contained traces of Escherichia coli (E.coli), found in the intestines of livestock, which can be passed into humans through meat and eggs.

It can cause serious food poisoning and symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and urinary tract infections.

Ten per cent of sponges also tested positive for Faecal Steptococcci (FS) - 'faecal matter contamination' which can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

Read more: Tackle every room in your house with these deep cleaning tips

gloved hand scrubbing a dirty metal surface
You might want to think about replacing your sponges... (Getty Images)

FS is found in the intestines of humans and animals, so when traces of this are found, it is a strong indicator that hands are not being washed (properly, if at all) after a trip to the bathroom.

Perhaps due to the insta-influencer power of super-cleaners like Mrs Hinch and Stacey Solomon, it's Gen Z who are the most hygienic, with 75% stating they make their guests take their shoes off before entering their space.

Watch: Tips for a healthy home and lifestyle

“Bacteria such as P.aeruginosa and faecal streptococci end up on the floors of our homes mainly from the soles of our shoes and paws of our pets," says Dr Jonathan Hughes, Microbiologist. "P.aeruginosa is a bacterium commonly found in soil and water, so it is easy to transfer via footfall.”

“Once the food comes into contact with the floor, bacteria start to transfer instantly", he explains.

"The rate at which they are transferred depends on the nature of the food and the nature of the floor surface. If the food is wet or sticky, it’s easier for bacteria to get onto it, using the fluid as a medium to travel through.”

Do not eat that toast - no, really. (Getty Images)
Do not eat that toast - no, really. (Getty Images)

“Ideally, you should clean your floors once a week to ensure good hygiene and keep bacterial populations under control.

"In the event something happens that is likely to contaminate the floor, such as dropping raw foods or if a pet has an accident, then you should clean and disinfect the area immediately.”

Hughes thinks our newfound awareness of germs and viri has had an impact on our habits.

“I think COVID-19 has definitely had an effect on our cleaning habits," he says.

"Before the pandemic, we were, in general, far less concerned and aware of the microscopic and submicroscopic components in our environment. Often the worst thing people have had to be concerned about with regards to hygiene in the home, has been food poisoning.”

If we're too lax on home hygiene, however, we could find ourselves falling ill as a result of unseen pathogens lurking on floors and in sponges - so replace your washing sponges and cloths regularly, and keep them sparkling clean.

As for the floor - you might want to think twice about picking up that toast and popping it in your mouth after all.

Watch: Spring cleaning home tips with Justine

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