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6 of the Dirtiest Areas in Public That May Surprise You

By 8th February 2016January 8th, 2021No Comments

Bacteria is all around us. It can transfer from surface to surface with even the slightest touch and it’s so small we can’t even see it. Below we have listed 6 of the dirtiest places in public that you may not have even thought of:

1. Lemon Wedges

In a study published by the Journal of Environmental Health, researchers ordered drinks at 21 different restaurants. What they found was enough to make anyone bitter; they discovered 25 different types of harmful bacteria lingering on 76 lemons, including E. coli and other faecal bacteria.

Solution: Most people’s immune systems are strong enough to fight any bacteria. However it can still be worrying especially if you cannot see how the lemons are prepared or if bar staff are handling them with their bare hands. Next time you’re asked if you’d like ice ‘n’ a slice just say no!

2. ATM keypads

Researchers from China tested 38 ATMs in downtown Taipei, Taiwan, and discovered that each key contained on average 1,200 germs – including harmful bacteria such as E. coli and cold and flu viruses. And the worst of them all? The ‘enter’ button – everyone has to touch it.

Solution: As we are fast approaching cold and flu season it can seem like a battle to avoid getting ill, especially when having to use public machines such as ATMs. Carry round a small bottle of antibacterial hand gel for use on the go, and when using something with buttons try pushing them with your knuckles. Germs on your fingers are more likely to find their way to your nose or mouth.

3. Drinking Fountains

This one may seem obvious but the biggest offenders here are school fountains, which can range from having anywhere between 62,000 and 2.7 million bacteria per square inch on the water spigot. Water fountains in outside public places can be dangerous too, as they are locked outside against all the elements and may not be thoroughly cleaned.

Solution: Always let the water run for a few seconds before drinking as most of the germs will be on the upper surface. Avoid touching the basin or the spigot with your mouth and always avoid a water fountain if you are ill. Carry your own water bottle with trusted water in it to avoid gulping down anything unwanted!

4. Make-up samples

In 2005 a study discovered that over 67% of makeup counter testers were contaminated with germs and bacteria, including staph, strep and E. coli. Make-up is also one of the biggest offenders in passing on eye infections, cold-sores and skin infections.

Solution: A good make-up store will be able to help you when testing make-up, always ask an assistant and if they cannot help you they should be able to provide q-tips or fresh brushes to test. Never test near your eyes, lips or mouth and avoid getting tester make-up on your fingers.

5. Shopping trolley handles

When doing the weekly shop you don’t expect to be bringing home some extra guests, especially in the form of harmful bacteria. However, shopping trolleys are used every day by many people and are also often used for children that may dribble.

Solution: Most supermarkets are aware of this risk now and provide their own disinfecting wipes. If you are concerned and your local doesn’t hold them, bring your own or invest in a cart cover which you can wash at home and guarantee no more unwanted guests for dinner!

6. Escalator handrails

Dr Charles Gerba, a professor of Environmental Microbiology at the University of Arizona has cited examples of testing in which he has found E. coli, urine, mucus, faeces and blood on escalator handrails.

Solution: Try and avoid touching the hand rail when on an escalator. This may not always an option, but if you do need to touch the rail, wash your hands with hand sanitiser afterwards.


Whilst we are sure that these places are not extremely hazardous to your health, it is important to keep in mind where some of the dirtiest areas are to help you avoid a potential nasty exchange. These dirty places may not kill you, but our advice could help you prevent your next cold or illness!