This is the part of your commute that puts you in contact with the most germs

Photo: Antonio DiCaterina

Ladders News has written a lot about the shocking number of germs that can survive pretty much on everything you come in contact with on a plane. Your desk at work also makes for a pretty horrifying picture of bacteria. But you would think that if you avoided public transportation on your commute you were probably eliminating a significant amount of germs in your daily life, but new research proves that isn’t so.

A new survey from Expedia found that your car is a cesspool of germs, mostly because of your own doing. With American drivers spending 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, that is a solid amount of time. And it turns out many of these drivers don’t really care to take the time to clean their cars. In the survey of 1,000 people, 32% admitted to rarely cleaning out their car and 12% said that they never cleaned the inside of their car.

Grosser than a toilet

If you are someone that uses their car as a trash vestibule, you may want to reconsider. The study found that there are 700 different strains of bacteria in the average vehicle at all times and guess where DEFCON 5 is? The steering wheel. The item you have to touch the most. The average steering wheel was found to have 629 CFU (colony-forming units) per square centimeter. This means your steering wheel is six times germier than your phone (100 CFU), four times dirtier than a toilet seat (172 CFU) and two times dirtier than an elevator button (313 CFU.) In other words, it is disgusting.

As for some of the other super dirty places in your car beside the steering wheel, the cup holder is a close second at 506 CFU, followed by the seatbelt (403 CFU), the inside of the door handle (256 CFU), the gear shifter (115 CFU) and the volume adjuster (99 CFU.) It’s really all quite bad.

But wait, it gets worse. This is the number of germs you come in contact with when you are pumping gas. A gas pump handle has 2 million CFUs because it has been touched by hundreds of people.

OK but what if you take a rideshare or are renting a car for a business trip? Well, you need to be even more careful now. Rideshares are 33% germier than rental cars (6,056 CFU versus (2,001 CFU.)

It is especially scary to think that so many people eat and drink in their cars (20% eat in them on a weekly basis.)

The two most common strains of bacteria found in cars are Staphylococcus which can cause food poisoning and skin infections and Proprionibacterium, which can cause inflammation and infection.

How to eliminate germs

Of course, the simple act of cleaning your car regularly would be immensely helpful but just washing your hands could make a huge difference. yes, there is actually a correct way to wash your hands. And in this very germy season in this already germy world, this should be kept in mind. Robert W. Amler, M.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and vice president of government affairs at New York Medical College, and a pediatrician and public health expert, says do this when you are washing your hands.

  • Wash all surfaces and really lather up. Get a good scrub in for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use a towel to dry your hands, no air drying.
  • Soap should be used over sanitizer but if that is all there is opt for the sanitizer.
  • As for temperature, it actually doesn’t make a difference.