Thanks to measurements of microbes taken in recent studies, we can definitively say that shopping carts are some of the absolute dirtiest public surfaces. When University of Arizona researchers sampled bacterial content on 85 grocery store shopping carts in various West Coast cities, they found that cart surfaces had exponentially more bacteria than what they measured in over 100 public restrooms, which included toilet seats and flush handles.
What’s worse, the shopping carts were found to harbor some of the most painful microbial monsters, such as diarrhea-causing Campylobacter and the potentially deadly Salmonella. In the sample of 85 random shopping carts, a whopping 50 percent were found to carry E. coli, and 72 percent contained coliform bacteria. This level of coliform suggests that fecal matter is involved in the contamination of most shopping carts.
You may be wondering how shopping carts can get this unfathomably dirty. After all, cleansing wipe dispensers have been popping up at many major grocery chains, and some stores rinse their outdoor shopping cart lanes at the end of the day. In truth, these gestures simply aren’t enough. With 138,00 total bacteria per square inch, according to the study findings, shopping carts are like petri dishes of viruses, germs, bacteria, and general disgustingess.
So, wiping down your shopping cart should be a no-brainer. Carry your own antibacterial wipes to clean every section you come into contact with. Germaphobes can even bring their own snap-on cart handles. For shoppers with small children, consider using protective seat covers to minimize your child’s contact with the cart. One thing is certain: To stay healthy this flu season and beyond, clean that cart. (Related: Here are other everyday items dirtier than a toilet seat.)