Our cars are filled with more germs than our houses. And children’s car seats can carry twice as many bugs as the average toilet seat.
Scientists from the University of Birmingham compared 20 family cars with their owners’ homes. They discovered the cars were filled with more potentially harmful bacterial and fungal species than the houses. Nasty bugs including E.coli and salmonella were more commonly found in the cars’ interiors than the kitchens or bathrooms of their owners’ homes.
When the scientists swabbed kids’ car seats, they uncovered 100 germs per square centimetre compared to just 50 germs/cm2 on the average toilet seat. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most infested area was the footwell. Researchers in the US claim this is home to around 3000 germs per square centimetre.
Other offenders are the places drivers touch most often: the steering wheel and gear lever. US scientists found around 356 different germs lurk here. They revealed that the cupholders housed multiple bacteria too.
Dr Anne-Marie Krachler, from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham said: “Cars can play host to a number of potentially harmful bacterial species. These germs can easily spread in cars that are not cleaned often, especially if you eat in the vehicle or leave litter and food.”
In a survey of 2000 drivers by tyre company Continental, more than half regularly drive in cars full of clutter while one in 10 admitted to having an accident or a near miss as a consequence of the mess in their car.
One in five owners admitted to only cleaning out the inside of their car once a year – typically, out of shame – before it went to the garage for a service. Spokesperson for Continental Mark Griffiths said: “Clutter and germs can present a real hazard. For example a can or bottle rolling under a brake pedal would be very serious. But two thirds of drivers have no idea of the health risks a dirty car poses. Most people wouldn’t dream of using their home as a dumping ground for rubbish as they do with their car.”
So, drivers of Britain, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in! You don’t need to buy lots of expensive specialist car-cleaning equipment. Simply grab a bin bag, the vacuum cleaner, a wet cloth and bottle of antibacterial spray and banish the dirt from your family car.