Study Finds Higher Levels of Germs Inside Cars Than the Average Toilet
A study by researchers in the College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University, Birmingham, UK and commissioned by Scrap Car Comparison has revealed that the inside of our cars has significantly higher levels of germs on them than the average toilet.
The researchers took samples from car interiors with varied ownership histories to establish bacterial contamination levels within the vehicles and to highlight how thoroughly people clean their cars.
The results revealed that motorists should be cleaning the inside of their cars more frequently, with harmful bacteria likely to be discovered in most cars out on the road today. In particular, the study found that the car boot plays host to significantly high levels of bacteria, with Escherichia coli likely to be found in every boot and potentially on your driver’s seat.
More commonly known as faecal bacteria, the findings alert anyone who puts their fruit and vegetables in the boot after shopping or enjoys a drive-thru dinner in the driver’s seat.
Dr Jonathan Cox, a senior lecturer in microbiology at Aston University, said:
“The results of this study are fascinating. They show that despite cleaning our cars, the older they are, the more contaminated they generally are. This becomes key when considering areas such as the car boot or driver’s seat. Many of us have placed loose food during shopping in our boots or dropped the odd crisp onto our seats before picking it up and eating it.”
Other test areas included the gearstick, dashboard and backseat, which also saw higher levels of bacterial contamination. Bacteria found included Pseudomonas, a bacterium with strains that can’t easily be treated with antibiotics and Staph Aureus, a germ associated with coughs and sneezing that links to MRSA.
The researchers identified the filthiest areas of a car:
- Boot – 1,425 bacteria identified
- Driver’s seat – 649 bacteria identified
- Gearstick – 407 bacteria identified
- Back seat – 323 bacteria identified
- Dashboard – 317 bacteria identified
- Steering wheel – 146 bacteria identified.
A correlation between the age of a car and the levels of bacteria likely to be found within it was also discovered. The older cars sampled for the study exhibited higher bacteria loads than those on the road for a shorter time.
However, the researchers found that out of all areas of our cars, the steering wheel was generally found to be the cleanest. This high-contact area saw low levels of bacterial contamination, possibly due to the rise in hand sanitiser use following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Cox added: “These results highlight that we should change our assessment about car cleanliness. We clean our cars based on how dirty they ‘look’ rather than how dirty they are. But you would never even think about eating off your toilet seat.”
“Upholstery should ideally be given a deep clean and in future I will always clean any used car I might purchase! Taking care of your car, from making sure it’s running well to keeping it clean, all work towards ensuring it has a long life and is a car you love mile after mile. The last thing you want is for your car to become a risk on the roads, as well as a risk to your health.
We hope the results of this study help to highlight the importance of taking good care of your car inside and out. It’s worth thinking about how often you clean the inside of your house and apply the same thought process to your car, especially if you tend to drive it every day”.
Dan Gick, managing director, Scrap Car Comparison
Source: Aston University