Your steering wheel is 4 times dirtier than a public toilet seat.
For many of us, cars are like our second home. They’re our essential transportation for work, dropping the kids off at school, or a set of wheels for a weekend road trip. We spend so much time in our cars, in fact, that a survey from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that American drivers spend 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year. That’s equivalent to seven 40-hour work weeks. But despite all that time we spend in the car, very few of us actually keep our vehicles clean. And by clean we don’t just mean an external car wash. The cleanliness of your car interior is more important than many people realize.
If you’re part of the one third of people who rarely clean their vehicles, you’ve likely never considered just how many germs are crawling over the surfaces of your car — or where those germs are coming from. There are roughly 700 different strains of bacteria living in the average vehicle, exposing the food you eat in your car and your immune system to some serious dangers.
Food is often a catalyst for a germ infested car. Because we spend so much time in our vehicles, many of us find ourselves eating on the go, especially while on a road trip. But based on the data you might want to reconsider this.
That french fry you dropped in between the seat and center console or your child’s spilled milk on the backseat creates a breeding ground for bacteria. Keep the windows up and park in the hot sun, and these food spills begin to multiply and spread throughout the vehicle. The thought of eating off a toilet seat is horrifying, but few people realize that eating in the car is likely to make you more sick.
Roughly half the drivers surveyed neglect cleaning their car on a regular basis. But just how dirty does that make the average car? We pulled the numbers for the average amount of bacteria per square centimeter, or colony-forming units (CFU), to see which commonly touched surfaces of an average vehicle harbor the most bacteria, then compared them to public surfaces many of us touch on a daily basis.
The average steering wheel, which was was found to have 629 CFU per square centimeter, was far dirtier than some of the most frequently touched spaces, including:
- Six times dirtier than an average cell phone screen at 100 CFU
- Four times dirtier than a public toilet seat at 172 CFU
- Two times dirtier than public elevator buttons at 313 CFU