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Wednesday, 10 June, 1998, 20:14 GMT
'I'm just going to the toilet to prepare dinner'
Toilet and sink
Would you want your food prepared on a toilet seat?
The toilet seat is more hygienic than most other surfaces in the home, including kitchen chopping boards, tap handles and sinks, according to research.

Scientists from the University of Arizona monitored the bacteria living in 15 homes. They took swabs from 14 sites in kitchens and toilets, including the fluids wrung from dishcloths.

Study author Pat Rusin said: "What we found, and we are still theorising as to why, is that even before we introduced any disinfectant, the toilet seat was always the cleanest site,"

Damp environments

Laboratory dish
Work surfaces can be a breeding ground for bacteria
The most likely explanation, she says, is that toilet seats are simply too dry to support a thriving population of bacteria, which tend to prefer damp environments.

At the start of the study, reported in New Scientist, the researchers found a million times as many bacteria in the fluid wrung from dishcloths as on toilet seats.

Even chopping boards hosted three times as many bacteria.

Dramatic improvement

Towards the end of the study, the homeowners were given household bleach and advised on how best to use it. This resulted in a dramatic improvement in kitchen hygiene.

The number of bacteria coming out of the dishcloth went from 100,000 per millilitre of fluid to just 10.

Rubin's advice is to clean dishcloths at least once a week. "Simply add one cup of bleach to a sinkful of water, throw in the dishcloth and let it soak for 10 minutes before letting it drain," she said.

Worktops, sink surfaces, chopping boards and tap handles should be cleaned daily, and the toilet bowl three times a week.

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See also:

08 Jun 98 | Food Safety
Eating safe
29 Jul 98 | Food Safety
Drive to cut poison cases
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