These are the dirtiest places in a school

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Sealing commitments with spit swears, sticking gum under their desks and neglecting to wash their hands are just a few of the many habits kids have that are actually pretty gross. Those classic schoolyard behaviors can spread a lot of germs. Children get sick at school often, especially during flu season or if there's a serious virus going around. Parents can prepare for colds and flu at home. You can stay informed about the symptoms of each illness, for example, and take steps to keep your home as clean and germ-free as possible. However, unless you're employed as the school janitor, you can't keep your child's place of education spotless. And some things at school have way more germs than others. (You may want to rethink sipping from that water fountain at the next PTA meeting...) Here are the germiest spots your bright little student should be wary of while roaming the halls at school.


You may not realize this, but your reusable cloth grocery bags are among the germiest things in your kitchen. That's because cloth picks up dirt and debris everywhere you put it down, and it's rare that these items ever get cleaned. The same goes for backpacks. Kids place backpacks on the floors of school buses, in parking lots, in classrooms and who knows where else. Unless you're washing your child's backpack with some frequency, it's likely that these germs have built up over time. Be wary of placing backpacks on kitchen tables or other surfaces where you eat.

Bathroom door handles

In an ideal world, all children would wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the bathroom. But in reality, kids aren't so sanitary. Bathroom door handles can collect germs from unwashed hands, especially if they are not cleaned often enough.

Cafeteria tables

The horror of school lunch doesn't end at poor nutrition standards. Cafeteria tables can be rife with germs that could make their way into kids' sloppy Joes and Tater Tots. After collecting swabs from K-12 classrooms in 2010, researchers discovered that cafeteria tables had more germs than other surfaces such as bathroom faucets and computer mouses.

Cafeteria trays

As gross as the tables get in cafeterias, it might be even more upsetting to think about germs lurking on trays. Though these trays do, in theory, get sanitized daily, a study by NSF International showed that plastic reusable cafeteria trays have nearly 10 times as many bacteria per square inch as a toilet seat.

Classroom computer keyboards

Many schools provide students with computers in the classroom to aid with learning. But this innovation has some drawbacks, one of the more superficial of which is germs. In the NSF International study, keyboards in shared computer classrooms were among the surfaces with the most bacteria.


According to a study from the University of Arizona, student desks were among the most bacteria-ridden surfaces in elementary school classrooms. These desks are where kids practice arithmetic, eat their snacks and probably wipe their boogers⁠.

Gym equipment

Grade school PE class probably gives you all kinds of horrifying flashbacks already, but perhaps even more ghastly are the germs living on the gym's equipment. Dodgeballs get covered in spit and sweat, scooter hockey has kids rolling dangerously close to the dirt, and it's doubtful that huge parachute was ever washed. Pair those threats with the added potential of mold on gym mats and other equipment from being stored in dark, damp spaces between class periods and you've got a perfect breeding ground for germs.

Sink faucet handles

The toilet seat is far from the germiest surface in most bathrooms, and schools are no exception. Meanwhile, the sink faucet handles in school bathrooms were the fourth and fifth highest ranking for bacterial contamination, according to the NSF International study. However, washing your hands is still one of the best lines of defense against the cold or the flu for children.

Students' hands

Yes, kids are great, but they're also pretty careless. And though nurses are pretty clear on when you should keep your child home from school, parents often send their children to class sick regardless. Students' hands can expose classmates and communal supplies to bacteria and viruses.

Toilet seats

You'd be surprised at how many common items are germier than toilet seats, but at public schools they're still pretty nasty. The NSF International study found that toilet seats in schools had approximately 1,200 CFUs (colony forming units) per square inch of bacteria.

Water fountains

Of all the places tested by the NSF International study, water fountains (both in the classroom and in the cafeteria) won as the most germ-infested surfaces in school environments. A classroom water fountain spigot had approximately 2.7 million CFUs per square inch, more than 80 times the amount of the next filthiest surface. If your child is in school, you may want to consider sending them with a reusable water bottle instead - though like some other common household products, you're probably not cleaning those often enough.

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