It's hardly a scientific term, but the so-called "five-second rule" has divided household and schoolyard discussions for years. If you've ever wondered if it's actually okay to eat food that's fallen on the floor, Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, sets the record straight in an opinion piece for The New York Times.
"Our continued focus on this threat has long baffled me. Why are we so worried about the floor?" he says. "There's no magic period of time that prevents transmission. But even though I know bacteria can accumulate in less than five seconds, I will still eat food that has fallen on my kitchen floor. Why? Because my kitchen floor isn't really that dirty."
In a twist of logic, Carroll reveals the myriad of items we touch every day that are filthier than your kitchen floor. Yes, it'll either put your mind at ease next time you drop a snack—or haunt the rest of your day. These are seven things that are more germ-riddled that your toilet seat or floor. Pass the hand sanitizer.
- TV remote: 67.6 colonies per square inch.
- Refrigerator handle: This has 5.37 colonies of bacteria per square inch, compared to the kitchen floor, which is likely to harbor 2.75 colonies per square inch.
- Money: A study of one-dollar bills found that 94% are colonized with bacteria.
- Toilet flush handle: 34.65 colonies per square inch.
- Kitchen counter: 5.75 colonies per square inch.
- Sink faucet: 15.84 colonies per square inch.
- Kitchen sponge: This took out the dirtiest item in the house, totaling more than 20 million colonies per square inch.
If these figures put you in a mild state of panic, Carroll says it's important to put it in perspective. "Our immune systems are pretty hardy. We've all been touching this dirty stuff for a long time, without knowing it, and doing just fine," he says. Regardless, one thing is for sure: It's time to replace your kitchen sponge.