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Image for article titled 10 Household Objects That Are 'Dirtier' Than a Toilet Seat

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I thought it would be a fun to write a listicle about things in your house that are dirtier than your toilet, mostly because I wanted to make you feel bad about your housekeeping. I quickly discovered I was hardly the first internethack/listartist to have this idea.

“X is dirtier than a toilet seat!” is practically an internet sub-genre for a good reason. Headlines like “Your Keyboard: Dirtier Than a Toilet” are attention-grabbers, and just about anything you can think of, from remote controls to dog bowls, has been been compared unfavorably to toilet seats. But why is the toilet seat the measure of cleanliness in the first place? And what does it mean for one object to be “dirtier” than another?

Most of these articles equate “amount of bacteria per square inch” with cleanliness and dirtiness, but this isn’t really a useful way of measuring dirt. Most of the bacteria covering everything aren’t harmful. Bacteria doesn’t smell bad. It’s invisible. So how is something covered in invisible, odorless, harmless micro organisms dirtier than something that’s covered in, I don’t know, vomit?

And why is a toilet seat the universal measure for “dirtiness?” In most homes, toilets seats are cleaned often, with effective chemicals, especially compared to the number of times they’re used. They’re non-porous. They’re dry. They’re not a great place for bacteria to grow.

What’s really going on is that toilet seats are “dirty” in the sense that people sit on them to take a crap—the dirtiness is in our minds. Toilet seats are subjectively “dirty” because we know people do their foul business on them, not objectively dirty, i.e.: likely to be covered in bacteria. Comparison articles grab your attention because they’re playing on the two different definitions of “dirty,” making the bold proposition that your car keys are dirtier than your toilet, daring you to take a look and discover that as long as you ignore what you think you know to be dirty (i.e.: places where people take craps), your car keys are indeed dirtier than your toilet seat.

This is why I have judged each filthy thing in your home both in terms of how much more bacteria it hosts than a toilet seat, and how much dirtier it is in terms of just being nasty.

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