Are Your Kids Making You Sick? The 5 Germiest Kids’ Items in Your Home

Flus, colds, and other illnesses are inconvenient for anyone, but especially for parents with young children. This year, we want to help you avoid all the sniffling, coughing, aching, and everything else that comes with cold and flu season.

To help you combat the spread of sickness across your family, we had to find the germiest kids’ items. We did so by focusing our study on 10 common household objects. We got our items from nine different homes, all with children ranging in age from newborn to four years old.

So what were the five germiest items? Keep reading to find out.

The 5 germiest kids’ items in your home

  1. Strollers
  2. Pacifiers and sippy cups
  3. Plush toys
  4. Diaper bags
  5. TV remotes
5 germiest kids' items in your home
Surprised that strollers come in first? Most people would never suspect their strollers host so many germs. Part of the reason has to do with storage: most strollers are kept in garages, which experience big temperature and humidity variations. Garages also trap dust, fumes, and germ-carrying pests. These conditions create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, yeast, and mold—right on your stroller.

What else affects germ levels?

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom that boys are dirtier than girls, so we decided to see if the biological sex of children in the home affected germs levels. Our study found that homes with mostly boys were likely to have a higher number of germs than homes with mostly girls. Of the homes we tested, only 44% had mostly boys, but these homes had 51% of the overall germs.

We also wondered if having pets in the home made a difference in germ levels. After all, pet ownership often comes with extra fur, slobber, and dander. But our study found that homes with pets did not show a significant difference in germ levels compared to homes without pets.


We swabbed and analyzed 10 common objects in nine homes with children ranging in age from newborn to four years. The families were divided into three age groups: 0–1, 1–3, and 3–4, with three families per group. Samples were taken using sterile swabs, including two samples for each of the 10 items per household, for a total of 180 samples. The swab samples were taken to the lab within 12 hours of collection and cultured on fresh pre-poured LB (Luria broth) agar plates for five days at the University of Utah.

After the incubation period, the staff worked with a lab technician to quantify the number of CFUs (colony-forming units) per plate. Parent participants completed a survey to determine behavioral and environmental factors that could have contributed to their results.

Before you throw out all the germy items in your home, remember that not all germs are harmful. In fact, some germs can be necessary for your family’s health. Still, to prevent the spread of harmful germs among your family, make sure you regularly clean your children’s germy items during cold and flu season.