Playgrounds Are Disgusting.

It’s not uncommon to hear people say ‘there are more germs on your phone than on your toilet.’ There’s a similar adage of “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth.” People love the comparisons of cleanliness between surfaces and objects, so to start off this article I’ll name some of my own. A playground sliding board holds 82 times more bacteria per square inch than your pet’s food bowl. Standard monkey bars hold 15 times more bacteria per square inch than a bathroom faucet handle. It’s time to talk about the fact that playgrounds are disgusting.

Isn’t “disgusting” a bit dramatic?

It’s no secret that children are lackadaisical when it comes to hygiene efforts. However, kids aren’t all to blame. Playgrounds are cleaned infrequently, serve as homes for all sorts of bugs and critters, and serve as landing pads for birds when uninhabited. In other words, wild animals and children hang out on playground equipment, making them a breeding ground for colony-forming bacteria.

According to Home Advisor, an average playground carries 3,500,000 colony-forming units (CFU) per square inch. Compare that 3,500,000 CFU to the average kitchen counter top which hovers around 85 CFU per square inch. An average toilet seat has 172 CFU per square inch, compared to the 9,000,000 found on a playground baby swing. Meaning a baby swing that your child will make direct contact with is 52,325 times dirtier than your toilet seat.

Should you worry about playgrounds?

I’m no science nerd, I’m a purest who loves to shine a light on topics that are otherwise ignored. I grew up on playgrounds and turned out perfect. So, what is the significance of a high CFU per square inch?

CFU is determined by counting individual colonies of germs and describes the number of cells on a surface able to multiply. For drinking water, the maximum amount of CFU recommended is 100 CFU/100ml. Is a high CFU count the end all, be all for your child’s health? Absolutely not. However, 9,000,000 Colony-Forming Units per Square Inch seems a tad preposterous for a piece of playground equipment designed for a baby. Fear not, but feel free to be a little grossed out.

How do we solve this problem?

I’ve got a two simple tips to combat the unfortunate truth that playgrounds are disgusting:


Simple hand-washing precautions can help thwart the spread of diseases and germs on playgrounds. It’s important that the whole class wash their hands before and after recess. Hand-washing is the single best defense against the spread of germs and it’s not even close.

Clean the Playground / Task Force

To my knowledge, none of the schools I attended growing up cleaned their playground on any frequent basis. Group cleaning could be used as a lesson on germs and responsibility enabling children to clean the playground on some type of weekly basis. Rotate grades and classrooms to make this a school wide program where kids are responsible for keeping their playground clean! Wiping down the monkey bars, swings, and sliding boards could be fun! It would not be surprising to see absentee numbers drop as the playground holds less germs.


In closing, I’d recommend wiping down a baby swing before placing your precious little child into one. Perhaps carry hand sanitizer more frequently. If you’re a teacher or principal, consider implementing a “Clean Playground Program” and test the absentee numbers closely (You could start a trend). As I said earlier, I’m a purest and germs do not scare me, getting dirty is good sometimes! However, it’s important to make sure that areas where children play are safe from disease causing bacteria.

Lastly, playgrounds are disgusting.


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Steve Norris


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