I Tried a New Kit That Tests to See How Many Germs Live in Your Kitchen — The Results Were Definitely Surprising

published Mar 16, 2022
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Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion

I’ve always considered myself an efficient housekeeper. I enjoy cleaning (or, at least, I don’t hate it), and I was raised with specific guidance on how to keep my home in good condition. In short: I’ve never worried about the presence of germs in my living space. That is, until I tried out a new test kit from Scotch-Brite that rocked my world.

Credit: Courtesy of Scotch-Brite

Clean Scan is a new-to-home-consumers kit that measures the bacterial and viral levels in high-traffic areas — namely, the kitchen and bathroom. It’s the brainchild of Scotch-Brite and a San Francisco biotech company called Phylagen, and it is wild. And informative. And terrifying? I’m getting ahead of myself. Please allow me to take a step back.

How Does the Scotch-Brite Clean Scan Test Work?

When you order a test kit, you’re sent everything you need to measure the microbial life (read: germ level) in your home. Register the kit with Scotch-Brite online, then use the pre-packaged swabs to take samples from a variety of surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom. Clean both rooms according to your typical routine, then immediately swab again. Seal the samples in the provided plastic test tubes, and mail the test back to the lab in San Francisco. After three days, you can log on and discover how germy your house was before and after cleaning. 

Credit: Courtesy of Scotch-Brite

What Happened When I Tried the Scotch Brite Clean Scan Test

I’ll admit that I left the kit unopened for a few days after receiving it — I was nervous about what the results would reveal. Germs are like bugs: I know they live in my home, but I just prefer not to see evidence of them. Ignorance is bliss, as they say. But I took a deep breath, read the instruction booklet from cover to cover, and breathed a sigh of relief. The testing process was, at least, very simple and not scary at all.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence

Taking samples requires no more than wetting the swab tip and running it back and forth over the surface of your test area in a zig-zag pattern. The kit instructed me to test the kitchen counter, sink handles, oven handles, and fridge door. After doing that and testing the bathroom surfaces (toilet lid, sink handles, shower floor and knobs), I performed my usual cleaning routine.

Credit: Courtesy of Scotch-Brite

In the kitchen, I sprayed down the counter with an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner and wiped it clean with a reusable rag. Ditto the oven knobs. For the stainless steel sink, I scrubbed it clean with my dedicated cleaning sponge and some Bon Ami, paying special attention to the handles. Then, I wiped it dry with a dish towel. I used a disposable Clorox wipe on the fridge handle and door, then set off for the bathroom. (There, I tend to use more bleach-based products.) I repeated the swabbing procedure, then carefully sealed all of the samples and paid a visit to my local UPS store to mail the package. 

After a tense three-day wait (in which I may or may not have gone through more than my usual amount of Clorox wipes), I received an email from Scotch-Brite with my test results.

Credit: Courtesy of Rochelle Bilow
Here they are: my cleaning test results.

What Does the Scotch-Brite Clean Scan Test Show?

Microbial life tests can be pretty detailed, so thankfully Scotch-Brite and Phylagen make this one easy to understand. At the top of your results, your home is ranked against average cleanliness levels in the U.S. My house was determined to be “Average,” and heck, I’ll take it.

The test measures Aspergillus Quantity (a type of mold) as well as Total Bacterial Quantity before and after cleaning. The results are displayed in a chart. There’s also a line on the bar graph that compares your house’s bacterial quantity with the rest of the country’s. Finally, the test evaluates whether or not a variety of other, um, issues were present — including Listeria, Influenza, and the SARS-CoV2 virus (that’s what we know as coronavirus.) Happily, none of these contaminants were detected in any of the locations tested in my home.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

The nitty-gritty of my test revealed that my home’s bacterial levels were pretty much on par with what’s “normal.” But what truly shocked me was how little the levels changed after cleaning. My kitchen may have looked spotless, but the results told a different story. It turns out, I was focusing more on the appearance of clean (dust, grease) than the sneaky, invisible bacteria. That’s where knowing the difference between cleaning versus sanitizing comes in. Cleaning removes grime and dirt from a surface, while sanitizing reduces the number of pathogens. That’s why you’re supposed to clean first and sanitize after.

Credit: Courtesy of Scotch-Brite

Is the Scotch-Brite Clean Scan Test Worth It?

Clean Scan is a really cool test, and something that can provide a lot of insight for a relatively low amount of effort. Although it originally carried a hefty price tag — $249, when it was launched — it’s gone down in cost. As I type this up today, it’s hovering at $149.

What makes the test worth the investment is that Scotch-Brite and Phylagen include an interpretation of your test results, so you can better understand what those numbers mean for your home and health. They also include a thorough list of cleaning tips to address the issues of your results. For example, I learned that my eco-friendly method of upcycling an old dish sponge to sink cleaning duties was not doing me any favors: It was likely loaded with bacteria.

Clean Scan was not nearly as scary as I imagined it would be. In fact, I feel safer and more confident than I did before. And it’s definitely going to change the way I clean moving forward. I’m aiming for a “Better than Average” on my next test.

Would you take the Scotch-Brite Clean Scan test? Tell us in the comments below.