Did you know there is more bacteria on a shopping cart than on a public restroom toilet seat? According to several recent health warnings, swabs taken from shopping cart handles and seats have shown saliva, blood, fecal matter, mucus (and worse), plus Listeria, Salmonella, Staph, E. Coli, and general individual bacteria.

Apparently people are taking this disturbing information seriously. I have recently watched several mothers carefully arranging shopping cart covers or draping blankets over the part of the cart where the baby will be. And the woman who took the cart ahead of me took a package of wipes out of her bag and vigorously scrubbed down the whole top portion of the cart. When she was finished, she used more wipes to carefully clean each of her hands. During the same shopping trip, I also saw a baby sitting in an uncovered cart seat, constantly leaning forward to suck on the cart. His mother did not try to stop him. Obviously everyone does not share the same concerns.

My favorite shade of blue

Researchers stress that shopping cart handles are one of the most contaminated public surfaces, even dirtier than most public restrooms. The reason? Public restrooms are cleaned and disinfected regularly… grocery shopping carts are not… in fact, most stores clean their shopping carts only a couple of times each year. In the meantime, with everyone touching the cart handles and babies in diapers being put into the seats, the typical shopping cart is continuously being contaminated and accumulating a startling range of germs and viruses.

Some stores are responding by making disinfectant wipes available for customers who want them, but none of the stores in our area has so far taken this step. Regular baby wipes supposedly work equally well.

There is some good news… most of the original testing that is being quoted in these reports was done several years ago, and recent tests on shopping cart handles and seats have shown much lower levels of contaminants. Researchers guess that the public’s increased use of disinfectant wipes is the reason for this decline. Even so, they warn there IS still contamination, and that it is present in levels high enough to cause illness and disease.

So how do you handle this worrisome situation? For myself, I have not yet cleaned a shopping cart, although I would always spread a thick baby blanket over the part of the cart where my baby’s hands would be. Mostly I try to see that everyone follows the recommended “good hand hygiene”… keeping hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth, and always thoroughly washing hands before eating.

And I never put produce in the baby seat!

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Lorraine N.

I *do* clean the cart. My store has wipes available near the shopping carts and alot of people are using them. I felt a little embarrassed at first but not so much now that other people are doing it too. I would rather be safe than sorry. Great article, btw!


I use a shopping cart cover. I bought a pattern and sewed it myself and I really like using it. I line mine with a vinyl material so I feel it gives extra protection. By the way, for anyone looking for a nice shower gift, these shopping cart covers are a wonderful idea! I have made and given several to my pregnant friends.


Oh, and I forgot to say I also use wipes on the handle and on my hands before I touch the baby. I bring my own and I use baby wipes.


interesting post. I have used the wipes at whole foods, but that is the only place they are provided that I shop. Gives a person something to think about!


Ok, I actually pushed my cart today with some plastic bags on my hands. Couldn’t get this post out of my head…



All of our local stores have Clorox wipes in the cart area. I use them on occasion, when I remember. I put my purse in the baby seat and also wrapped or bagged produce. Never had a problem, knock wood. First thing I do when I get home is wash my hands before putting things away.


When ds was young, dear hubby and I went to the store together. Hubby would push ds in his stroller while I used the cart. Now that he is much older he just walks with me.


Our store has disinfectant wipes, but honestly my husband and I never go through cleaning off a cart. Although it’s so filthy, how many cases of sickness have actually been attributed to this? We’ve never felt that the cart was so ridiculously dirty that we would need to wipe it down or use a shopping cart cover. I can also say that my son is two and has only been sick twice in his life, once with food poisoning (all of us got sick from that obviously) and once after he played with a girl who we didn’t know was sick. I’m a firm believer in germs being a good thing, they are what help our immunities! The moms I hang out with who are “obsessed” with disinfecting have children who have been sick time and time again compared to my son.


Wiping down the carts at high risk areas like WalMart has saved my family a lot of sickies. We have a thumb sucker and the rowdy rule is one hand on the cart at all times. I traced our chicken pox last year to the one out of town shopping trip that I forgot to use wipes. Our grocery store now has a dispenser of wipes which is thoughtful of them.


I would be very interested in hearing why “Walmart” would be considered a “high risk” area. Would CostCo? Target? The Ferris Wheel at the county fair?

Bacteria are ubiquitous. They are everywhere and they inhabit every conveivable niche on the planet. They are necessary and good things for the most part. I agree with the poster above who said “germs are good things”. Kids NEED to be exposed to a wide variety of germs and they NEED to get sick every so often.

Having said that, I am a microbiologist by trade and have never once wiped down a shopping cart. Its just not effective nor is it particularly helpful. Just my two cents.


I keep a small bottle of Purell with me and some paper towels. Most stores don’t have wipes. Target does a real good job of providing wipes and hand cleaner.
And I wash my hands first thing when I get home. I use a nail brush and scrub as if I were going to preform an operation.
One other thing both me and hubby use – Blistex. A little dab rubbed under the nose before we go out. It’s the camphor in it. Remember those camphor balls of long ago? People wore them around their neck to ward off illness. Camphor is a great germ retardant.


doing a research paper in microbiology. interesting info. I do tend to agree with steve. washing often is a good idea, but paranoia has proven to hurt people also. just use your best judgements(and GOD will take care of his own)


I’m one of those people who uses hand sanitizer whenever I go out, and I really, really appreciate the fact that some stores now offer wet wipes for customers to clean off their shopping carts. For some time now, I have been noticing how germy my hands feel after pushing a shopping cart through a store. As soon as I get back in the car, I get my hand sanitizer out of my purse and use some. I guess many other people are as grossed out by the nastiness of shopping carts as I am, because some stores in our area offer wet wipes for the customers to use to clean their carts. I like to use a wet wipe, both on the cart, and another one on my hands. Of course, when you go through any store and touch this and that, you will be getting more germs on your hands. Thank God for hand sanitizers! I have noticed a reduction in the number of people getting colds and the flu, thanks to the continued use of wet wipes and hand sanitizers, and that is a great thing to see. I mentioned this to my Mom just the other day, and she agreed with me. I hope many more stores offer wet wipes for their customers to use to clean their carts, because it will make for a much healthier shopping experience.


My husband is a biologist with a Ph.D. and he laughed at the comment by a microbiologist stating it doesn’t do anything to wipe down carts and the comment stating it helps the immune system. It’s about the concentration of microscopic pathogens on the surface and exposure to the surface in question. Very high concentrations with exposure to hands and then hands handling food and touching everything purchased is an illness waiting to happen. Washing the cart handle and seat is an excellent practice and significantly reduces the concentration of microscopic pathogens. Even after a proper wipe down with a wipe with an active substance such as alcohol or ammonia there is still a bit and this tiny bit can in an otherwise healthy child or adult provide a small dose to cause an antibody response. An all out high concentration exposures can produce illness first and then the antibody ‘immune response’. If anyone thinks it’s just fine to not wipe down a cart it’s the same as thinking it’s just find to lick a public toilet seat or the floor in a public restroom.


I agree that cleaning your cart is good practice. However, this is not going to prevent your groceries from getting contaminated. Someone had to put the products into a delivery truck and thereafter someone had to pack it out of the truck at the delivery point. Next, someone needed to take the products and put them on the shelf. Finally, you get to load the products into your cart. At this point, another person needs to touch your products. The person who handles your groceries before paying for it. By this time your groceries have been touched by at least 4 different people. And who knows how good their hygiene is. In order to solve this problem, I wash the groceries and clean it with a disinfectant spray when I get home, before letting it near my clean surfaces. The groceries that I can’t immerse in water, I wipe down with the disinfectant spray. It’s hard work at first, but it becomes a lifestyle.

Deb Hanson

I have taken a pro active approach to this dilema. When I have my 1 year old grand daughter over for a visit and if a shopping trip is necessary, I take someone with me who can push her in her stroller while I use the shopping cart that I try to wipe down with the disinfectant wipes. I wear a purse with a long handle that enables me not to put it into the cart. I then take my groceries home and wash my hands thoroughly and put them away. This won’t eliminate ALL the germs and bacteria but hopefully will lessen the chance of bringing home an unwanted illness or disease. Doing what I can, what can I say.


I was a very relaxed mother with my kids and shopping trolleys until my daughter picked up a nasty virus from siliva transfer which we tracked back to a supermarket trip where there had been a few viral outbreaks in the local daycares. So no now im a religious wiper LOL yes one of those mums and if I had another child would definitely use a shopping cart cover.