The filthy truth: These are the dirtiest surfaces on the TTC

Jan 26 2018, 1:57 pm

With an average of 1.5 million people riding the TTC every single day, it comes as no surprise that it’s a breeding ground for bacteria.

And as we enter into the peak of flu season, CleanSlate UV, a Toronto-based firm that specializes in providing hospital staff and visitors with a quick, easy and effective way to kill the bacteria on their mobile devices, wanted to find out what the dirtiest sections of the TTC actually are.

To determine the dirtiest surfaces, the team used an ATP test meter, which is “a technology used to quickly analyze the amount of bio-load on a surface”.

According to CleanSlate UV, ATP testing isn’t capable of showing what types of microorganisms are present, but it will tell you how many organic items are on a surface.

“Results are measured in “Relative Light Units” (RLUs), which tell us the concentration of bioload from a surface or swab. RLU scales are different for each manufacturer,” states a release from CleanSlate UV.

To complete its testing, the firm swabbed common rider “grab” locations in four different subway trains travelling from St George to Union Station, and the kiosks at two downtown stations.

And it’s safe to say what they discovered is rather cringe-worthy.

dirtiest surface

CleanSlate UV

The cleanest surface on the TTC:

The solid round “pull down handle” on the TTC was the cleanest surface, averaging ⅓ of the bacteria of the rubber poles.

The dirtiest surface on the TTC:

The red rubber on the subway pole is hands-down the dirtiest surface, racking in an average of 1467 RLUs per swab.


The metal-only poles and the upper-metal parts of the subway poles were also dirty, but not as cringe-worthy as the main subway poles.

How to Protect Yourself

While this data does show that the TTC is filled with germs and bacteria (not much of a surprise), CleanSlate UV says that “this bacteria is often harmless but it can include bacteria like staphylococcus aureus,  E. Coli.” So it’s important to take extra precautions to keep yourself safe.

CleanSlate UV suggests wearing gloves on the TTC, to prevent bacteria from touching your skin directly. But for those warm summer days when gloves aren’t an option, washing or sanitizing your hands immediately after leaving the subway is very effective.

Finally, it’s recommended that TTC riders use Presto’s auto-refill function online to avoid touching the kiosk screens and to always sanitize your mobile devices.

If one thing’s for certain, you’re going to want to start carrying hand sanitizer ASAP…

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