Test Your House for GERMS

August 23rd, 2012 | Posted by Kat in Ideas | Kids

This idea comes from parents.com and it is crazy awesome. I am somewhat of a “germ aware” person and find myself often wondering what kinds of gross things are living on the surfaces of things like play places, sinks, shopping cart handles, etc. This post has a way to make your own gels to grow bacterial cultures. Nerdy? You bet. And super cool.

Make Your Own Bacterial Plates

Supplies Needed:

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 packet of unflavored gelatin (1 oz.)
  • several plastic or paper cups
  • plastic wrap
  • cotton swabs

How to:

Step 1: Prepare your cups. I used 6 cups. You really could do more, though. I cut my cups down so they were shorter – maybe 2″ tall. You could even go shorter than that if you would like – my cups were plastic and tended to rip more easily when they were cut down shorter than that.

Step 2: Boil your water. I microwaved the cup in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup. It took about a minute – you can literally watch the water start to boil in about that time.

Step 3: Mix in your sugar and gelatin and pour into your prepared cups.

Step 4: Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate your cups for 24 hours to allow your “gels” to firm up. And they will really, truly be firm. If they are squishy at all, give them some more time.

Step 5: Go around your house and find “questionable” things to swab. The original poster had found that her houseplant was actually the grossest place in her house, while the toilet and the inside of her daughter’s mouth were not very gross. Be creative! Here is what I tried:

The smudged one was a second swab I took of the sink – I took one “before” cleaning it with Scrubbing Bubbles, and one after. I’m always curious if the cleaners that say they kill 99% of everything actually work. We also have kids over here often to play, and they almost always gravitate to the piano, so I thought that would be interesting too. I wanted to test our plant for myself too. I also wanted to try the doorknob to our pantry since that is one that gets high usage. And, of course, I left one as a control. “Control” just basically means you leave it alone to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with the gel that you made. I actually cheated a little bit and swabbed that one with a “clean” cotton swab, just because I wanted to make sure the cotton swab itself wasn’t a carrier.

Step 6: Recover with plastic wrap and leave in a dark, warm spot for 4-5 days.The first day there will be very little to nothing that happens. Don’t despair! Once the colonies get growing, they will grow quickly.

Our Results (in grossest to least gross order):

1. The Houseplant (gross!)

2. The Piano Keys

3. The Uncleaned Sink

4. (And this is a VERY distant fourth – there was practically nothing) The Cleaned Sink

5. The Doorknob

6. The Control

Wow! I will definitely wipe off our piano keys. Sick. And I will NOT eat food off of my houseplant if it falls on it. *Shudder*

That was a LOT of fun, and will definitely be something we try again. What would you swab?

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