Dr. Charles Gerba and the University of Arizona recently conducted a study of the "germiest hot spots" in K-12 schools. Researchers from the university swabbed classrooms and common area surfaces at six schools to determine the relative numbers of total heterotrophic bacteria and coliform bacteria on frequently touched hard, non-porous surfaces.

According to the study, the most contaminated site in the school was the cafeteria table, followed by the computer mouse — which harbored nearly twice as many bacteria than desktops. Also on the list: the restroom paper towel handle, drinking fountain, restroom sink faucet, library table and the computer keyboard.

These study results came as a surprise to many in the industry as the article sparked conversation on the social networking site www.MyCleanLink.com. Instead of the cafeteria table, many members suspected restroom surfaces and door handles as the "germiest" touch points in a school — a common suspicion in the industry, but unsupported by statistical findings.

Even as far back as 2005, studies from NSF International, an independent not-for-profit, found that drinking fountain spigots and cafeteria trays harbored more than 10 times as many germs as a toilet seat. Even the common student's hand had almost 1,500 more bacterial cells than commonly cleaned door handles and knobs.

No matter which surface harbors the most germs or bacteria, preventative measures are available. Workers should pay attention to cleaning frequencies and the use of proper cleaners and disinfectants. Cleaners can also prevent cross-contamination by promoting a proper hand hygiene program with students and staff.