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Car Interiors Are Dirtier Than You Think

CARS.COM — Maybe Queen wouldn't have been so in love with its car if it knew how dirty it was. Fellow Brits at, a U.K. insurance website, swabbed 15 vehicle cabins and sent the samples to the University of Nottingham's Microbiology Investigation Centre for analysis. The results make for engrossing dinner conversation, save the "en" and "ing."

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It turns out that cars are a five-star germ resort with turn-down service and a breakfast buffet. Researchers tested areas like the steering wheel, parking-brake handle, gearshift, carpets and car seats, and the analysis returned a host of bacteria, including staphylococcus — the stuff behind a lot of food poisoning — plus yeast, mold and even fecal bacteria that could "potentially" signal E. coli. Amanda Stretton,'s motoring editor, said she expected "to find some bad stuff" but nothing as bad as E. coli.

Yet claims its research shows some 60 percent of drivers admit they still eat food in the car, and about half take the blame for the poor state of their ride, claiming the footwells and trunk as its dirtiest confines. One in four drivers clean their interior but once every three months, and another 8 percent say they never clean it at all — a troubling response, given what goes on in there. About half of all drivers admit they've dropped food inside, while 1 in 10 admit to incidents where a passenger vomited. Seven percent claim they've had pet "toilet accidents," according to the website. (Use your imagination. Or on second thought, don't.)

There's hope, however. A simple cleaning with wet wipes showed "a major reduction" in germs, the University of Nottingham found. "Just simple cleaning procedures will keep down the number of microbes that you have in your car," said Christine Dodd, a professor of food microbiology at the school.

It's safe to say the same advice carries across the pond.