How Dirty are Playgrounds


Playgrounds are an exciting spot for kids. Especially after being stuck inside for months during quarantine, kids are excited to be out playing again.

But, there is some understandable concern from parents & guardians regarding the cleanliness of the playgrounds both at their local park and at their child’s school. Kids, of course, aren’t exactly too concerned, but it’s safe to say that their favourite play structure is a breeding ground for bacteria.

And, this isn’t anything new.  Look hard enough the next time you’re at a park and you’ll be sure to find things like mould and mildew.  There are also insects and birds that frequent these playgrounds, making them a germaphobes worst nightmare! On top of this, they are rarely cleaned, if ever. This means that different forms of bacteria begin to form on top of other bacteria.  Throw in COVID-19 and it’s no wonder parents are thinking twice before allowing their children to play freely at their local parks or before they confidently send them back to school to play in the schoolyard.

As primary caregivers, we are very concerned about the safety of our children.  This is why we have written a letter to the Ontario government, urging them to make it mandatory that all outdoor play structures on school property be regularly cleaned & sanitized in our province. Currently, it’s not a requirement.

How Dirty Are Playgrounds?

We did some research and pulled some interesting, albeit disturbing, information from  Tests are performed on the most touched surfaces of an area in order to determine the CFU (colony-forming units). The average playground carries around 3 500 000 CFU’s compared to a kitchen sink which carries roughly 85 CFU’s per square inch or a toilet seat that carries 172 CFU per square inch.

These tests have determined that the filthiest playground equipment are rock walls, baby swings, and seesaws. These three pieces of play equipment combined carry over nine million CFU’s, which is over 52,000 times dirtier than the average toilet seat.

These numbers are pretty astounding. This is why parents are concerned about their children returning to school and playing on equipment that isn’t frequently cleaned and sanitized.

Playground equipment needs to be disinfected frequently in order to drop those CFU numbers.

Check out this infographic for a list of the CFU numbers on playground equipment compared to bacteria levels found in the home:

How Dirty are Playgrounds

It’s certainly okay to feel a little disgusted by these numbers. We sure were!  After taking a deeper look at the commonly found bacteria, mould and mildew found at parks plus living in a world that is still trying to combat COVID-19, we do feel that extra precautions such as regularly scheduled cleaning and sanitizing of play equipment should be considered to help ensure the safety of our kids.

What Can We Do To Keep Our Kids Safe?

For starters, everyone (both children and adults) should wash their hands before and after visiting the playground to reduce the spread of germs.  Not only is the actual play structure dirty, so are the surrounding items such as benches and tables.

Bring hand sanitizer to the park or send some to school with your child.  When clean water and soap are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol as a substitute.

Do your best to try and avoid touching your face.  This can be hard but it’s an important habit to make!

Join many others in contacting your MPP and demand that our playgrounds be cleaned on a regular basis.  Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of our neighbourhood parks and school play structures is long overdue.

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1 Comment

  • Dee Grant Posted August 27, 2020 2:45 pm

    This is a matter that needs to be addressed. The playgrounds in our area are filthy!

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