Plastic banknotes won't make grubby fivers clean

Plastic notes

Dirty, filthy money won't disappear after the introduction of plastic banknotes, a cleaning company has warned.

Plastic notes will come into circulation for the first time in 2016 and as they'll be more durable than their paper peers, that means they could be dirtier for longer, according to

The Winston Churchill £5 could be the foulest of the lot, as the fiver is the most used note in circulation – changing grubby hands and pockets more than any other. is adamant the introduction of polymer notes won't put an end to germ-ridden cash and urging the public to wash their hands after handling money - particularly if they are using cash to buy food on the go.

Self-cleaning properties

While spokesman Mark Hall conceded it is possible to wash a polymer note, and that it might be harder for certain substances to stick to it, he used the example of a plastic chopping boards to explain another grimy drawback.

"If dirt and germs get into a groove within a plastic chopping board, they're never coming out. They stay inside forever. But with a wooden chopping board, as a natural substance it has self-cleaning properties," he said.

A few years ago, research carried out by London's Queen Mary University showed a quarter of banknotes and half of credit cards are covered in germs, while fourth-fifths of both had traces of bacteria.

The study also found the presence of E.coli bacteria on £5, £10 and £20 notes.

"The public should certainly get into the habit of washing their hands after handling cash. It's like picking up food off the floor, you don't know where it's been," said Hall.

And it's not just notes and coins we have to worry about – chip and pin devices are even more likely to carry harmful germs. Research from the company suggested that 85% are "unfit for public use".

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Polymer banknotes have on average 75% less bacteria than paper banknotes.  This was proven in a comprehensive 2010 global study involving 10 countries that measured bacteria counts on polymer and paper notes taken from retail food outlets.  A total of 1280 notes were tested. The study was published in the scientific journal 'Foodborne Pathogens and Disease' and can be read at
You can read also read an article in The Australian on this study at