Plastic banknotes won't make grubby fivers clean

Published by Rob Goodman on 17 March 2014.
Last updated on 17 March 2014

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 Contractcleaning.co.uk.

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.   

Contractcleaning.co.uk 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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