This Study Will Make You Ditch Your Rubber Duckies For Good

by Valerie Williams
Image via ajt/Getty Images

Scientists discovered what’s inside a rubber ducky — and it’s pretty gross

Guess what, parents? Those annoying bath toys you’re constantly tripping over, stepping on, and picking up while muttering curse words under your breath are also totally disgusting and “potentially pathogenic.”

Because parenting just sucks sometimes and even innocent things can be totally horrible. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

According to The New York Times, scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, ETH Zurich, and the University of Illinois published a study Tuesday in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes about the microbes and bacteria found inside a rubber ducky once it’s been used.

Spoiler alert: it’s freaking gross.

Like, really gross.

The researchers counted the microbes swimming inside the rubber toys and say the “murky” liquid released when the duck is squeezed contains “potentially pathogenic bacteria.”

How pathogenic? Um, it’s pretty bad.

Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were found in the ducks studied and those bacterium are often the cause of “hospital-acquired infections.” Both the volume and variety of bacteria found was pretty staggering — up to 75 million cells per square centimeter (0.15 square inch).

It’s not tap water on its own that fosters this kind of bacterial growth; it’s definitely caused by the blend of body fluids and contaminants like soap in the bath water that create the environment that allows bacteria to grow.

Hold up, I need a minute to stop gagging.

Microbiologist and lead study author Lisa Neu says, “We’ve found very big differences between different bath animals,” suggesting other types of bath toys were also tested. “One of the reasons was the material, because it releases carbon that can serve as food for the bacteria.”

The thing is, kids do need a certain amount of bacteria to help build up their immune systems, but the researchers claim sometimes that bacteria causes eye, ear, and intestinal infections along with doing the good things bacteria does. The scientists say kids “who may enjoy squirting water from bath toys into their faces” would be particularly vulnerable to getting sick. Again, hang on so I can stop gagging.

As far as a solution? The scientists concluded that using higher-quality polymers for the toys could reduce the growth of bacteria inside these squeaky bath-time staples, but the Swiss government (they funded the study) isn’t making recommendations at this point.

My kids never really had bath toys like this because I’m obviously cruel and live to stifle their fun. LOL just kidding. It was mostly out of laziness — not wanting to pick up a million gross toys or worry about keeping them clean. My kids never seemed to care and made plenty of fun just floating the shampoo bottles around in the water, so no one was scarred for life by lack of bath time joy.

You do you, parents. But now that you know, you can at least stop your kids from sucking on that germy ducky now that we’ve seen what lies beneath.