99% of ball pits are a hive of germs and deadly bacteria.

Research recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that ball pits can contain a range of bacteria and deadly diseases, ranging from pneumonia and sepsis to bladder infections.

In the study, a small sample of balls were randomly selected from different depths over six different pits.

And of all the ball pits studied, some had gone days or weeks without cleaning – giving time for micro-organisms to accumulate, and grow to levels capable of giving children infections.

One of the dirtiest registered had an average of 170,000 different bacteria per ball.

Human-associated bacteria found in the ball pits include:

  • Enterococcus faecalis, which can cause endocarditis, septicemia, urinary tract infection, and meningitis
  • Staphylococcus hominis, a cause of bloodstream infections and reported as a cause of sepsis in a neonatal intensive care unit
  • Streptococcus oralis, known to cause endocarditis, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and streptococcal shock
  • Acinetobacter lwofii, which has been reported to cause septicemia, pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract and skin infections

Environmental-associated microbes were also identified, with bacteria normally associated with plants, dirt, and certain foods also found.

Breeding ground

We previously shared how the company behind stem-cell bank Stem Protect, managing director Mark Hall, was alarmed by the ball pits that his children were playing in.

He claimed ball pits are breeding grounds for germs because they are covered in poo, vomit and sticky substances, a company claims.

To make this claim, they conducted interviews with dozens of workers who confessed that ball pits are rarely cleaned and are often covered in spilled juice, vomit and a slew of other germs, shared Daily Mail.

Although the company had no scientific study on the subject, previous research confirms these play areas have potentially harmful bacteria in every corner.

Hall said: ‘I’m a parent of very young children, I’ve watched some of these places with my professional hat on and what I’ve learned has truly disturbed me.

‘You take your kids to these ball pit play warehouses to have fun. But I’ve seen kids emerge with their legs covered in poo.

‘And there worst thing was that it wasn’t even their own. There was a nasty surprise package left at the end of one of the big slides by a previous customer, and all of a sudden it’s everywhere.’

An older study from Virginia researchers in 1999 backed up Hall’s testimony about the dirtiness of play areas.

Experts collected specimens from around children’s areas that had ball pits and padded floors.

They found ‘an increased level of normal flora as well as nonhuman flora that demonstrated bacteria’ was covering these play pens.

The researchers concluded that their findings questioned the safety of these spaces and said there needed to be disinfection and hand washing after coming into contact with such germs.

Hall conducted interviews with managers of 60 pubs, alongside 600 parents, who detailed the horrors of the spaces children frequently play in.

Blurgh! I know I have had this discussion with many mums in the past. They really are a breeding ground of germs.

I could guarantee every single time we went to a play centre with the kids one of them would end up getting sick a few days later.

What has your experience been like at play centres?

Share your comments below.

Image via Getty


  • I think stating a 20 year old research paper isn’t very valid. I know the practices are a lot more strict these days on how often they have to be cleaned etc. Apart from an accident that occurs and a child follows it, then it’s likely to be cleaned up as soon as the staff are informed.
    Please don’t take your kids to playcentres if they have gastro or the runs – that’s just asking for trouble!!

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  • So gross! There are some things I would rather not know!

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  • These should definitely be cleaned daily and I would think it would be better for business if their customers weren’t getting sick.

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  • I very much believe this. I actually avoid these places at all costs as each time I’ve gone my daughter has come down with the most terrible viruses that last weeks. Vomiting, temps, diarrhoea.
    Yuk

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  • I was creeped out by them before but after reading this I am terrified of them!

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  • I avoided this sort of playground with my children because of the cost rather than anything else. I’m not surprised by the findings of this study and wonder what the industry cleaning standards are in Australia (if a company followed protocol).

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  • Oh my gosh, that just makes me sick.

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  • I am unsure how exactly they can clean the ball pits but I also agree it is a bacteria breeding ground. I try to avoid letting my kids use the ball pit and we also have a small version at home for this reason.

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  • I never liked my kids going in the ball pits and thankfully they didn’t really like them either.

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  • I think they need to invent a way of cleaning those ball pits with some type of machine. I’m just glad that there was never anything like this around for my boys to play in

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  • I’m not surprised – I’ve seen bits of uneaten food in the ball pits at times because parents just don’t know how to follow the rules and don’t watch what their kids are doing. I love the idea of play centers if they are done right and parents are cooperating and the operators are managing things well.

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  • Thank God we went in and out of that phase very quickly. However, it does make absolute sense. What a job it would be to keep these places sanitized and clean.

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  • Thankfully a lot of places don’t have ball pits. I wonder if normal outdoor equipment has ever been checked.

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  • We do not go to these places and do not even have a ball pit at home. So hard to keep these places clean and you do not know what has being left behind.

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  • This is awesome for their immune system !

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