How Clean is the London Underground?

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 05:56 am

The London Underground. Every Londoner’s love-hate relationship with the world’s first metro is clear — especially on those hotter-than-lava heat waves or torrential rainy mornings. In a recent study from Essential Living examining customer experience, the tube came fifth out of the ten busiest subway railways in the world, making it exceptionally average. However, one crucial element that wasn’t tested is a clear discomfort for passengers — cleanliness.

Since the pandemic, we’ve all been even more conscious of proper hygiene. With five million passenger journeys every day, it’s no wonder that some of us are feeling a bit icky about touching anything on these trains. So, how dirty is the tube really? And what can you do to make sure you’re minimising the impact of it in your life? Find out here.

Is the tube that dirty?

Well, the short answer is yes. In fact, a study conducted in 2017 by London Metropolitan University found that the London Underground has a variety of bacteria. At the top of the list is the Victoria line with 22 strains, four of which from the WHO priority list. When it comes to air quality, London is one of the most polluted cities in the world. And yet, the tube is 15 times worse than ground level when it comes to this.

How is the tube cleaned?

The Underground is cleaned regularly, with daily cleans of seats, floors and surfaces. Windows are cleaned every three to four days, while a deep clean takes place every three to four weeks. Since the pandemic, the products used by the cleaners are ‘hospital grade’, including antiviral disinfectants. Specific touch points, such as poles and handles, are given the utmost attention, and some escalator handrails even have UV light cleaners.

What can I do to combat this?

Unfortunately, if you need to use the tube, you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that it’s grimey. However, there are steps that you can take to do your best to keep you and others clean.

Keep your surroundings clean

You can’t control the tube itself — but you can control your home and your office. By ensuring these are continuously cleaned, you can avoid spreading the germs you picked up on the tube. You may even want to rely on professional cleaning services so the job is done to the highest possible standard, while also freeing up your time. Take commercial cleaning agency NuServe, for example, which boasts a specific COVID-19 policy, periodic deep cleans, and monthly site audits. While domestic cleaning company Maid2Clean offers weekly and fortnightly house cleaning services, as well as more ad-hoc spring cleaning.

Avoid touching surfaces

Of course, you’re going to have to touch some things — we’re not suggesting you fly across the carriage for the sake of refusing to hold onto the pole. However, try to keep this to a minimum. We also recommend standing instead of sitting if you are able, as the seats on the tube are notoriously dirty. If you want to go all the way, carrying surface wipes with you and cleaning anything you touch before you handle it can make a huge difference.

Ensure you use hand sanitiser

Even if you avoid touching surfaces as an Olympic sport, we regret to inform you that you’re still going to come into contact with some pretty nasty bacteria if you go on the tube. Washing your hands frequently is important, but when you’re on the go it’s sometimes not enough. The Underground has plenty of hand sanitiser stations spread around it, but you should also carry one with you just in case and apply it as often as possible. Luckily, they don’t all have to smell like a visit to the dentist’s office — check out these great options.

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