The cart wash system is made by Pure Cart Systems and sprays a peroxide-based mist that kills germs. It has been approved for use by the FDA and EPA.
The cart wash system is made by Pure Cart Systems and sprays a peroxide-based mist that kills germs. It has been approved for use by the FDA and EPA. David Nogueras/NPR
"Shopping carts are one of the most infested, germ-harboring items there," says Jason Kirsch, co-owner of the Chevy Chase Supermarket in Maryland.
"Shopping carts are one of the most infested, germ-harboring items there," says Jason Kirsch, co-owner of the Chevy Chase Supermarket in Maryland. David Nogueras/NPR
Supermarket owners Kevin and Jason Kirsch take pride in making their store in Chevy Chase, Md., family-friendly. Model trains circle atop the ice cream freezer. There are kiddie lounge chairs. And the brothers even have a toy horse and a bucket of pennies.
But there's no getting around the dirt — especially when it comes to shopping carts.
"Shopping carts are one of the most infested, germ-harboring items there are," Jason Kirsch tells NPR's Andrea Seabrook. "Shopping carts are worse then a public restroom toilet seat, a soap dispenser, a pay phone — the few that are left."
So this past week, the Chevy Chase Supermarket joined a handful of grocery stores around the country and installed what is essentially a car wash for carts.
The system is made by Pure Cart Systems and is approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. It sprays a peroxide-based mist and eliminates 99.9 percent of the germs, according to the company's president, Jim Kratowicz.
"The science behind it is fairly simple," Kratowicz says. "The chemistry is basically a peroxide-based solution that breaks down into carbon dioxide, so it's very similar to what you would put on a cut — only in a very diluted form."
When a cart is brought back into the store, it is sanitized using the cart corral or a stand-alone hand wand.
The system costs $7,000 a year, which Kratowicz says breaks down to less than a penny per wash.
So far, the company has sold 20 units in the United States and South Korea.
Twin sisters Betty Davis and Sue Holmes are regulars at the Chevy Chase Supermarket.
Holmes says she's happy that the store washes the carts every day, but she admits that she isn't quite on board with the current battle against germs in public places.
"I'm thinking we're getting a little carried away. ... I mean we've lived a while and we're still here," she says.
"But I don't know what he thinks," Holmes says, motioning to store owner Jason Kirsch.
"He's the one that's paying the bill."
Kirsch says that so far the system has been a hit at the store, and he expects it to bring in more customers once word gets around.