By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 15, 2016
Halloween Drinking Games
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During the setup of any reputable game of beer pong, you add an extra cup of water on both ends: The ball washing cup. No, it isn’t filled with some magical antibacterial water. It’s just normal H2O from the tap. That means that a reasonable thought anytime you rinse off the ball is: What is this actually doing? Then you sink the disgusting ball into one of your opponents’ cups and thankfully becomes their problem.

But just how gross is a game of beer pong? The good people at Popular Science decided to figure out once and for all just how germ infested a game of beer pong can be. The magazine teamed up with researchers from Rockefeller University, and then played one of the most scientific games of beer pong in history.

“Before playing our super-scientific beer pong game, we donned plastic gloves and took swabs from the table, floor, rims of cups, and ping pong ball,” Popular Science wrote. “The Rockefeller microbiologists took samples of the beer and of the water from the water cups.” From there, a sample of beer was taken after each sip of beer, and after the first round, surfaces were once again swabbed and the wash cup was sampled.

The good news is that despite how gross the water in the rinse cup looked, “the types of bacteria populating” it didn’t really change. Same with the table and the ball. And the bacteria researchers found didn’t seem that harmful. The magazine continued, “The Rockefeller researchers did some research on the most common types of bacteria sampled from the ping pong ball and the table and discovered that most are commonly found in soil or on human skin. They seem unlikely to cause disease in humans.”

Meanwhile, results from the actual beer cups were slightly sketchier, showing the most bacterial changes. “The Rockefeller researchers suspect that this might happen because the cup is taking some of the bacteria from the players’ mouths back onto the table,” Popular Science said.

Overall though, Georg Gerber, a pathology professor at Harvard Medical School, seemed relatively upbeat about the results. “If you’re in college playing beer pong with a healthy immune system, Gerber says, you probably have nothing to worry about,” PopSci stated. However, Gerber did suggest having players wash their hands and avoid sharing cups would be a bit more sanitary.

Popular Science also pointed out, “You should take all these findings with a grain of salt—our research probably wouldn’t be accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.” I guess scientific beer pong journals are a lot pickier than they used to be.