Where The Germs Are
When you care about your health (and the well-being of those around you), you know how much staying well matters. Eating good—healthy Real Food choices gives your body the nutritional boost it needs and helps immensely in its constant efforts to fight off germs.
Did you know though, that it’s also really important to clean the many surfaces, items, and devices you touch and use every day?
That’s what we’re going to be discussing here…what may be living on your smartphone, in your bag, on the ink pen you borrowed, and some of the countless other items you touch and use on any given day.
Wash Your Hands!
Yes, it sounds too simple to have to even talk about, but according to a Michigan State University study, 95% of people are not correctly washing their hands! And considering most people touch their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour, it’d be nice to know your hands are clean when doing so.
Especially when you factor in that the average amount of time you touch common objects is 3.3 times per hour. This means the germs you’re getting on your hands, you’re spreading all over your face.
So get to a sink and use some soap and water! Proper hand-washing technique according to the CDC is the following:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Apply soap and create a lather by rubbing hands together. (Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under your nails.)
- Continue scrubbing for 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands well using a clean towel.
While this hand-washing process takes a moment of your time, it is a major contributor to staying well, especially during cold and flu season. Maybe you’re asking, “Can’t I just use some hand sanitizer?” Well… Hand sanitizers are good when you don’t have access to a sink with soap and water. They’re a pinch-hit option you could say.
Unfortunately, alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs. While it’s great that they can quickly reduce the number of germs in some situations, the soap and water method always wins ineffectiveness.
And it may sound funny, but be sure to wash your soap too. If you’re using a bar of soap, pathogenic organisms may be hiding there on that damp (or sometimes drippy) bar. If it’s a pump-style soap dispenser, it still needs occasional washing. They’re a haven for bacteria.
Think about it—you reach for that soap pump with the very hands you’re trying to wash clean. Any present germs have the opportunity to latch on and hang out for the next “handy” visitor.
And refillable dispensers? Well, according to one study, (with samples being taken from soap dispensers in a variety of public restrooms), certain types of bacteria grow so well in the container, it can be like washing with contaminated soap.
You may not have much control over how clean public soap dispensers are maintained, but if you’re home, be sure your soap dispenser gets an occasional wash-down.
It’s impossible to keep your hands clean 100% of the time, but it’s especially crucial to wash them regularly throughout the day, definitely before you eat, and especially after touching items like money.
The Hard Fact Of Using Cold Hard Cash
While American paper currency is made of a blend of cotton and linen fibers, those paper banknotes contain hundreds of microorganisms on them! (And believe us, you don’t want to know all of the bacterial variety details.) Some money and coins even contain pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.
So, if you’ve just paid cash and are about to eat your lunch—think twice and get your hands washed before you take that first bite!
Getting More Than What You Order?
Speaking of lunch—if you’re dining out and find yourself perusing the restaurant menu, be sure you wash your hands after placing your order. Restaurants can already be pretty germ-ridden, but that menu alone can hold a staggering 185,000 bacterial organisms.
Once you know that, it may be hard to even want to order, let alone eat your meal. But thankfully, most of the bacteria on menus isn’t too harmful, though the most common illnesses you may pick up are respiratory infections.
Cook at home for the cleanest, most nutritious option. But if you opt to eat out, keep the menus away from babies’ mouths, and once you’ve placed your order, go wash your hands before you eat.
Doorknobs, Handrails, & Handles All Have This In Common…
Multiple people continuously touching the same surface all day long. This could be everything from an escalator handrail to a bathroom door latch. And public transportation especially sees a major turnover of passengers (old and young, sick and well) all sharing their germs on every surface they touch.
When it comes to passengers, airports certainly have plenty of them. According to the FAA, that number is 2.7 million airline passengers! Every day! That’s a lot of people.
More people always means more germs, so be safe when you’re traveling. That includes thinking about what you touch and making sure you wash frequently.
The Baggage We Carry
No, we’re not delving into disappointments and regrets. The baggage we’re talking about here is the suitcase you take on vacation, the gym bag you carry, your purse, wallet, reusable grocery bags, and backpacks. They all are germ-ridden surfaces that need regular cleaning.
When it comes to reusable grocery bags, they’re fantastic for helping eliminate waste, right? Yes! But sadly only about 3% of people wash their bags regularly.
If you consider that one moment they may have a slightly leaking pack of raw meat in them, and the next time you use them you’re throwing in a fresh bunch of asparagus and some lettuce—you can surely see where this could become problematic.
Choose reusable, washable bags. We like the Real Food Is Medicine Cotton Tote since you can toss it right into the washing machine. This can cut down the bacteria transfer and help in keeping your grocery goods safe.
As for gym bags, it should be pretty obvious if you’re putting sweaty workout clothes and shoes in the bag, it just plain needs to be washed regularly too. At the very least wipe it down with a natural cleaner of choice (according to bag’s care instructions) and let it air out. Setting it outdoors in some fresh air and sunshine can help too. Thanks to ultraviolet radiation, the sunlight can act as a remarkable disinfectant! And it’s free.
This is a good idea for luggage. Your suitcase has not only been by your side on many travels, but it also most likely has been shoved in countless car trunks, airplane cargo storage holds, and that’s not even mentioning the miles its rolled across various floors—hotel lobbies, train stations, airports and airport bathrooms, sidewalks, parking lots, and so on.
Wipe down the handles to clean it regularly while you’re on your trip and when you get home give it a more thorough cleaning.
When it comes to your backpack, wallet, or purse, they go with you pretty much everywhere and get set down on just about everything. Backpacks carry school books and ride on the floor of buses. They often carry our laptops that get set down on every cafe table we work at.
Your wallet may sit on the counter as you sign a receipt. Your purse may go from your shoulder to the floor and then plop on the kitchen counter, table, or bed when you get home. That’s pretty icky when you think about it.
Non-toxic baby wipes can be one option for quick cleaning on the go. Depending on your item’s material and care instructions, they’re often a safe choice to use for wiping a dirty surface.
Leave Your Shoes At The Door
Besides letting your feet breathe and feel free, your shoes have walked in and on more disgusting things than you want to contemplate. Beyond the dirt and germs, if your grocery store or workplace is sprayed with pesticides, those get on your shoes too. Not to mention, about 90% of the shoes we wear have some degree of E. coli on the soles.
If you’re not removing your footwear before you traipse through your home, then you’re probably bringing in a lot of easily avoidable substances that could harm you and your family.
Be Smart About Your Smartphone
It’s been said that phones deliver more than messages. These little “go with us everywhere” electronics are full of potentially hazardous bacteria, often coated with everything from fecal matter to MRSA. If you share your phone, it’s even worse.
Especially because they often stay warm due to use, unfortunately, cellphones are happy breeding grounds for germs—they’re typically close to your face and mouth countless times a day, and everything that’s on your hands gets on your phone.
Plus you probably set your phone down more than you realize—on counters, tables, desks, and even that toilet paper dispenser in the stall. You don’t want to then put your phone right up on your cheek!
Since every square inch of your phone has around 25,000 germs, (which is more than a toilet seat), using an alcohol-based moist wipe on your device each day would be an option for cutting down on germ accumulation and exposure.
Safety Means More Than Just Buckling Up
You diligently strap your children into their car seats to protect them as you drive around, but you may also want to consider protecting them by cleaning that car seat. While adults touch their faces 3.6 times an hour as we already discussed, children do so about 60 times an hour. This means everything they touch goes in their mouth, eyes, and nose—all bacteria entry points.
The car seat is slept in, eaten in, cried in, played in, and usually pretty full of countless crumbs and multiple spills from sippy cups that just didn’t quite sell well enough. It makes your baby’s seat a haven for germs. Keep them safe by vacuuming out crumbs and washing the seat regularly.
Take Note What You’re Taking Note With
While a lot of our “writing” may be done digitally these days, that ink pen you borrowed to sign with may just have had 200 bacteria per square inch on it. (The typical office pen does.) Plus, a lot of people chew on pen caps or gnaw on a pencil eraser.
And if we’re talking about a pen in a doctor’s office…it most likely contains more than 46,000 times the germs an average toilet seat has.
So wherever you are, if you borrow a writing implement, you may want to wash your hands after that. It’s best to use your own pens of course to cut down on this gross germ transfer, but even your office tools should still be occasionally cleaned as well.
The Toilet Seat
It always seems to be “the thing” we measure all germy-ness against, and yet as has been referenced already, there’s plenty of everyday things more disgusting than your average toilet. Since this is an article on bacteria breeding surfaces though and how to stay well by being clean, how could we leave out the discussion of the porcelain throne?
An article from BBC candidly asks, “Would you chop your vegetables on your toilet seat? I think pretty much all of us would say No. But maybe we should think again.”
The thing is, the toilet seat has kind of been given an unfair reputation. When toilet seats were analyzed, the average one is discovered to contain only about 50 bacteria per square inch. Ironically, when it comes to microorganisms, it’s one of the “cleaner” surfaces when we’re talking “germs”.
Usually, there are about 200 times more fecal bacteria on the average kitchen cutting board than found on a toilet seat. (And that’s often due to their exposure to raw meat.)
Kitchen Cleanliness Counts
Since we’re already talking about the kitchen cutting board, it only makes sense to discuss the sponge you’d wash your cutting board and counters with. While we’re making “toilet seat comparisons”, here are the figures according to the studies presented in that same BBC article…
There are about 10 million bacteria per square inch on a sponge and a million on a dishcloth. That means the kitchen sponge is 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, and the dishcloth is 20,000 times dirtier!
So reach for a dishcloth instead of a sponge, and be sure both get thoroughly washed regularly.
Furry Friends and Their Accessories
When it comes to pets, that could be a whole separate article, but in short, while our animal buddies are great companions, they do come with some germ exposure worth considering.
Often animals love to find something that stinks and then roll around in it. Dogs have been caught eating from the kitty litter box. Both dogs and cats are licking themselves clean one moment, only to come lick your hand or face a moment later. They also can come in contact with plants like poison ivy, which may not bother them, but can transfer to your skin and cause allergic reactions.
The point is, bathe pets regularly and wash your hands often after spending time with them. Pet beds are full of not just hair and dander but can provide a soft home for germs as well. Be sure to periodically vacuum and wash them (according to care instructions).
Pet leashes are dragged through, well, pretty much everything. So when it comes to walking your four-legged friend, be sure to clean their leash regularly and wash your hands after getting back from the walk.
This is a worthwhile policy to implement in your household—whenever you come home, just head to the sink and wash your hands. It promotes wellness by sending germs down the drain and helps keep your home safer and cleaner for the ones you love.
Don’t Live In Fear
Not all germ exposure is a bad thing, it’s true. We don’t want to live in such a sterile environment that the slightest encounter with bacteria makes us ill. There’s a balance to be had, so that our immune systems are taught, and continue to know how to work optimally and keep us well.
It would take many books to cover all the germ-ridden surfaces and the studies that are done to back these up, proving we need to wash, clean, and care about our surroundings. So just be aware as you go about your day.
Wash regularly and take time to clean the surfaces you and your family regularly touch and use. You can offer your body a boost to support your immune system with supplements like Vitamin C, herbs such as turmeric, and a variety of medicinal mushroom powders.
Just remember, well-being comes from eating nutritiously and being clean, which all support health and longevity!