Nurse’s Notes: 15 Germy Things You Touch Every Day

There are things we use every day and give little thought to the germs they may carry.  Keeping these items clean may just help keep you healthy and free from infections.

  1. Cellphone – It goes with you everywhere — even into the bathroom. As a result, it could be up to 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat. In fact, it could have  E.coli on it. That’s a bacteria that can give you diarrhea and stomach cramps. It can live for hours on a warm surface like your phone. The solution: Wash your hands with soap after you go.
  2. Remote Control – Everyone touches it — even the neighbor’s kid who picks his nose nonstop. And when it isn’t in your germy hands, it’s either on the floor or stuck between the sofa cushions — a cozy, dark home for mold and bacteria. Give it a going-over with antibacterial wipes every so often. <!–split–>
  3. Computer Keyboard – You eat lunch over it at work. The kids log on at home and wipe their runny noses while they play their favorite game. The cat hops up for a nap after she leaves the litter box. No surprise it’s covered in germs. To clean things up:  Shut down your computer. Give your keyboard a few good shakes to get rid of loose crumbs.  Use rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or pad to clean around each key.
  4. Dish Sponge – Surprise! It’s the dirtiest thing in your house. By a long shot. That makes sense: It’s wet, absorbent, and you rub food and dirt with it all the time. Sponges are hard to keep clean. Your best bet?  Replace it when it starts to smell.
  5. Toothbrush Holder – How can this be? Your toothpaste kills germs, doesn’t it? Yes, but a lot of them stick to the bristles and drip onto the holder. This spot has one of the highest bacteria readings of anything you touch. Clean it often. One easy way: Remove the gunk, then stick it in the dishwasher.
  6. Anything in the Office Break Room – The microwave, refrigerator doors & faucet are all covered in bacteria. The vending machine buttons aren’t that clean, either. The damp, dark reservoir in your coffee maker could be full of yeast & mold. Wash your hands before & after you touch the appliances. Rinse the coffee pot between uses; run vinegar through it monthly.
  7. Dog Toys – You’ve probably heard a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Doubtful. It isn’t that Fido has fewer germs, he just has different ones. Every time he slobbers on Mr. Squeaky, he doesn’t just transfer bacteria, he creates a sticky wet place for other germs to thrive. There’s no telling what his plaything picks up as he drags it around. Clean rubber toys by hand or in the dishwasher (top shelf only). Toss fabric ones into the wash.
  8. Money – You grab it all the time with your germy hands. So do other people. Researchers found that most dollar bills are covered in 3,000 types of bacteria — everything from the germs that cause acne to microbes from people who lick their fingers when they count out bills. Some countries are printing money on plastic, but the U.S. has yet to take that step. Until we have a cleaner option, wash up after you handle that cash.
  9. Your Office Coffee Cup – You fill it with coffee made from water that sits in a yeast and mold-filled tank. Then you wash it with a dirty sponge that’s full of bacteria. Take it home every day and run it through the dishwasher. At least use dish soap and paper towels if you clean it at work.
  10. The Laundry – Think a quick spin in the washer and dryer will get things clean? Maybe not. One study found that some nasty viruses, including rotavirus, which causes severe stomach troubles, made it through the spin cycle and the dryer. Wash things like underwear on hot, use bleach when you can, and don’t skimp on the drying time.
  11. Your Purse – You stick your hands in it all the time. So do your kids. But you rarely clean it. That accounts for the bacteria that live inside it. The places you leave it, like dirty counters, bathroom stalls, and car floorboards, account for icky travelers on the outside. Hang it on a hook when you can, and clean it with antibacterial wipes. Think about the outside, too — pebbly or uneven surfaces can make better homes for bugs than smooth ones.
  12. The ATM – People from anywhere and everywhere touch buttons on the cash machine. Scientists in New York City found microbes left behind from food like fish and chicken, bacteria from rotting plant and dairy products, and mold linked to spoiled baked goods. There wasn’t a difference between indoor or outdoor machines, but the ones in laundromats and stores were the dirtiest.
  13. Shopping Carts – You fill it with meat and then grab the handle. You sit your little one in it, and she fills her diaper. Birds poop on it while it’s out in the parking lot. That’s why cart handles and seats are often home to  E.coli, campylobacter, and salmonella, all of which cause diarrhea. If your store provides wipes near the cart corral, use them.
  14. Soap Dispensers – Your hands aren’t exactly clean when you give that soap dispenser a nudge, but that isn’t always the reason it’s full of bacteria. The soap inside the gadget can get contaminated if it’s refilled before it’s completely empty. If you wash with it, you’ll transfer the germs to anything you touch afterward.  Wash thoroughly and use paper towels to dry — jet air dryers can spread germs, too.
  15. Kitchen Towel – You don’t just dry your dishes and hands with it. You use it to clean off grimy little hands and faces or wipe up spills on dirty counters. The result: Your dish towel can be home to nasty things like salmonella or fecal bacteria. Good news: The more often you wash your towels, the fewer critters call them home. Soak them for 2 minutes in bleach first.

Your Parish Nurse, Kara