“80% of disease is caught by direct or indirect contact – either interacting with a person who carries germs or touching a surface where those organisms live.”
Philip Tierno, PhD director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical School
CLOTHING. Did you wipe down that gym bench or bus seat before sitting down? If not, chances are germs from that surface have transferred to your clothing. Your clothes can harbor salmonella, hepatitis and other viruses. “If you’re on the commuter bus, train, subway, at day care, school, or work you can pick up all sorts of bacteria and possibly viruses and fungi and then bring them home”, says Jason Tetro, microbiology researcher.
And detergents may not destroy those germs. According to Charles Gerba, microbiologist at University of Arizona: germs can survive despite washing because most Americans don’t use hot water or bleach anymore.
TIPS: Wash clothes in hot water between 140 and 150 degrees to kill germs. If possible, use bleach. If neither is feasible, toss clothes in dryer for at least a half hour or hang in the sun to dry. Gerba suggests decontaminating the washer once a month by running an empty cycle with a capful of bleach. Not home? Toss clothing in a germ-inhibiting cinch bag to keep germs and odors away!
SHOES. Shoes are a bigger hot spot. In 2016, a study by University of Arizona showed that the average shoe sole is covered with 421,000 bacteria and that 90% of those bacteria transfer directly to a clean floor on first contact.
TIPS: Remove shoes at the door upon entering your home. When traveling, keep shoes in a separate bag that defends against germs.
PURSES & BAGS. Purses and carry-all bags host a plethora of germs. Handbags are constant companions going everywhere and are placed on many floors and public surfaces. A UK study concluded: “When you carry a purse, you are essentially toting a big bag of bacteria around with you everywhere you go.” Gerba swabbed the bottoms of women’s purses and found a third of them contaminated with fecal bacteria.
TIPS: Hang your purse/carry-all bag on a hook or on the back of a chair rather than placing on public surfaces or floors. Never put a purse on your kitchen counter or other surfaces in your home. Clean your bag as per manufacturer instruction or use a bag constructed of germ-inhibiting fabrics that defend against germs – inside and out.
SMARTPHONE. Smartphones are a breeding ground for germs and a cesspool of bacteria. We take our smartphones everywhere… even into the bathroom. We use it in the kitchen. It often touches your face, your desk and all other surfaces within arm’s reach. When Gerba and his team tested phones, they found that the phones contained 100,000 bacteria. Other studies have found serious pathogens on smartphones such as Streptococcus, MRSA and even E. coli.
TIPS: Wash your hands often. Clean your phone as per manufacturer instructions. (This may include a microfiber cloth and disinfecting solutions.) Keep your smartphone safely protected from germs during everyday activities. When not in use, keep in a protective pocket or pouch.
- Always carry disinfecting wipes to clean seats before sitting or surfaces before setting down your bag or phone.
- Apply hand sanitizer to clean your hands and wash your hands frequently.
- Use a bag/purse that defends against germs. Keep your smartphone in a protective pouch or case that defends against germs.
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