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Top 10 Germiest Things You Touch Every Day

Top 10 Germiest Things You Touch Every Day

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By    |   Thursday, 06 October 2016 12:11 PM

You probably already know than public restrooms, doctor’s offices, and fitness centers are hotbeds for germs. You may have even embraced the wisdom of using hand sanitizers, washing your hands frequently, or not shaking hands during cold and flu season.

But germs are experts at playing hide and seek. The odds are high that you touch many germ-ridden surfaces each day without considering they may be hazardous to your health.

Here are 10 of the most surprising places where vast quantities of germs lie in wait, based on analyses by the National Science Foundation and other expert organizations.

Dish sponges and rags. These are the single germiest surfaces in the typical American household. A shocking 86 percent of dish sponges and rags harbor mold and yeast, 77 percent contain coliform bacteria, and 18 percent test positive for staphylococcus bacteria.

What to do: Rinsing doesn’t rid these items of germs, so experts recommend microwaving wet sponges once a day for two minutes and washing rags on a hot cycle every day or two.

The kitchen sink. Bacteria love the moist metal aeration screen at the end of the faucet and up to 500,000 of colonies can accumulate in the sink. That’s a whopping 1,000 times the amount of bacteria found on an average toilet. In addition, bacteria thrive in and around the garbage disposal’s rubber stopper.

What to do: At least once a week, disinfect the aeration screen, sink, and garbage disposal with a diluted bleach solution.

Coffee makers. A coffee-maker reservoir is dark and damp — the perfect bacterial breeding ground. Half of reservoirs contain mold and yeast and 9 percent harbor coliform bacteria.

What to do: To get rid of these microbes, add four cups of vinegar to the reservoir, wait 30 minutes, and brew the vinegar. For good measure, run two or three cycles of fresh water through the coffeemaker.

Vacuum cleaners. Because vacuum cleaners suck in a concentrate food sources, they’ve been called “meals on wheels” for bacteria. An alarming 13 percent of vacuum cleaner brushes test positive for E. coli, which could be spread throughout a house with each use.

What to do: Experts recommend changing vacuum bags frequently, preferably outdoors to avoid unleashing an indoor cloud of bacteria. The cavity of bagless vacuum cleaners should be frequently wiped with a diluted bleach solution.

Welcome mats. All footwear collects nasty germs. One study found that almost 96 percent of shoe soles were contaminated with coliform bacteria, including fecal bacteria. So every time you or a guest sets food inside your front door, millions of germs are being planted on the welcome mat and given carte blanche to spread throughout the house.

What to do: One a week, spray the welcome mat with a fabric-safe disinfectant. For extra protection, leave shoes by the door. Also avoid placing bags, groceries, and other objects on the mat.

Handbags and gym bags. Women’s purses are reservoirs for germs such as:

  • Pseudo-monas, a cause of eye infections.
  • Salmonella and E. coli, which cause diarrhea and other GI problems.
  • Staphylococcus bacteria, which cause skin infections.

Similarly, gym bags stuffed with sweaty shirts, shorts, and socks can harbor infectious organisms left behind every day by hundreds of gym of rats.

What to do: Choose leather or vinyl purses over cloth ones because they’re more impervious to germs. Every few days, wipe your bag down with a mild soap or disinfectant and let it air dry.

Place your dirty gym clothes in separate plastic bags before stashing them in your gym bag. Between uses, empty your gym bag and let it air dry. Once a week, swab it inside and out with disinfectant wipes and wash it on the hot cycle.

Restaurant surfaces. Even the cleanest-looking restaurant abounds with bacteria. Rarely cleaned items such as menus carry an average of 185,000 bacteria while heavily handled utensil tubs can be contaminated with any of the approximately 150 species of bacteria that live on human hands.

In one study, at least 50 percent of lemon wedges destined to be plopped in ice water were tainted with human fecal bacteria.

What to do: After handling a menu, excuse yourself and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Bring a hand sanitizer to the restaurant and use it. Don’t have lemon wedges with your water.

Shopping carts. Dozens of people a day use a single shopping cart, and it can be cross-contaminated with germs from meat, dairy products, and fresh produce. Shopping cart handles have been shown to harbor bacteria, viruses, and saliva. In fact, the odds are a disgusting 72 percent that your shopping cart is smeared with fecal bacteria.

What to do: Take advantage of the antibacterial wipes that many supermarkets and other stores now provide. Or bring your own anti-bacterial wipes or gel from home.

Gas pumps. All self-service machines such as ATM machines and MetroCard machines are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. Of these, the worst are gas pumps. In one study, researchers found that 71 percent of gas pump handles were highly contaminated and that the gas pump station – especially the “Enter” key -- was almost as bad.

What to do: Carry a hand sanitizer in your vehicle and use it before and after pumping gas.

Escalator rails. All public conveyances such as buses, trains, and airlines are convention centers for bacteria and viruses. But an often overlooked conveyance is the escalator. In one study, 43 percent of escalator rails had high enough contamination levels to spread disease, and detectable levels of food, urine, mucus, feces, and blood.

What to do: If possible, avoid touching the rail. If you must touch the rail, use a hand sanitizer afterward as soon as possible.
 

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Public restrooms, doctor's offices, and fitness centers are hotbeds for germs, including cold and flu viruses. But many surprising surfaces you touch every day may also harbor disease-causing microbes. Here's a roundup — and how to protect yourself.
germ, hotspots, top, 10
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2016-11-06
Thursday, 06 October 2016 12:11 PM
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