Washing your hands is a given if you want to avoid germs—but it’s especially important after touching these microbe magnets.
Washing your hands is essential to good hygiene, stopping germs in their tracks. Washing your hands limits the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other germs, according to the Mayo Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using soap and clean water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands, as studies show both are effective ways of keeping germs at bay. Of course, it’s impossible to keep your hands 100 percent germ-free all the time, but but it’s absolutely essential after touching the following 10 things. And when cleaning, don’t overlook these 5 everyday items that are dirtier than a toilet seat.
These days you can use a debit or credit card for most purchases, but sometimes you just need to handle cash. When you do, be sure to wash your hands as soon as possible. Researchers tested $1 bills from a New York City bank and found hundreds of microorganisms, including oral and vaginal bacteria, and DNA from pets and viruses. Similar research has shown some cash and coins even contain pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. It doesn’t help that money circulates for a while—$100 bills can circulate for as long as 15 years, according to the Federal Reserve. You’ll never guess how many germs are hiding in your wallet right now.
2. HAND RAILS, HANDLES AND DOOR KNO BS
Hand washing is incredibly important to limit the spread of bacteria and viruses, says Katy Burris, MD, a dermatologist at Columbia University Medical Center. One of the critical times to remember to wash is after riding public transportation, where multiple people are continuously touching the same surfaces, Dr. Burris says. This includes everything from handrails on an escalator to poles on the subway to bathroom door handles.
3. ALMOST ANYTHING IN THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE
Thanks to a parade of patients coming through all day, most things in a doctor’s office harbor germs or bacteria—especially the sign-in pen. In fact, there are 46,000 more germs on that pen than on an average toilet seat. Other gross things to avoid are the waiting room chair armrest and the door handle. So take a few minutes after your visit to stop by the restroom and thoroughly wash—and make sure you’re washing your hands the right way, not the wrong way.
4. ANY ANIMAL
Not everyone washes their hands after touching pets or animals, but they should, according to Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a physician and health expert. “Animals may carry various diseases,” she says. “And because pets are generally thought of as family friendly, hand washing is sometimes overlooked.” Hand washing after touching animals or interacting with pets, whether yours or someone else’s, is absolutely essential.
Now that technology replaces some paper goods, it’s key to wash your hands after touching any screens. One of the worst offenders are kiosk machines in airports or public transportation locations, Dr. Burris says. “Germs are everywhere, and some places may harbor more than you may realize,” she says. Cell phones count, too; especially as we may share them with others. The good news: “Simple washing with soap and water will reduce transmission of these pathogens,” Dr. Burris says.
Well I’m washing my hands after this.