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10 surprising things full of germs & what to do about them

04 May 2016

Individuals try to avoid touching objects or using things that are dirty or unhygienic. But while there are many obvious germ-filled places, there are many unknown threats that people can come into contact with too. In an effort to stay clean and healthy, here are ten surprisingly dirty places and what you can do about them:

1. Kitchen Sink & Sponges

You’d be surprised at the amount of bacteria that builds up in your kitchen sink, especially when you wash meat and poultry in it. Kitchen sponges are also another target for bacteria growth as they’re prone to spread bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella. Make sure you clean your kitchen sink with soap and warm water after every use and disinfect sponges by soaking them in a bleach solution once a week. 

2. Office Microwave 

The microwave in your office is used multiple times every day and to warm different types of food. Because so many people use it, the office microwave is prone to accumulate germs quickly. Before using it, make sure you wipe down the surface and the inside of the microwave and wash your hands after you use it. 

3. Makeup

Women would be surprised at the amount of germs in their makeup bag and on their cosmetics. Items such as lipstick, mascara, and even makeup brushes are a breeding ground for germs. Also, sharing and borrowing makeup from others leads to the growth of bacteria, often contaminating makeup and causing pink eyes or pimples. To prevent spreading germs through your makeup, make sure you clean brushes and applicators before and after use.

4. Shopping Cart Handles

One of the filthiest public objects can be shopping cart handles because so many people use them without washing their hands. Research has found that shopping cart handles are full of saliva, bacteria and much more. Many grocery stores place sanitary wipes for customers to clean the handles before use. Make sure you either bring your own wipes or use the one’s provided at the stores to clean the handles before you use them, especially when you place young children in the carts. 

5. Pillows

Even though pillows are used by single individuals or shared by spouses, they are surprisingly filled with fungi and bacteria. Because people sweat, shed skin, and even drool all over their pillows, they tend to be packed with allergy-inflaming fungi and dust mites. To prevent your pillows from accumulating germs, regularly launder them and use anti-allergen covers. 

6. Laundry Basket

Your laundry basket goes through piles and piles of dirty clothes — sweaty gym clothes, football uniforms, soiled baby clothes and so much more. It’s no surprise that your laundry basket is bound to collect germs. To avoid the spread of germs, make sure you carry heavily soiled or dirty laundry in plastic bags, wash your hands immediately after carrying laundry and use a separate container to carry your clean laundry. 

7. Headphones 

We use headphones every day for hours at a time. Research shows that using headphones for an hour continuously coats the buds with bacteria, and leaving your headphones laying around at the bottom of your gym bag doesn’t help either. Most headphones come with rubber nubbins that are detachable, which can be taken apart and soaked in vinegar for 15 minutes to kill off all bacteria and germs. Make sure you let them dry before use and repeat as often as you can. 

8.  ATM Machine

Similar to shopping cart handles, a lot of people touch ATM buttons with dirty hands. Unfortunately, there aren’t any wipes at the bank machines to wipe down the buttons before use so your best bet is to use a hand sanitiser after every use.  

9. Handbags

A study found that women’s purses were amongst the top three dirtiest things they touched every day. Another small study found E.coli on 25% of purses from its study sample, which is quite a lot considering that every woman carries some type of a handbag/purse. What to do? Don’t leave your handbag on dirty floors or the public bathroom you’re using. Opt for handbags made out of leather or other materials that are easier to wipe and which can be laundered regularly. 

10. Mobile phones

Everyone has mobile phones that they carry with them all the time. You might be one of many individuals who takes their mobile phones to the bathroom with them. You’re at more risk of infections and getting sick from touching your mobile phone if it has been in the bathroom or any other dirty place with you (a study found one in six mobile phones were contaminated with faecal bacteria!). Make sure that you power down your mobile phone once a week and wipe it down thoroughly with an antibacterial wipe or disinfectant. 

Written by Ankush Gupta, founder of cleaning agency St. Anne’s Housekeeping