Reducing Germs: Washing hands

Image courtesy of FrameAngel /

Everyone knows that washing hands often is one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of illness. But did you know that according to research published in the Journal of Environmental Health, only five percent of people wash their hands properly after using the bathroom? My initial reaction is “yuck,” but after reading that one should lather up with soap and water for twenty seconds before rinsing, I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m guilty. If I know I’ve been exposed to a threat, such as being around someone with a cold, I might pay particular attention to my hand-washing method, but in general, I spend less than the required time scrubbing.

You do too. Admit it.

Wondering what else you can do to avoid germs? Along with hand washing, Women’s Health magazine suggests the following:

Carry dry hand sanitizer. It’s good to have a dry hand sanitizer handy (pun intended) in case there is no soap and water available.

Use metal water bottles. Use metal water bottles over plastic because bacteria adhere more to plastic than metal. And be sure to clean the metal bottle well after each use to eliminate any lingering germs. Confession time. I used to keep a plastic bottle of water in my car and sip from it for days. Eventually, I concluded this was an unsafe habit, and I stopped drinking from it,but it remained in my cup holder in case of emergency stickiness. Like when I eat apple slices while driving.

Clean your cell phones regularly. They are another big source of bacteria. Think about it. We touch that thing all day long, why shouldn’t it carry loads of germs? Combat them by cleaning your phone at least once a week with an alcohol-free wipe, then dry it with a super-soft cloth.

Keep your work area clean. Regular cleaning of your entire work environment with a disinfectant wipe will help keep the germs at bay. I’ll add that this practice probably isn’t such a bad idea for your home work area, that is, your laptop, house phones, etc., either.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Monitor your make-up. Clean your brushes once a week and your make up bag once a month. Liquid products used around the eye, such as eyeliner and mascara, are particularly vulnerable to bacterial growth, and, therefore, eye contamination. There are differing opinions on when to dispose of these products, but I think it’s safe to say that you should keep them no more than a year, maybe less. Check all make up products for their recommended expiration dates.

Scrub your purse. It contains more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Now there is a not-so-pleasant piece of data. If you own a cloth purse, you can machine wash using the delicate cycle and cold water. For leather, use a disinfectant wipe inside and out. I can identify with this. I often put my purse places I know I shouldn’t, like the bathroom floor or under my chair in a restaurant or coffee shop. They make portable purse hooks you can use to hang your purse on a table, but I’m skeptical of using them because they take up table space. Some restaurant tables are so tight to begin with; hang a purse next to you and you’re taking up more than your allotted space, probably using some of your neighbor’s precious property.

How do you feel about purse hooks?

Do you have other suggestions for reducing germs in your life?