You might consider yourself a clean freak, but germs often lurk in the most unsuspecting places. Unfortunately, you could be exposing yourself to illness with almost everything you touch, and you probably didn’t realize it. For most of us, getting sick start with looking for someone to blame—the coworker who infected the whole office, your child who brought home a bug from daycare, your partner who refused to get a flu shot. However, besides the obvious culprits, there are a lot of other things that could be making sick, and you’ve probably never even thought of them.
Sure, laminated restaurant menus probably get washed every now and then, but how often really? Unless they get sticky, it’s not likely that they get washed between customers, meaning that you’re picking up anything on the hands of the diner that came before you. On average, restaurant menus carry around 185,000 bacteria, and they can actually last longer on laminated menus than they do on paper versions—we’re potentially talking things like E. coli and salmonella, along with the more common cold and flu bugs, too.
The point of a water dispenser is to filter the bad stuff out of our water—how could it be making us sick? Think for a second about the last time you actually decided to clean or sanitize that dispenser, and you have your answer. The space can easily become home to mold and yeast, and even some nastier bacteria if it makes contact with a dirty glass. To clean it, just turn your ice maker off, wash the area with a mild soap and warm water, then rinse and dry it thoroughly.
If you’ve ever shared your mascara with anyone, even a trusted friend, we have one question to ask you—do you want to get pink eye? Because that’s how you get pink eye. Fungi and bacteria can lurk around the eye without causing any symptoms whatsoever, but give them a tube of mascara to live in and they’ll thrive. Do yourself and your friends a favor and keep your products to yourself, and replace your tube of mascara every three months if you haven’t used up the whole thing.
You’d think you’d be safe buying brand-new clothes from the store, but that’s not always the case. For one thing, clothes that have never been washed can still contain traces of materials they may have picked up while being processed, including formaldehyde. These chemicals can cause skin irritations, or lead to an extreme allergic reaction in others. Not only that, but things like lice and scabies can remain on clothing after someone has tried them on, and you could be picking them up if you don’t kill them off with a wash.
Your Yoga Mat
Even if you bring your own mat to your favorite yoga class, you could still be putting your skin at risk if you don’t take care of it. Though standard yoga doesn’t often lead to heavy sweating, any little bit of sweat could be getting trapped in your mat where it can feed any lingering fungus or bacteria. Do yourself a favor and clean it regularly.
We hate to break it to you, but your television remote may just be one of the most disgusting things you own. Just think for one second about how many germs you could potentially pick up on your hands, how often you touch your TV remote without washing your hands, and how often you actually wash the remote itself—we’re willing to bet it’s never. It’s actually been confirmed that the TV remote is the most germ-ridden part of any hotel room, especially when you consider that germs could survive for a few days on its surface.
You might be wondering how something designed to help keep us clean could end up becoming so dirty, but the answer lies in how often you actually make time to clean it—like that TV remote of yours, our guess is that it’s not often. Unscrew your shower head and you’ll likely find a layer of slime referred to a biofilm, which can easily become a feeding ground for bacteria. In fact, your shower could be giving you a respiratory infection without you even knowing it.
Your Washing machine
Yes, washing machines help to clean our clothes, but those detergents we add into them aren’t actually designed to get rid of germs. Not only that, but most people don’t wash their everyday laundry with hot water, so there’s really nothing to get in there and clean the machine. If your washing machine has a setting that’s solely designed to clean itself out, give it a whirl from time or time, or just run the machine empty with hot water and bleach.
Have you ever heard that flushing the toilet with the lid open sends tons of disgusting particles flying into the air? If you brushed it off, you shouldn’t because it’s real and it even has a name—toilet plume. If you’re someone who’s prone to bringing your phone into the bathroom, this is a habit you should probably rethink, as any particles that settle on your phone could end up on your face or, even worse, on your fingers that later end up in your mouth.
Most people know that washing produce before eating it is the right thing to do, but there are a lot of people who probably don’t follow this rule because it’s inconvenient. However, did you know that sometimes it’s washing your produce that could be contaminating it? For things that are pre-washed, it’s washing them in the sink that could be exposing them to any bacteria that could be lurking there. If you’re someone who likes to make sure your produce is extra clean, make sure you’re not exposing it to anything but water.
When was the last time you cleaned off the blade on your can opener, the meat and produce drawers in your refrigerator, or the gasket of your blender? These items come into contact with food often, and they’re ones that most of us don’t even think to clean. It’s important to consider, though, as they could be introducing bacteria into our food with each use.
There are some who can’t stand a weak handshake, but did you know that a weak handshake actually transfers less germs than a strong one? In fact, a strong handshake is likely to transfer twice the amount of bacteria to the other person’s hand than a weak one is. Your best bets? When you can, go with a high-five or a fist bump, and just try not to give too firm of a handshake the rest of the time.
Waiting Room Magazines
It might not seem like a magazine would be home to too many germs, but consider how many people might touch them on any given day, along with the fact that they can’t be disinfected. If you’re looking at a magazine in a doctor’s office waiting room, you should also think about what the person who read the magazine before you might’ve been in the office for, and whether or not they could’ve left a piece of it behind.
Yes, a reusable water bottle is excellent for the Earth, but it might not always be the best for your health if you don’t wash it often. Even if you don’t mean to, you could be adding bacteria from your mouth into you water with each drink you take, and it’ll only start to multiply as the water sits. How much bacteria, exactly? Research shows that any given water bottle may be home to “300,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter.”
Next time you head to the mall or airport, think twice before you grab onto the handrail of that escalator. Tests have shown that they commonly contain substances like blood, feces, urine, mucus, E. coli, and plain ol’ food. If you have to grab on for whatever reason, hunt for some hand sanitizer before you do anything else, and especially before you touch your face, phone, or especially your mouth.