In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

September 17, 2019

Hit the Soap and Water After Touching These Seven Things

By In the Loop

A list of seven surfaces that harbor a staggering number of germs is a great reminder to protect yourself by taking one important step over and over again: Wash your hands.


While perusing AsiaOne recently (as one does), we came upon a list that left us feeling a little like Adrian Monk, jonesing for some antibacterial wipes. The publication lists seven surfaces that harbor a staggering number of germs. After reading it, our carefree days of paying for a sandwich and then immediately eating it are over. Grab your hand sanitizer and read on to find out what warrants an immediate stop, drop and wash after touching.

  • Money. Does it make you happy to have a wallet full of cash? Maybe it shouldn't. After all, you don't know where your dollars have been. "Pathogens like E. coli and salmonella can be transferred as you never know who has touched the money before," AsiaOne reports. (That gives a whole new meaning to dirty money.)
  • Touchscreens. Paying with plastic isn't any safer. "Public touchscreens attract germs since they are located in public places and are constantly touched by many people," the publication helpfully points out.
  • Restaurant menus. "Even though a restaurant may seem clean, it can be quite germ-ridden," AsiaOne reports. And those germs are everywhere – including the menu, which may "contain up to 185,000 bacterial organisms due to contact with multiple people." (Check, please.)
  • Handrails, handles and doorknobs (oh my!). "Buses, trains and any other forms of public transportation are a great source of germs since many people touch the same surfaces on handrails, escalators or bathroom door handles," according to AsiaOne. (Anyone else beginning to detect a theme?)
  • Surfaces at the airport. OK. Now we’re sure of it. Our friends at AsiaOne spell it out for us. "More shared public surfaces and more people touching them result in more germs." A whole lot-o-germs, according to the publication, which notes that "around 2.6 million airline passengers travel every day, making airports homes to thousands of kinds of bacteria." (Ready for a staycation?)
  • Kitchen sponges. Maybe not. It turns out you've got germs at home, too. "A study found 326 different species of bacteria living on used kitchen sponges," AsiaOne reports.
  • Animals. Even our furry friends aren't immune to passing along pathogens. They may "carry various diseases" that can be picked up through petting.

Fortunately, there's a simple way to protect yourself from all of these invisible troublemakers. You just need to wash your hands. And while that sounds easy, it turns out a lot of us are doing it wrong. "People go to the bathroom, and they run their fingers under the water. Well, that does nothing," Gregory Poland, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, tells our friends at Mayo Clinic News Network. "Then they grab the dirty faucet, and they touch the dirty handle on the way out of the bathroom."

To do the job right, start by lathering up long enough to sing "Happy Birthday." (We could tell you the rest, but it would be more fun for you to watch Dr. Poland show Jimmy Kimmel how it's done.)

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Tags: Dr. Gregory Poland, hand hygiene, Health and Wellness, Mayo Clinic News Network, Vaccine Research Group

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