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Germ Covered Things You Touch Everyday

Phones and sponges can hold millions of germs.
Phones and sponges can hold millions of germs.

Every day you come in contact with things that carry millions of germs. Touching something contaminated, and then touching your face, is how millions of people get sick every month.

A client I've been working with for years, shared a secret she uses to stay well. She avoids touching the really germy things in her life. She doesn't walk around wearing surgical gloves and she doesn't spray everything with disinfectant. She just avoids touching the stuff that experts say carry the most risk. Here's my list of more than a dozen things you should avoid touching, or clean more regularly, to stay healthier.

Picture your cell phone as a little block of bacteria. You carry it around, setting it down on any number of dirty surfaces all day. Then you touch it with hands that aren't always the cleanest. That phone in your pocket may have more germs per square inch on it than a public toilet.

Keep it cleaner by not carrying it with you into the bathroom. Put it away when you're cooking too, so you're not tempted to touch it and accidentally transfer germs to your food. At least once a day, wipe your phone down with alcohol or sanitizing wipes. During cold and flu season, wipe it down a couple times a day. I like to do it at night before I go to bed, so it's clean when I get up. I do it again around noon before I eat lunch.

Television remotes are surprisingly filthy. Everyone who watches TV touches it and you probably drop it on the floor regularly. Wipe your remote down every couple of days. If there are a lot of people in your home, invest in a “sanitary” or “water-resistant” remote. That's a remote designed to be easily wiped down or even washed in the dishwasher.

Sponges are ideal breeding grounds for germs. They get wet regularly, they have lots of nooks and crannies bacteria can hide in and they're constantly exposed to new germs as you wash dishes. It's a little ironic that the tool many people use to clean, is often highly contaminated.

You've got a few choices. Microwaving a scrub sponge on high for a minute can help, or two minutes for cellulose sponges. But you've got to make sure to remove any metal on them so they don't spark or catch on fire. Plus, you've got to put them in wet, because it's the steam that kills most of the germs. Make sure they get really hot. If they're not left in long enough, the heat can help bacteria multiply and make things worse.

Running a sponge through a dishwasher can mostly disinfect it. So can soaking it for at least a minute in bleach. Unfortunately some bacteria can still hang on even through both those treatments. If you've got someone sick in the house, experts recommend replacing a sponge every day. At the very least, you should get a new one once a week.

A cheaper and more environmentally friendly solution is to replace sponges with a scrub brush or dishrag. The scrub brush doesn't have a lot of spaces germs can hide in; just put it in the dishwasher after every use. Wash dishrags on hot or sanitary and they can be reused hundreds of times.

If you have a dog or cat, you probably don't regularly clean their toys. But remember where they've been. Bouncing on the floor or in a yard, into a slobbering animals mouth and then your hands. Wash plastic and rubber toys in the top of the dishwasher and cloth in the washing machine.

When you head outside, take a look at doorknobs and car door handles. That's one place you know almost everyone touches and they can be real hotbeds of germs. Wipe the door handles in your house and on your car once a week. If you're taking a cab, Uber or Lyft, wipe your hands down when you get in the car and again when you leave.

In the supermarket wipe the handle of the shopping cart. Many supermarkets never clean the carts and they can get pretty filthy. While you're at it, throw your reusable shopping bags in the washing machine. They can pick up a lot of germs and many people never clean them.

Filling up your gas tank is another infection opportunity. Think about all the people that handled that pump before you. Keep hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes in the car so you can clean your hands after you finish.

At the checkout counter, avoid using the signing pen on the credit card machine. Hundreds of people might handle it between cleanings. I suggest carrying a pen that has a stylus tip on it. That way you can use your own pen to sign things and use it to push buttons without touching them directly.

The button for the ground floor on an elevator is another germ hangout. Everybody in the building that's leaving will push that button. If you're not carrying your stylus pen to push it, you can hit it with your knuckle. That way you're less likely to catch something if you don't wash your hands before you touch your face.

After walking around and touching things all day, many people sit down to work at a computer keyboard. When was the last time you cleaned it? Get a little vacuum or compressed air to get rid of things that stick under the keys, and a sanitizing wipe to kill the germs. While you're at it, wipe down the top of the desk as well. Just make sure you use the sanitizer as directed, so it maintains contact long enough to kill everything.

In an office kitchen, look around at what people touch the most. The handle of a coffee pot, the dispenser on a water machine or the buttons on a microwave. Wipe them down with a little sanitizer before you use them and you'll help yourself and the next couple of people after you.

When you go out to eat, menus are often the dirtiest things in the restaurant. Many are only cleaned with a rag and water. Make sure your menu doesn't touch your plate or silverware, and wash your hands or use sanitizer after you finish with it.

Purses often go from dirty counters, to dirty car seats and even bathroom floors. Clean the inside and outside of your purse at least once a week with alcohol wipes. Keep it off the floor when you can. If it's got a rough or uneven surface, you'll have to clean it a little more thoroughly than purses that are smooth.

The most surprising place where germs hang out, is the pump on top of a soap or hand sanitizer dispenser. Most people touch them when their hands are dirty, and those germs end right up on the pump. Replace pump containers in your home and business with models that provide touchless dispensing.

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