Photo of germs.

7 Surprising Places Germs Lurk

In All Health Watch, Coronavirus, Featured Article, General Health

The pandemic has made us all more worried about germs.

Most of us know the basics…

We should be wary of touching things like shopping cart handles, door knobs, ATM buttons, gas pump handles, and surfaces in public bathrooms.

But studies have found that germs can lurk in unlikely spots…places we might never think would hold cold, flu. or COVID-19 viruses.

Here are seven items you likely touch all the time that researchers have found can be packed with disease-causing microbes:

  1. Menus. In restaurants, you see them wipe the tables. The floors and bathrooms may be spotless. But have you ever seen a restaurant employee disinfect a menu? Probably not.

Menus may change hands hundreds of times a week. And they pick up the germs of every person who handles them. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reported that cold and flu viruses can survive for 18 hours on surfaces like plastic-coated restaurant menus.[1]

Never let a menu touch your plate or silverware. After you place your order, wipe your hands with an alcohol-based sanitizer or wash your hands.

  1. Lemon wedges. According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes.

It’s because servers’ hands repeatedly reach into bowls containing the wedges, transferring germs. The study found E. coli and fecal bacteria.

Tell your server that you’d prefer your beverage without the fruit.

  1. Restaurant trays. Microbiologists from The National Sanitation Foundation tested 26 different public surfaces for germs. Fast food restaurant trays were the second most germ-infested public surface…right after public park sandboxes.

They were found to a wide range of pathogens, including cold and flu viruses. If you have the option, don’t use a tray. Otherwise, give them a quick clean with a disinfecting wipe.

  1. Waiting room magazines. How many sick people have touched these? Keep your hands off them.
  2. Garbage disposal opening. There are 1,000 times more bacteria in your kitchen sink than on the average toilet seat.[2]

And the rubber flange at the top of the disposal is a perfect breeding ground for germs because of the constant moisture.

At least once a week, wipe it with a diluted bleach solution.

  1. Remote controls. One study found that controllers can harbor five times more germs than a toilet seat.[3]

Unlike a toilet, most of us rarely think to clean our remote. Give it a wipe down weekly with an alcohol-based electronics cleaner.

  1. Purses. A purse regularly comes into contact with germ-infested surfaces like floors, bathroom counters, and shopping carts.[4]

Spray or wipe it with an alcohol-based, fabric-safe sanitizing spray.

One more thing…

You’ve probably heard that cellphones can be full of germs. Studies have shown that they carry 10 times more bacteria and viruses on average than a toilet seat.

You should clean your phone at least once a week. But do it the right way. Don’t use bleach wipes.

They can remove the protective coating on your touchscreen. Instead, use a soft cloth moistened with a commercial alcohol-based electronics cleaner. Or use a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half water.[5]

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