Shared spaces come with cross-contamination risks, but what about the bacteria hotspots at home and work that you don’t think about? Find out more about what to look out for – and what you can do about them – in this blog.
At Initial hygiene, we talk about cross-infection a lot; if you’re reading our blogs on a regular basis you’re probably starting to get the idea that the world can be a pretty germy place, and the last 2 years of the pandemic have certainly reinforced that.
Simply going about your daily routine at home and the office can bring you into contact with disease-causing organisms such as strep bacteria (which causes sore throats and ear infections) and noroviruses (which cause stomach flu) – to name but a few.
There are plenty of obviously “germy” places that spring to mind: the public toilet, the gym change-room, etc, but did you know that some bacteria hotspots are places and things you may not have considered?
9 Bacteria hotspots we bet you didn’t know about:
Did you know your office desk is way dirtier than a toilet bowl! According to studies done by University of Arizona Microbiologist Dr Charles P Gerba the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet bowl, simply because people usually don’t clean their desks on a regular basis, and may also eat at their desks.
Dr Gerba has conducted several studies in which he looked at germs in the workplace, and his results showed that the 4 most germ-contaminated spots in the office are the phone, the keyboard, the computer mouse, the desktop (ranked from most germy to least germy).
Viruses such as the flu can survive for two or three days on desktops, phones, and computer keyboards. They’re transmitted when you touch contaminated objects and then put your hands on your nose, mouth, and eyes. Checkout our blog on Tips and tricks for keeping your laptop and desktop keyboard clean.
2. Ladies handbags
Research done by our Initial team in the UK has shown that many ladies are carrying around more than they bargained for, as the handles of women’s handbags are home to more bacteria than the average toilet flush.
In total, Initial found that one in five handbag handles was home to levels of bacteria-related contamination which pose a significant risk of cross-contamination. And when you consider that women often place their handbags on surfaces such as their beds, kitchen counters and office desks, you can see how this could lead to further cross contamination. Read the full article on our UK Initial website.
3. Your gym bag
In a similar vein to ladies handbags, have you ever considered how clean (or not) your gym bag might be? Initial carried out swab tests on a variety of gym bags and found high levels of coliform bacteria on the handle. A broad class of bacteria, coliforms can be found in the faeces of humans and warm-blooded animals. The presence of this harmful bacterium could have a major impact on the risk of cross contamination and, in turn, illness. And a simple trip to the gym, a place rife with touch points and bacteria-harbouring warmth and sweat, could be enough to trigger a major infection.
“Gym bags are portable; we take them with us into our homes, place of work, in our cars and on public transport,” said Dr Peter Barratt, technical manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene. “If they become contaminated, their potential for accumulating and transferring bacteria and virus particles is significant.”
4. Your belt buckle
Have you ever considered the fact that when visiting the bathroom, we zip, buckle, and re-tuck our clothes before we wash our hands? That means all the bacteria that are on our hands after a visit to the bathroom get deposited on our belts every time we visit the washroom. Hopefully we all wash our clothes on a regular basis, but when was the last time you cleaned your belt buckle? Quite possibly never, making it one of those places that you probably never even considered to be “germy”. Consider sanitising your belt buckle on a regular basis by wiping it down with a sanitiser spray, or using a sanitising wipe.
5. The office water-cooler
We’ve devoted an entire blog post to the topic of the office water cooler, so suffice to say, it’s germier than you would have ever expected – Did you know: your office’s water cooler could be making you ill?
6. Your reusable water bottle
The team at Treadmill Reviews swabbed the lids of reusable water bottles used by athletes and had the samples tested at an independent lab to determine the types and levels of bacteria present. They found that reusable drinking containers are crawling with bacteria.
Why, you may ask? “The surfaces of our teeth, tongues, and gums are covered in hundreds of different species of bacteria,” says family and cosmetic dentist Jonathan Schwartz, associate professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia College. “The opening of a water bottle is probably the biggest hot spot. The water transfers bacteria back and forth between the mouth and bottle. A pull-up spout can make matters worse since your hands can add to this collection of germs. Don’t reuse disposable bottles and wash the reusable kind regularly with soap and hot water.
7. Your cell phone
Did you know each square inch of your cell phone contains roughly 25,000 germs? To put things into perspective a phone can carry roughly 240,000 germs! This means that your phone is dirtier than a toilet and a door knob!
These days we are on our phones more now than we ever were in the past, and we take them everywhere with us. This means that any germs that you get on your hands also migrate to your phone, where they thrive in the heat generated by the constant working of the smart phone’s microprocessor.
8. Fingerprint Scanner
I’ve noticed that post the pandemic many businesses and residential areas are going back to using fingerprint technology for security reasons. Though we may have moved past the worst of the pandemic, did you know that biometric fingerprinting devices are prone to transmitting disease-causing microorganisms indirectly from person to person (cross contamination)?
This is aside from Covid-19, we’ve actually delved deeper into this in one of our older blogs “Is your fingerprint scanner making you sick?” where we highlight a study done by S. Nirupa, V. Gayathri and Priyadarshini Shanmugam.
9. Warm air dryers
This is a tricky one, because hand drying is a critical part of hand hygiene (wet hands, even after washing, spread more germs than dry hands.) There is a common misconception that warm air dryers “grow bacteria” and then blow it onto your hands.
Bathrooms do tend to have bacteria in the air and warm air dryers do blow that air onto your hands. This is one of the reasons why we advise that businesses install hand dryers that contain a HEPA filter, for example either the Luna Dry hand dryer or the Dyson hand dryer. That way you can ensure that the air that gets blasted onto your hands is clean! (Read more about it in our articles: Are hand dryers unhygienic? and ” 7 things to consider when buying a hand dryer”).
Basic hand washing and hygiene practices can go a long way in protecting both you, your family and your colleagues from illnesses such as sore throats, ear infections, colds, flu and skin infections that can be spread via these less well-known bacteria hotspots.