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December 2017

How clean is your handbag?

Written by Lemay Rogers
Cleanliness and Hygiene

Whether you refer to it as a handbag or a manbag, for many of us it's an item we can’t go without. This piece of functional fashion generally contains our phones, keys and wallets but extends to makeup, bandaids, snacks, spare pantyhose and a range of other items. Quite frankly, many of us await the invention of a real life version of Hermione’s infinite handbag (featured in Harry Potter) so we can carry our lives with us with ease #goals

ZA - Initial - Blog Image - How clean is your handbag - 2

On our journey to understanding our hygiene habits better, we wanted to highlight some key insights around handbag hygiene.

In 2012, Initial shared research findings after swab testing 100 surfaces and items from 25 different handbags.  The areas swabbed included the handbag handles, the handbag exterior, handbag linings, makeup and mobiles.  This data was compared to toilet hygiene tests conducted in offices and other public buildings where 28 seats were tested.

The study found that we are definitely carrying around more than we know, with our handbags being home to more bacteria than a toilet flush!  A key hot zone for bacteria is handbag handles, which is a high risk area for cross-contamination.  With regard to the contents of your handbag, hand cream and face cream contained more bacteria than the average toilet seat, followed by lipstick and mascara.  

In the findings Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Hygiene, commented: “Handbags come into regular contact with our hands and a variety of surfaces, so the risk of transferring different germs onto them is very high, especially as bags are rarely cleaned. Once these germs are on the bags, they can easily be transferred via hands onto other surfaces. Regular hand sanitisation is essential to prevent the presence of bacteria in the first place and thorough cleaning of bags is recommended to prevent the buildup of contamination.”

How do you limit the risk of cross-contamination from your handbag?

  1. Use sanitiser wipes, or liquid, to wipe down your handbag on a regular basis, taking special care with handles, zips, slings and ties.  This is especially important for genuine leather handbags as leather’s spongy texture provides the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow and spread.
  2. Try to keep your handbag off the floor by using a handbag hook or by placing your handbag on a chair or table.
  3. Clean out your handbag on a regular basis and wipe items down with sanitiser where possible.
  4. While you have an empty bag, see if you can wash the material inner with detergent or dry shampoo.
  5. If you carry food items in your handbag, stick them in a plastic sandwich bag or container.
  6. Where possible keep similar items (like makeup) together by using small zip bags or a handbag organiser. 

Unfortunately germs are everywhere and we need to be careful not to become too paranoid about them.  But simply tweaking our daily behaviour very slightly we can limit the spread of germs through cross-contamination, ensuring you are not carrying around more than you bargained for.

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial's Sub-Saharan Africa region. When not contributing to the Rentokil Initial blogs, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a pre-schooler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on LinkedIn for practical pest control advice and good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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