5 Germy Things You Touch Every Day

Pesky germs lurk on common surfaces, just waiting to make you sick. While no area is free of germs, there are heavily trafficked spots that can especially crawl with bacteria and viruses. But even less-traveled areas can also rate high on the germy scale. You don't have to fall prey to illness; you just need to take some extra precautions.

Germiest Places and Things

Here are five germ-ridden places, along with suggestions on how best to be prepared:

1. Gas Pump. Next time you fill up your gas tank, you could be taking home bacteria and viruses from the gas pump that get on your hands. Of course you can't stop visiting the gas station, but you can wear disposable latex gloves next time you pump, or use a paper towel to grip the handle and keep the germs from touching your skin. Be sure to wash your hands well with hot water and antibacterial soap after pumping or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends one that's at least 60 percent alcohol for best results.

2. Mailbox. When you open a public mailbox to send a letter, you're exposing yourself to an array of potent germs that exist on the handle. Since many people touch this surface, your best bet is to clean it before you grab. Wiping the area with a sanitizing wipe can help. You can also use a paper towel or your sleeve to cover your hand before you touch so your skin doesn't directly touch the contaminated area.

3. Restaurant Condiments. Whether you dine in a formal restaurant or order a quick drink at your local coffee shop, the communal condiments, sugar, creamer containers, and even the menus can all be laden with germs from previous diners. Compounding the problem is that most restaurants rarely clean these surfaces. You can avoid the extra germs with your meal by using alcohol-based sanitizer yourself to thoroughly wipe down questionable items and surfaces before you touch. Or, use a napkin to pick up common items, and then wash your hands well afterward before you touch your food.

4. Your Desk. Your workspace is where big accomplishments happen, but it's also a breeding ground for lots of germs. You're at your desk often and you probably eat without disinfecting the surface afterward. Your phone and keyboard are also laden with germs. Keep the sanitizing wipes or disinfectant handy so you can scrub down everything in your office. Repeat this cleaning often. Also head to the bathroom before and after you eat to scrub up.

5. Kitchen Sponge: If you rely on your sponge to keep your kitchen surface's germ-free, it's time to clean up your act right away. Your used sponge can be contaminated with bacteria that can easily spread when you wipe down other areas. It's much safer to opt for disposable paper towels instead, or at least sterilize your sponge by running it through the dishwasher or putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds every other day.

Putting It Into Perspective

While being aware of where germs linger can be essential, you also have to remember that you can't avoid them entirely. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds at a time throughout the day will offer the best protection. When you don't have access to water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be a good alternative, although the CDC cautions that it won't get all germs. But it can at least help. It's also essential to get plenty of sleep, eat well, and get the seasonal flu shot to keep your immune system strong enough to resist germs.




Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Clean Hands Save Lives." 11 May 2011. Web. 24 Aug. 2012.

USA Today/USA Weekend. "Beware the Germiest Spots in Your Day." 22 March 2012. Web. 19 Aug. 2012.

Wall Street Journal. "Where the Worst Germs Lurk." 29 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Aug. 2012.