Where the Germs Are (Slideshow)

The 5 germiest places and how to fight back

hand sanitizer

It’s a germy world out there.

Here are five places where they lurk — and how to protect yourself from them.


  • 1. Office faucet handles

    The problem: A study tested 5,000 surfaces in various offices and found high levels of contaminants on 75 percent of break room sink faucet handles.

    The fix: Wash your hands immediately before you eat lunch or a snack, and use a paper towel when handling the faucet handle.
  • 2. Kitchen sponges

    The problem: Microbiologists found that kitchen sponges carried the most germs in the home.

    The fix: To sanitize, pop your wet kitchen sponge in the microwave for two minutes every day or wash it with your dishwasher's drying cycle. Replace your sponge at least every two weeks.
  • 3. Shopping carts

    The problem: Thanks to leaky meats, drippy produce, babies' bottoms and other hosts, shopping carts are chock-full of germs. One study found E. coli on 582 of 600 shopping carts studied.

    The fix: If your store doesn't provide disinfectant wipes, pack your own.
  • 4. Reusable shopping bags

    The problem: Researches who tested shoppers' bags in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Tucson, found that half the bags were contaminated with bacteria, including E. coli.

    The fix: Wash your bags thoroughly every week to kill the bacteria that collects there.
  • 5. Any shared surface

    The problem: Germs proliferate when hundreds of people touch a surface daily. Top culprits are gas pump handles, mailboxes, parking meters and the buttons on ATMs, crosswalks and vending machines.

    The fix: To stop cold and flu viruses, use hand sanitizers and avoid touching your face.

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Sources: University of Arizona; NSF International; California State University, Sacramento; U.S. Department of Agriculture

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  • Peter Balint

    Great story…direct and to the point

  • http://twitter.com/CarolMaeWY CarolMae

    What do you do when you have a dry cough? Also a bad headache is coming on and my body aches. I several medical problems that make vulnerable to infection.

  • Doris

    I wonder how often we weaken our immune systems by sanitizing to get rid of germs. Seriously, I think most of our health problems are because of articles like this that make the general public “germ-a-phobic.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001010672086 George MacDonald

      Yes, they forgot to mention all the germs that are on our own skin and in our mouths and noses…

      It is articles like this that make people believe that germs and infection are a black & white, on/off type thing.

      The truth is: germs are EVERYWHERE. The best defense is a strong immune system. (But few physicians can even talk about that — they haven’t been trained)

      • willit

        One of the germ infested thing we touch would be our Keys!!! We put them down everywhere…………..and we never wash them. Another biggie for me is the holy water in the Catholic Church I go to…….everybody puts their hands in that nasty water…………that’s just two things that ring bells in my head.

        • biggerjohn

          Have Faith!!!!!!

      • Searching17

        You are right! I read every article I find, but, do you know, what are the best ways to a better immune systems? I have chronic neuropathy, demyelinization, arthritis, had back surgery. I believe my immune system is slowly killing me, although I know we are all slowly dying…but, this is making the end of my life painful and distressing!

  • Community nurse
  • http://www.facebook.com/christine.cummins.31 Christine Cummins

    Money should be on that list! It’s absolutely filthy. Think about all the unwashed hands it’s passed through on it’s way to you. When you work in any kind of business that deals with cash it’s imperative to wash your hands as often as possible. And remember to keep your hands away from your mouth, hands or eyes when working.

    • Susan

      Perhaps you meant to remind people to keep their hands away from your mouth, nose, or eyes, rather than from mouth, hands or eyes.

    • MPH

      I’ve always heard that but recently I read an article that stated the paper money has some sort of antibacterial coating or agent on it or in it and that metal is not a surface that a lot of bacteria etc thrive on. So….as usual, we get conflicting information. Better safe than sorry I guess.

  • John William Gaston

    Very informative article. Love to read all your postings!

  • Kitiemama

    Great information. Also, add restaurant menus to the list. Handled by hundreds and never sanitized.

  • Kathy Way

    This encourages germ-a-phobics so much….I don’t carry around paper towels and wet ones wherever I go and generally I am sick much less than those who do…

  • Constance Scanlon

    I don’t believe the virus enters through the mouth. Nose and eyes is the entrance for the cold virus .

  • Merrimary

    Carry your own pen to sign any forms……especially at medical offices!

  • Jackke Friend

    can’t read these tips cause they don’t stay on long enough. i want to read at my own pace not on a timer. ugh

  • Dave

    I would think public restroom faucets as opposed to office faucets would be among the worst but are not mentioned.

  • Sparkles Lisa Ward

    ever since 1980 when I began being a Clown sparkles I also did face painting I still do it bothers me and calls me that the newer face painters now we use sponge is over and over and over now that body painting is so popular you don’t know where that’s fine she’s been where on their body or who I’ve been told that the children’s areas in Florida you know that I kept hot and what have you also use that seems fine just called and wants to people to come in from all over the world its just gross to think that a person can use this phone and microwave it before using it on their plate but have no thoughts to where that little child has had that Spanish go from place to place to place I for one use a new sponge and every single solitary person I wish to God if a stranger in the world did the same thing so when your child is getting painted just watched thank you

  • Lou

    I am of the opinion that if you try to live a germ free life that exposure to any bad germ will make you sick. No resistance is built up.

  • AsktheWhiteGuy

    Restaurant buffets are veritable petri dishes of food borne bacteria. Food left out for long periods of time and reheated, and handled by other germ-laden people. Think about that the next time you’re eating at a Las Vegas buffet. What you eat in Vegas DOES NOT stay in Vegas.

  • Sylvia

    Cell phones need to be sanitized regularly!

  • Ann

    Very good article! Last year I had lots of sinus infections. We were traveling a lot…hence extra shopping and also visiting family with children. This year, was similar, except I wash my hands very often, particularly before eating AND I keep wet ones (wipes) in my purse and wash my hands with them and surfaces frequently. I also wipe down surfaces at home and my cell phone often and try hard not to touch my face. Nine sinus infections last year vs. one mild one this year.

  • Nancy

    How in the world is this country with so many “elderly”? Likely from living in a society less hungry for money with plain hard work and balanced good living?? We are one fear driven bunch from what we touch, eat, drink, smell, and feel!
    In my opinion all driven not by the Almighty so much any longer, but the almighty dollar!! Pretty crazy.

  • Sheila

    No one ever mentions the steering wheel in your car !

  • Tom Markee

    Talk about paranoid, if you wash your hands regularly you won’t have to worry.

  • fart

    NONE of these “studies” ever look at KITCHEN SCISSORS. You know — the ones you use to cut open packages of MEAT, CHEESE, and who knows what else. I have to add, though, that I think that we are becoming too concerned about a little dirt. My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be healthy.