germ-cartoonSalt and pepper shakers, currency, and microwave touch pads are the enemy—at least if you’re trying to keep your family healthy and well—especially during the flu season.

We really do take cleanliness and sanitation for granted, folks.  I think the only reason why some things are on my radar is the result of my time spent living in the Philippines. So for that, I’m grateful!

Let’s talk about some major germ spreaders we encounter in our home and out in public.

  • Public—Salt and pepper shakers. Think about it. Have you EVER seen someone cleaning them? I’ve worked in restaurants plenty in my life, including as a manager, and I can tell you that I’ve never cleaned the outside of those. Refilled them, yes. Sanitized the outside, no. You’ve got artifacts younger than the germs on those things.
  • Public—Condiment jars. Same with the salt and pepper shakers, although errant kids are less likely to stick their dirty fingers inside and play with them. So if you do use the jars at your table, use a napkin on your hand to protect yourself from the germs. And please, don’t use the same napkin to wipe your mouth.
  • Public—Door handles. Again, you simply don’t see those ever get cleaned. Sure the glass gets wiped down periodically. But the door handle to any mall, office, etc. is a festering pool of germs just waiting for you to
    Photo c/o

    Photo c/o

    give them a good home. So, what do you do? Well, ideally make use of someone else opening the door whenever possible. If that’s not available, I always tuck my hand under my shirt and grab the door handle that way. Yes, I did say “always.” I am especially adamant about doing this in the restrooms as well, even when I go into a stall. I KNOW what someone was doing before they touched that handle. I’ve never seen someone clean the handles specifically. And even if they did, they get nasty each time they are touched. (Am I starting to sound like a germ-ophobe?) So, when I go into a stall, I use my shirt to close/latch the door. When I leave the restroom, I use the paper towel that I just dried my hands with. In those pesky restrooms which only give you the option of “blowing your hands dry” I still use my shirt on the handle.

    Speaking of restrooms, when a sink has handles that you have to turn on and off yourself, it kind of defeats the purpose of cleaning your hands when you have to touch the same handles that everyone has touched right after they’ve done their business. So if it’s not an automatic water flow, then use a paper towel or your elbows if necessary. (It’s not quite as bad as being a contortionist.)

  • Public—Shopping Carts. I’ve started seeing more and more grocery stores offer sani-wipes at the entrance of the store for customers to use to clean off their shopping cart. Question: Do you take the time to use them? Even if all you’re going to pick up is a few things, don’t lift that basket handle without cleaning it.  I’m all for cute babies and kids. But I’ve seen what they put on their hands. This gets on the handles. You wouldn’t pick up someone else’s poo with your bare hands, so why would you put your bare hands on that shopping cart? Sorry folks, but yes, it is indeed very much the same thing.
  • Photo c/o

    Photo c/o

    Public—Currency. Believe it or not, money is the WORST offender in spreading germs. I’ve heard of money launderers, but I don’t think they are actually cleaning the money. Your only defense is to make sure that you sanitize your hands whenever you touch it. This is one reason why I prefer to use my debit card instead of cash. I rarely have cash in my wallet. Now my husband knows why.

  • Public—“Sign here, please.” Those pens and signature utensils that are used at the check stands are rife with germ invaders. Again, have you EVER seen those cleaned? This is why I always have my own pen with me to sign documents, etc. And yes, I do clean it regularly. For the credit card processing machines, I either use my own pen with the ink retracted, or my finger on the screen.

Whether you’re a clean freak or not, you still have a great deal of germ farms in your home. Be mindful of keeping the cupboard handles, door handles, microwave touch pads, table edges, and toilet lids clean.  Ignoring that pesky bathroom carries more with it than just seeing the dark ring develop in the tub. That dark ring is also full of dead skin particles and old germs that are living it up in a warm, wet location. If nothing else, spray your tub down regularly with a daily bathroom cleaner. And by all means, wash your hands before you eat–pah-leeze!

Germs Are Not for Sharing illustration by Marieka Heilen

Germs Are Not for Sharing illustration by Marieka Heilen

While this all may seem excessive to some, keep in mind that germs grow and become more powerful when they are allowed to flourish. Yes, some germ exposure for our bodies is good in order to build up our immune systems. But unfortunately, a lot of the germs we’re exposed to nowadays are from feces. (I know. Gross, right?) I have yet to find even a back jungle culture that exposes their members to feces germs in order to make a man stronger. It’s great if you are mindful of sanitation. But unfortunately others simply are not. Even if they wash their hands after using the restroom, they are still inevitably exposing themselves to the germs of others who do not. I’d much rather be safe, rather than sorry, wouldn’t you?

As you may have guessed by now, I carry with me hand sanitizer as well as my own pack of sani-wipes for those instances in which they aren’t available. Start thinking like a germ and you and your family may actually ride out the flu season unharmed.

Well, gotta go. I just had a sudden urge to go clean the handles all over my home.

Germ Warfare – Part II

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Emily · August 31, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Just a fast food restaurant tip: make sure the person who takes your money doesn’t also handle your food (I have encountered this on occasion and have had to speak to a manager, which is not always a pleasant task).

And a bit off the flu germ subject, I always carry tissues in my purse for those times when the toilet paper is sitting on the handrail beside the toilet and not in the dispenser. I figure there’s a good chance that roll of toilet paper has been on the floor a time or two.

Jackie · August 31, 2009 at 11:27 pm

People in the office laugh at me all the time because I do just the things you have mentioned. I am the office germ-ophobe. I work in a long term care facility…I know what is lurking out there. :>)

kelsomom · September 1, 2009 at 2:10 am

Today at the store I watched the guy ahead of me sneeze on the pin number key pad. eww! I swiped mine as credit but thought nothing of using their pen. double eww for me 🙂 Now I know.

Kellene · September 1, 2009 at 2:13 am

I think you made me nauseous with that one, Kelsmom. eewwww.

Sharon McNair · September 1, 2009 at 3:32 am

I also grab public door handles with the inside of my blouse and I’m never with out a small bottle of hand sanitizer or tissues. There’s always someone sneezing or coughing at the grocery store–if they don’t cover their own mouth and nose, then you need to cover yours with a tissue or hankie until you are a couple of aisles away. Sounds crazy, but it sure can’t hurt. Remember, never touch your face with your bare hands while you’re shopping. You’ll be picking up items that other folks have touched and you don’t know what they left behind. Some bacteria can survive on surfaces 48 hours or more. Another idea to prevent spreading germs at home, which some might consider wasteful, is to use only paper towels for hand drying in your main bathroom. Sharing a cloth hand towel with someone who is a poor hand washer doesn’t happen at my house. In a home with heavy traffic, it doesn’t hurt to give things a wipe down with sanitizer daily.

Pitt206 · September 1, 2009 at 10:05 am

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structuredsettlement · September 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm

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Melonie K. @ Wandering Quail Road · September 1, 2009 at 1:28 pm

After many years of retail management, I can attest to the cash and pens issue! I could unpack stock boxes all day and still not feel as disgusting as when I finished counting out registers for the night. Ew.

I carry my own pen and use it for anything public that needs to be done… which was really funny when I walked into our health clinic last week for my daughter’s regular check up and the receptionist tried to hand me a pen to fill out the update for her file. She looked mildly surprised that I said no, thank you, I have my own pen. Considering we are military stationed in Asia, with an “interesting” flu season to say the least, and they had a bottle of GermX and surgical masks on the counter for anyone who was ill….. it was actually humorous to me that she was surprised by my comment. 😉 And no, I didn’t use their pump bottle of GermX gel either. (I used my own Purell from inside my stroller. After all, I know where my pen has been, but I don’t know who held that clipboard last that the paperwork was on…. and I also assume that the gel pump was ever wiped down itself. LOL)

Jackie · September 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I had a nurse tell me that you should keep your hair pulled back away from your face.
She said to do a little test and count how many times you push your hair back and your hand touch your face….you have been touching all kind of things and then put your hand on your hair and face.
She siad she lost count when she did the test.
Pretty good advice!

jamie · September 1, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Reusable grocery bags are becoming very popular. Get some different colors, Green for vegies, black or red for meats, tans for dry goods. And for goodness sake wash them once awhile. My favorite sanitizer is bleach. Keep a sprayer full of a tablespoon of bleach to 16 oz. of water in your kitchen. After you have cleaned up just give everything a quick spray and walk away. No need to dry/wipe. I believe that kills 99.9% of all germs. I have heard you can do the same thing with vinegar but I am not sure of the ratios. Plus Bleach smells clean to me, Vinegar smells like Easter.

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