The Germiest Spots at the Mall
Poop is everywhere, people. You’ve been warned.
The Bathroom Sink
I hate to tell you this, but it’s worse than the toilet seat. The bathroom sink is a hotbed for bacteria because it never dries out. What’s one of the first things people touch after they use the toilet? The sink. The soap dispensers are also pretty nasty, but since you touch the soap dispenser right before you wash your hands, it’s not as big of a deal, but still. Yuck.
Food Court Tables
People laugh at me, but during cold and flu season, I keep Clorox wipes in my bag and I wipe the table and chair down before I dig in at the food court. Laugh all you want, but, before you eat that stray French fry that fell off your tray, think of this. The table is only as clean as the rag used to wipe it off. If the cleaning crew has been using the same rag all day, the rag itself can contain and spread things like E. coli.
Escalator Hand Rails
You touch the escalator hand rail, and then you touch your face. It’s like asking to get sick. A research group tested the handrails at one mall and found traces of mucus, E. coli, urine and blood.
Researchers tested 38 ATMs in a busy city center and found each key contained an average of 12 hundred different germs. The dirtiest key? The “Enter” button. The best way to avoid transmitting those germs to your body (besides hand sanitizer) is to use your knuckle to punch the keys. Germs on your knuckle are far less likely to end up in your mouth than germs on your fingers.
Thousands of kids touching hundreds of toys leave behind millions of germs. Obviously this is where hand sanitizer comes in to play again once you leave the store, but if you buy something, wipe it down with an alcohol based cleansing cloth or spray it with anti-bacterial spray before giving it to your child.
It’s not the rooms themselves. It’s the clothing. Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center says that when people try things on, skin cells and sweat can accumulate on the fabric and bacteria feed on both of those things. Shirts and sweaters aren’t that bad. It’s the pants and dresses you have to worry about, so if you’re out shopping for those things, make sure you’re wearing full coverage underpinnings.
If you’re looking for a phone, tablet or camera and want to play with it before you order it, just remember that there are hundreds of others who thought to do the same, and most of them didn’t wash their hands before. Display items like cell phones and cameras are absolutely covered with germs and a study published last year found that bacteria and viruses are easily transmittable between the glass screens and buttons and our finger tips.
The next time the pretty lady at the counter asks if you want a makeover, say no. A study in 2005 showed that more than one third of makeup testers are contaminated with herpes, E. coli, staph, strep and other kinds of unpleasant bacteria, so resist the urge to try on that new shade of lipstick the next time you’re at the department store.