By Abbie Cornett
Like most people, I try to keep contact with germs to a minimum. Some might say I am even a little bit OCD. But, I am that way for a good reason. Having spent a good deal of my life sick with one germ or another, I have learned to be careful. I take all the usual precautions like washing my hands, not touching my face, using disinfectant wipes on the handles of shopping carts, door knobs and electrical devices, staying away from crowds during cold and flu season, throwing out sponges and toothbrushes frequently. And, to the chagrin of my family and friends, making everyone take their shoes off as soon as they enter the house.
I thought I had all my bases covered until I read an article recently about where germs hide. Guess what? I was wrong! There are many everyday places I was overlooking or had never even thought about:
- Hats, scarves and gloves: I am originally from the Midwest and have spent at least half of my life wearing one or all of these items. I can admit I wore them repeatedly without washing them. It never occurred to me what great germ catchers they are. Can you imagine using the same handkerchief more than once? Yuck! But, what is a scarf, really? You breathe through it, sneeze through it, drop it on the floor, then put it over your mouth and face again and again. Let's not even talk about disgusting gloves and what they come in contact with on your average cold day. If you wear any of these items, they should be washed on a regular basis.
- Makeup brushes, mascara, blushes and lipsticks or glosses: When you don't wash and sanitize your brushes, they will become happy breeding grounds for bacteria. A new study has revealed the majority of opened, in-use makeup products such as lip gloss, mascara and blending sponges are contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococci.1 These bacterias pose an especially high risk for people who have compromised immune systems that make them more susceptible to infections.
Here are some easy steps you can take to minimize your risks:
Reusable grocery bags: In an effort to help the environment, many people, including myself, have switched from using plastic bags at the grocery store to reusable bags. I never thought about the fact that I don't sterilize them between trips to the store. If reusable bags aren't sanitized properly after each use, they can harbor dangerous bacteria. Microbiologists have found E. coli, salmonella, fecal coliform and other harmful bacteria in reusable bags.2 If, like me, you don't want to go back to using plastic bags, there are a couple of simple steps you can take to make your reusable grocery bag safe. First, don't store them in the trunk of your car. The heat in the trunk causes bacteria to grow faster than if they are stored in a cooler place. Second, wash your bags with hot soapy water after each use.
Purses and gym bags: Both are the home of countless bacteria. Both items are set on the floor of whatever location we visit. In addition to the germs they pick up from the floor, purses and gym bags brew their own ecosystems within the inside of each item. To keep them clean, first, don't place them on the floor, second, empty them out on a regular bases and wipe them out with a disinfectant and. finally, leave them open to air dry.
- Wash your brushes frequently
- Buy disposable blending sponges
- Don't share your makeup
- Throw mascara out if it becomes dry (don't try and rewet it) or if it is older than six months
- Only buy makeup from stores
The important thing to remember is while there is no one way to completely remove germs and bacteria from our lives, we can reduce the amount we are exposed to by thinking about the various ways we can reasonably fight them and by considering where they are hiding.
1. Victoria Forster. Are Dangerous Microbes Hiding In Your Makeup? New Study Says Yes. Forbes. Accessed at
2. Ban the Bag. Plastic Bags are the Healthier Option — for Families and the Environment. Accessed at