Think you’re avoiding germs by drying your hands with a paper towel? Think again.
An alarming study published in the American Journal of Infection Control notes that researchers found bacteria — including some that are known to make people sick — in unused paper towels that were transferred to hands through normal use.
Paper towels with recycled paper were the worst offenders. According to the researches, “In our study, the concentration of bacteria in the recycled paper was between 100- to 1,000-fold higher than the virgin wood pulp brand.”
Researchers say the new paper towel finding aligns with other studies that have found high bacterial counts in other kinds of recycled paper products.
Researchers at the University of Florida found that microwaving a kitchen sponge for two minutes killed 99 percent of all living germs and bacterial spores in sponges and pads, including E. coli, in about a minute.
University of Florida engineers Gabriel Bitton: “A dishwasher will not remove completely the microbes, unless you use chlorine and chlorine smells. So I think the best way to do it is simply wet your sponge, don’t do it with a dry sponge, wet the sponge, and put it in the microwave for about two minutes and the sponge will be sterilized.”
The engineers recommend:
– ensure the sponge is completely wet
– two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization
– sponges should also have no metallic content
– be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave, as it will be hot.
There’s new evidence that handling paper flipped through by your unwashed colleague can also bring germs to you. Researchers in Germany had volunteers handle paper contaminated with four kinds of common bacteria, including E. coli and staph. The study found that the germs survived on the paper for at least 72 hours (3 days!) and could be cultivated from those same sheets a week later. This study shows that bacteria not only survive on paper, but can also be transferred from one person’s hand to paper and back to another person’s hands.
The National Center for Infectious Diseases suggests washing your hands:
before, during and after food preparation
before and after bathroom use
after handling pets
throughout the day if someone near you is sick, or if it seems there are a number of co-workers walking around with a cold or the flu
Also, don’t think a quick swish under the faucet is enough. You need to work up a good lather with soap and water for about 10-15 seconds and scrub thoroughly before rinsing well and drying your hands. If dry skin is a concern, try using a moisturizer after washing.
Furthermore, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians outline the following four principles for hand awareness:
Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
Do not cough into your hands.
Do not sneeze into your hands.
Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.