Calling all clean freaks: we hate to burst your spotless, hygienic bubble, but you're surrounded by more germs than you think. You can no longer live by the mantra "ignorance is bliss."
Not all germs are harmful, but those that are could be lurking around any and every corner and are responsible for transmitting everything from pesky colds to the flu and even more dangerous illnesses.
Since you can't live in latex gloves and a sterilized bubble for the rest of your life, the best defense is awareness. Brace yourself for several toilet seat references -- we apologize in advance.
If you're anything like us, your iPhone doesn't leave your hands, which is unfortunate due to the fact that cell phones are technological petri-dishes for tens of thousands of germs. The screens on our devices often contain more bacteria than toilets, according to several studies. These germs include illness-inducing bacteria like E. coli and Staph.
In order to fight against these dangerous bacterial strains and disinfect thoroughly, you should get in the habit of wiping your screen down with an alcohol-free antimicrobial spray and a soft cloth. Also, don't forget to remove the phone from its case and clean out all the nooks and crannies behind it with a clean, soft-bristle toothbrush.
Elevator buttons have been shown to hold as much as 100 times more bacteria than a toilet seat — especially the first floor button, which, of course, everyone has to touch in order to get in and out of a building. Be sure to always keep a mini bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag for times like these.
Mo' money, mo' problems...literally. The more money you have, the more germs you have. So you might as well spend it all to keep the germs away, right?
As money changes hands, traveling from person to person and then to the store cashier and finally to your pocket, there's absolutely no telling where all it's been and what it's come in contact with. A Health Commissioner out of New York found 135,000 types of bacteria on just one dollar bill, and researchers at the Wright Patterson Medical Center in Ohio actually found that a majority of paper bills have enough bacteria to give someone with a compromised immune system some serious problems.
Sadly, unless you want to give up the green stuff for good, there's no way around touching or cleaning those dollar bills. However, you can work to protect yourself against these omnipresent germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection and illness." If you're unsure about your hand-washing method, the CDC reminds us to wet our hands first, lather completely with soap and scrub for at least 20 seconds before rinsing and drying well.
That buggy you're pushing around is likely to have more bacteria, saliva and fecal matter than escalators, public telephones and public bathrooms. Make use of those handy sanitizing wipes most grocery stores have at cart return area.
Most of us are slaves to our email, which probably means you're putting your hands on a computer keyboard at least once every day. Unfortunately, in yet another alarming bathroom analogy, research proves that computer keyboards can house more bacteria than an average toilet seat.
In a study form a British consumer group in 2009, 33 computer keyboards were randomly sampled and out of those tested, four were considered a health hazard.
To thoroughly clean your keyboard, experts recommend removing most of the keys (if possible) to gain access to the underneath area and then blowing out the area with compressed air, or even a gentle vacuum. Also, dip a cloth or towelette into isopropyl alcohol and wipe it along the inner surfaces.
Studies show that any given light switch can have up to 217 bacteria per square inch. You can take control of light switches in your own home by spraying a disinfectant cleaner directly onto a cloth or paper tower and wiping them down weekly.