Ladies: There’s more in your handbag than you think
Washing your hands after using the restroom is a common practice. But, ladies, did you know that the first thing you grab with those clean hands may contain more bacteria than you just washed off?
According to a new study by Initial Washroom Hygiene in the United Kingdom, just the handles of your purse may contain more bacteria than the average toilet handles. In fact, one in five of the office workers’ handbags tested for the study had handles with levels of bacteria shown to cause “significant risk of cross-contamination,” the study states.
And the contents inside fared little better, with the most bacteria-laden items in the purses shown to be hand or face cream containing more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Lipstick and mascara were also shown to be harbors of germs.
“Handbags come into regular contact with our hands and a variety of surfaces, so the risk of transferring different germs onto them is very high, especially as bags are rarely cleaned,” says Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Hygiene. “Once these germs are on the bags, they can easily be transferred via hands onto other surfaces. Regular hand sanitation is essential to prevent the presence of bacteria in the first place and thorough cleaning of bags is recommended to prevent the build up of contamination.”
If you think the price and quality of the bag makes a difference, you’d be right—in a way. According to the study, expensive leather purses proved to be perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, due to their sponge-like texture.
“There’s no real surprise in these results,” says Dr. James Malow, infectious disease specialist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “Many people use items that we never bother to clean off—handbags, wallets and keys. It’s a reality that we’re living with bacteria.”
However, Dr. Malow says there is no scientific data to link the contamination of purses or clothing with clinical illnesses.
“It’s a good idea to clean your purses periodically,” he says. “Take the items out and wipe them down, too. There is the possibility for cross-contamination, but this will lessen the risk. And, if possible, avoid taking your purse into the restroom with you.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.