Last updated: Oct 22, 2009
germ-phone
After hearing recent reports of dollar bills dusted with cocaine and bacteria lurking in showerheads, its a wonder we havent all turned into mask-wearing germophobes.


Fortunately, experts say “dirty” money and showerheads pose no real health risks for most of us (people with asthma or compromised immune systems should run the shower for a minute or take baths instead)—but plenty of other things in your life do harbor potentially harmful germs.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says viruses like H1N1 flu, staph bacteria, and E. coli can take up residence on the very things you touch every day. How can you wage war against such germs?

Wash your hands a lot, says Matt Arduino, DrPh, acting chief of the CDCs Clinical and Environmental Microbiology Branch. The best way: wash your hands for about 20 seconds with soapy, warm water every time you cook, use the bathroom, blow your nose, handle garbage, or touch a public surface. (The kind of soap doesnt matter; the key is that the germs are being washed down the drain.)

Also, clean your house and the hot spots below with a disinfecting solution (1 part bleach to 20 parts water) or with an antibacterial product that has 5% bleach or that says it kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria.



Where the germs are hiding

Purses
Dont put your purse on the bathroom floor; E. coli in spray droplets following a flush may land on it. Hang it in the stall, and clean it inside and out weekly with a disinfecting spray or wipe.

Jeans pockets
Bacteria that cause infections—from things youve touched—can get lodged in your pockets. The cure: Turn your pockets inside out before washing in superhot water (160 degrees kills germs).

Cell phones
Three of four mobile phones carry potentially dangerous germs, which may include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a recent study shows. One solution: Try fast-drying Wireless Wipes ($2.95).

Rings
Ring wearers have more germs on their hands, according to researchers. If you wear rings, wash your hands more often. Also, gently clean your rings once a week with a mild bleach solution; rinse well to prevent damage.

Credit cards
Sick cashiers can pass along germs like the flu virus when they handle your card. Whenever possible, swipe it yourself. And clean your cards gently once a week with a bleach-based disinfecting cleaner.