Common contaminated surfaces, and how to avoid infection

by Catherine Haug, May 27, 2012

We have become a society afraid of infection, leading us to seek ways to avoid contamination. Infectious bugs live on just about every surface we encounter (including our own skin and hair), and are also present in the air we breathe, so it is impossible to avoid these bugs. But there are things we can do to reduce exposure and enhance our immunity.

NOTE: there are also non-infectious diseases such as cancer that cannot necessarily be avoided by avoiding contamination, but may be avoided by enhancing your immunity

First, lets explore the most contaminated surfaces we encounter every day, then look at ways to enhance your immunity so you don’t succumb to contamination or exposure to infectious disease.

Contaminated surfaces

CNN reports on the germiest places at the mall:

  • Bathroom sinks
  • Food court tables
  • Escalator handrails
  • ATM keypads
  • Toy stores
  • Fitting rooms
  • Gadget shops
  • Makeup samples

Dr. Mercola reports the following additional germiest items/places (5):

  • Hospitals
  • Lemon slices in restaurant drinks
  • Restaurant condiment bars
  • Hotel room glasses
  • Hotel bedspreads & pillows
  • Kitchen cloths and sponges
  • Faucets and sink drains
  • Toothbrushes
  • Playground equipment (swings, slides and monkey bars)
  • Light switches
  • Drinking fountains
  • Wet laundry — after it’s been washed
  • Shopping cart handles
  • Handbag bottoms
  • Remote controls and computer keyboards
  • Door knobs and handles
  • Cutting boards

Is the solution simply to avoid these? I think not – some are impossible to avoid in our modern society.

Many people carry hand sanitizer everywhere they go, and use it frequently. But this is problematic for several reasons; here’s two:

  • not all contaminants are bacterial;
  • overuse of antibiotic hand cleaners/sanitizers is believed to be responsible for the increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs such as MRSA.

What brought about the overuse of antibacterial cleaners? In my opinion, it is a combination of fear, and the use of synthetic detergents instead of naturally anti-microbial soap.

My advice: Use Real Soap.

Soaps vs detergents

We are constantly reminded to “wash hands frequently;” I would add that we should use real soap for this task. Because detergents are not naturally antibacterial, synthetic antibacterial chemicals are added to them.

What is NOT real soap (these are detergents):

  • Commercial “antibacterial soap”  which are detergents with antibacterial chemicals added;
  • Most commercial bar-soaps and liquid shampoos;
  • ‘soap’ dispensers in public restrooms are not real soap, and may have added antibiotic chemicals;
  • Commercial dish and laundry “soap”;

On the other hand, hand-made soap (as a bar or liquid in a dispenser), made from fats/oils and lye, is naturally antimicrobial (active against bacteria, viruses and fungi).  So keep a bar of real soap near your bathroom, laundry and kitchen sinks. See Gathering Summary: Making Soap at Home, by Kathy Mansfield, January 26, 2011 for more.

Also consider keeping a bar of real soap in one of those travel boxes designed for this purpose, and carry it with you in your pocket or handbag to use when you go out for a meal, or are away from home.

See my related articles for more:

Kitchen & bath precautions

  • Did you know that real wood cutting boards are ‘cleaner’ than plastic or other manmade cutting boards? This is because the resins in the wood are naturally antimicrobial.
  • After handling meats on your cutting board (whether wood or other), wash it (and all utensils used with the meat) with hot water and real soap, then rinse with vinegar, before handling fruits and vegetables.
  • Instead of common plastic sponges, use real sea sponges for cleaning surfaces.
  • Use natural cleaning substances like real soap, baking soda, vinegar and alcohol (ethanol, not isopropyl alcohol or glycols).
  • Don’t overuse bleach. Not only is it toxic for you to breathe, many microbes have developed resistance to it from its overuse, and it also kills your good bugs (probiotics).
  • Don’t mix bleach and ammonia: this combo makes the deadly cyanide poison.

Enhancing your immunity

Since there are far too many microbes to decimate them all, we’re better off learning how to live with them. They are, after all, everywhere. And the way to live with them without giving in to them, is by building and maintaining a strong immunity. See my related post: Enhancing your immunity.


  1. Germier than toilet seats, but you touch them every day

Comments are closed.