10 Germ-Spreading Habits to Give Up Now

You probably have some—if not all—of these germ-spreading habits. Here's why you might want to rethink them.

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Smartphone on toiletPhoto: Nitikorn Poonsiri/Shutterstock

Texting on the toilet

When nature calls, germs (including fecal matter!) are released into the air and can land on surfaces... like your phone. Even if you wash your hands before leaving the bathroom, that bacteria is still stuck on your screen. Leave your phone behind the next time you make a trip to the restroom.

Here are more ways you're using the bathroom wrong.

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Using bar soap

Sure, soap cleans hands, but bars are actually breeding grounds for germs when they're used by multiple people. Opt for liquid soap formulas instead.

You can prevent these diseases just by washing your hands.

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Drying hands with hand towelPhoto: Moonborne/Shutterstock

Sharing hand towels

Sharing is caring—except when it comes to germs. Do your family a favour and give every member of the household his or her very own hand towel for the bathroom. Launder the towels at least once a week—or more, if you have small kids—to prevent bacteria buildup in fabric.

Make sure you’re not making these common hand-washing mistakes.

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Washing hands in bathroom sinkPhoto: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock

Not washing hands long enough

The optimal amount of time you should spend washing your hands (with warm water and soap) to get them squeaky-clean is 20 to 30 seconds. That's about how long it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Yes, really.

Here are more body parts you’re not washing properly.

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Air hand dryerPhoto: Focus and Blur/Shutterstock

Drying hands with the air dryer

Using a public restroom? You may want to skip the air dryer to dry hands. Here's why: A study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology found that they can disperse bacteria throughout the room, including onto just-washed hands. Gross! Your best bet when in public? Use paper towels (and use them to open any doors to avoid picking up germs on your way out). If there are no paper towels, just shake your hands dry.

Attention, germaphobes! These are the signs you’re overusing hand sanitizer.

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Flushing toiletPhoto: Shaynepplstockphoto/Shutterstock

Leaving the toilet lid up when flushing

That lid is there for a reason! According to the American Journal of Infection Control, when you flush, the contents of the toilet (water and otherwise) get tossed around, sending a spray flying into the air that contains microscopic bacteria. If you don't close the toilet lid, the bacteria can contaminate your hands, bathroom surfaces, and even objects like toothbrushes.

Make sure to wash your hands after touching these microbe magnets.

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Woman chewing on pen at workPhoto: Jack Frog/Shutterstock

Chewing on pens

Do you know where that pen has been?! Even if you do, your mouth should probably not be one of those places. If the pen belongs to you, that still means your maybe-not-so-clean hands have touched it, and since chewing on a pen is usually a nervous habit that you do automatically, chances are you haven't taken into account the cleanliness of the pen, or of your hands. Plus, gnawing on pens isn't great for your teeth, either.

Find out how long hand sanitizer really lasts.

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Young boy chewing on strawPhoto: Ole_CNX/Shutterstock

Opening things with your teeth

Yes, sometimes when you can't get a package open, it may seem more convenient (and, occasionally, more effective!) to get it started using your choppers. However, not only can this be potentially damaging to your teeth, but it can also spread germs. In addition to the germs from your own mouth being transferred to the package, you're also making contact with any germs that were already present on the packaging.

These common teeth-cleaning mistakes make dentists cringe.

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Little girl blowing out her birthday candlesPhoto: David Tadevosian/Shutterstock

Blowing out birthday candles

Unless your birthday wish is to have germs all over your cake, you might want to reconsider this common tradition. When you blow out candles, you release bacteria that's been inside your mouth. And guess where it goes? Toward the target of that air: the surface of the cake. While there's a slim chance of actually getting sick from these germs, it's still a little icky—especially since a study showed that blowing out candles causes the amount of bacteria on the surface of a cake to increase by 1,400 per cent.

Discover the everyday items that are dirtier than your toilet seat.

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Eating healthy salad for lunch at deskPhoto: BONNINSTUDIO/Shutterstock

Eating at your desk

Now you have an excuse to get up, walk around, and actually take a break during your lunch break. Not to gross you out, but your computer keyboard is most likely home to some serious germs, unless you clean it regularly. If you eat your food on the same surface as your keyboard, you run the risk of ingesting those germs, which are definitely not on the menu!

Next, find out the public places with the most germs.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest