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5 'germiest' places in your life

Germs waiting for you every day

(iStock / Irochka_T)

Scrub, disinfect and hand sanitize as much as you want, you will never be completely germ-free.

Bummer for germophobes, right? But there's just no getting around the fact that many everyday activities we take for granted take place in venues crawling with bacteria.

From public spaces to your own workspace, there is a whole world of germs out there just waiting to sully your hands.

But don't give up and go Howard Hughes just yet. Remember there are plenty of good bacteria on us and in us that are indispensable. For instance, bacteria in our mouths aids in digestion and healthy bacteria in our bodies is constantly fighting off those bad germs.

Which is a good thing because, as you'll soon see, you don't even have to leave your own home to venture into one of the five "germiest" places in your life.

No. 5: Your kitchen sink

Quick, which is dirtier, your bathroom or your kitchen sink? If you think this is a dumb question, think again.

According to a University of Arizona germ study, your kitchen sink drain can harbor more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch.

But how can that be? You always wipe up the sink and counters with that sponge on the back of the sink, right? That very sponge is crawling with bacteria, as are the faucet handles and the basin itself.

The micro-organisms raw meat and veggies leave behind on chopping boards, utensils and counters also spread quickly around the kitchen. But don't worry, germy culprits such as E. coli and salmonella can be easily defeated.

Clean your sink and counters using an antibacterial cleaner after preparing or rinsing foods. And that sponge? Try disposable towels instead or simply microwave the sponge for 30 seconds, which the Centers for Disease Control says will kill most, if not all, of those nasty germs.

No. 4: Buttons

Think about the number of buttons you push every day out in public: Elevators, vending machines, ATMs, etc. Now think about how many other people have pushed those same buttons.

But it's not just a numbers issue when it comes to buttons. Rain and lack of regular maintenance help make the crevices and keypads hot beds for germs.

One study found that the average ATM button contains 1,200 germs, more than most public-bathroom doorknobs. Bathrooms are frequently cleaned and disinfected. Can you say the same for an ATM keypad or a soda machine button?

So when you're grabbing some quick cash you might be picking up more than you bargained. And that's before you even consider the number of people who have handled those $20 bills before you.

Your best bet? Wash up or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching those buttons.

No. 3: Shopping cart handles

Combine the sheer number of people handling shopping carts daily with the nasty pathogens carried by raw food and, well, you end up with really, really germy shopping carts.

But really, what's so bad on people's hands that they could spread to that handle you're about to grab? Saliva, bacteria and fecal matter to begin with. Yuck!

Those are just a few of the substances the University of Arizona study discovered on shopping cart handles. Remember that next time you're unloading your grocery bags onto that newly cleaned kitchen counter.

Thankfully most stores have started offering disinfectant wipes near the carts. But if your local store doesn't offer the wipes, which have been shown to kill nearly 100 percent of germs, don't be afraid to bring along your own.

After all, you're about to put your food where some kid's behind was sitting just a few minutes ago. Safety first.

No. 2: Health clubs

Health clubs are a place to get healthy but they can also be breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus.

Just some food for thought the next time you're about to climb on the exercise bike or grab a yoga mat. Shared yoga mats are especially germy since they are used several times a day, dragged across the floor and piled on top of one another like a big bacteria sandwich. Ewwww!

As for that bike seat? Think about what it's been through just so far today. If it could talk it would ... well, just be glad it can't talk.

Instead, be sure to wipe down machines with antibacterial wipes before working out. Running a dry gym towel might get rid of the sweat, but does little for the germs left behind.

Invest in your own yoga mat or cover your loaner with a towel. And be sure to shower with plenty of lather to rinse off any leftover bacteria when you're ready to go home ... or to work.

No. 1: Your workspace

Your workspace may not be your favorite space in the world, but at least it's yours. Of course, it's not yours alone since you are sharing that space with hundreds of thousands of germs.

According to the National Research Center for Women and Families, studies have found the average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than a toilet seat.

Your office phone alone is likely home to more than 25,000 germs per square inch and your desk, computer keyboard and mouse aren't far behind.

The CDC suggests regularly wiping down your desk with a disinfectant. Bleach or alcohol-based cleaners do the trick; other antibacterial cleaners are not necessary.

And it stretches beyond your desk. Common office areas like kitchens and copiers are also pretty dirty, although not as germy as individual desks. That office microwave though? Let's just say you might want to wipe that down a bit before heating up your next lunch.

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