13 Grimy Things You Should Wash Your Hands After Touching

wash your hands

Back in January, our entire household came down with what I suspect was the flu, and it was not pretty. My husband Dave and oldest son Erik even ended up with pneumonia too (but I’m happy to report we’re all feeling much better now!)

After a couple weeks of being quarantined inside our house, with little to do but shiver and cough and feel terrible, I’m highly motivated to avoid getting sick again! My bottle of Defend Essential Oil Blend has been getting a workout, as I’ve been adding it to my foaming hand soap and homemade hand sanitizer, as well as applying it topically!

And since staying healthy has been on my mind lately, I thought I’d share some information that can help all of us do just that. Here are 13 dirty things that we ought to wash our hands after touching!

13 Dirty Things You Should Wash Your Hands After Touching

wash your hands

1. Cutting Board

Both plastic and wooden cutting boards can harbor all sorts of bacteria, especially if they aren’t getting cleaned properly. Plastic cutting boards can go right in the dishwasher, but wooden ones need to be cleaned more carefully.

Scrub your wood cutting boards with soapy water regularly, and wipe them down with white vinegar to kill germs and neutralize lingering odors. It’s also a good idea to place a thin plastic cutting board over your wooden one when handling raw meat!

wash your hands

2. Hand Towels

Unfortunately, not everyone who dries their hands on your hand towels has perfect hand-washing technique. That means those towels are get dirty over time, so be sure to switch them out with clean ones every few days!

wash your hands

3. Keys

Think about it—have you ever sat down and actually cleaned your car or house keys? (I haven’t either!) But with how frequently we handle them, there’s no doubt they’re covered in all sorts of bacteria!

So break out the disinfecting wipes every once in a while and keep those keys clean.

wash your hands

4. Shopping Carts

Many grocery stores now offer disinfecting wipes near the grocery carts, and for good reason! Shopping cart handles can be hot spots for bacteria, both from other people’s hands and from foods like raw meat.

So take advantage of those free wipes and wipe down your cart handle before you shop!

wash your hands

5. Reusable Grocery Bags

And speaking of groceries, don’t forget about your reusable grocery bags! Between shopping carts, checkout conveyor belts, and other grimy surfaces, bacteria have plenty of opportunities to hitch a ride on those bags.

To clean reusable bags made of vinyl or plastic, wipe them down with hydrogen peroxide to eliminate germs. For bags that are more cloth-like, just toss them in your washer!

wash your hands

6. Sponges

According to a 2017 study, used kitchen sponges can house hundreds of millions of bacteria per square centimeter! That’s why it’s important to replace your kitchen sponge regularly, and toss it in the dishwasher to keep it clean between uses. (You can also boil or microwave a wet sponge to kill germs.)

wash your hands

7. Cell Phones

Cell phones are notoriously germ-y, because our hands and faces are constantly transferring germs onto our phones! Wipe down your phone (both front and back) with a disinfecting wipe a few times a week to keep it clean and sanitary.

wash your hands

8. Eyeglasses

Between all the times you touch them and set them down every day, eyeglasses can get surprisingly dirty! Gently clean the lenses with a soft microfiber cloth, and wipe the frames with an alcohol wipe to eliminate germs and greasy smudges.

wash your hands

9. Buttons

Think of all the different buttons you touch during an average day, like the buttons on AMTs, crosswalks, parking meters, elevators, and more! Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag or briefcase to keep germs at bay when you’re out and about.

wash your hands

10. Cash

With as often as money changes hands, it should come as no surprise that cash made this list! A 2017 study of $1 bills in New York City identified hundreds of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and even animal DNA.

However, as long as you’re washing your hands regularly throughout the day, handling cash and coins shouldn’t present a serious threat to your health.

wash your hands

11. Handles & Handrails

Any surface that multiple people touch throughout the day is likely to carry germs, including handrails, handles, and doorknobs. Wash your hands after touching surfaces like these in public locations, and especially after using public transportation.

wash your hands

12. Menus

Everyone handles the menu at a restaurant, and that makes them a magnet for germs! Paper menus aren’t as much of an issue, but plastic menus have plenty of nooks and crannies for bacteria to hide.

wash your hands

13. Waiting Room Items

Considering the amount of sick people who pass through it, the waiting room at any doctor’s office or hospital can be full of germs. From the sign-in pen to the armrests on the chairs, there are dozens of places where bacteria can end up after being handled by someone with a cold (or worse!)

Take a minute after your visit to swing by the restroom to wash your hands!

What do you always wash your hands after handling?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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54 Comments

  1. After thoroughly washing your hands, use a paper towel to dry your hands AND turn the faucet handles off. They are really germy and dirty because they are turned on with dirty hands. Then use a clean dry paper towel on door knobs or handles when you exit. Discard the towel in a trash bin.

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  2. After washing hands in the bathroom, take the papertowel you dried your hands with and open the door with it!

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  3. Another germy place in a restaurant is where folks place their hands on bottom of the seat of chair to pull the chair into the table. Aslo, I always carry a pen in my pocket to sign into doctor’s offices, sign bills, etc. I use my keys to press buttons on elavators (remember to clean keys occassionally). I have to hold onto rails at my age so I wear gloves or in a pinch pull my shirt sleeve down over my hand or use a tissue and discard afterwards.

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  4. I read that putting sponges into the dishwasher will actually help bacteria because they are soft and full of holes and dishwashers are designed for hard, relatively smooth surfaces. I put mine in the wash with my dishcloths.

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  5. I use the back of my hand or knuckle to push buttons in elevators or the walk signs, I wash my hands as the first thing when I come in from being out and about, I wipe my computer and phone nearly daily with metro on a paper towel, I carry disinfectant wipes always in my bag, I hardly ever use the trolleys or carriers in the supermarket, I shop often and it’s just for myself so I use my own shopping bags to put groceries around the shop. I often think about menus and that’s a great point and haven’t been as fussy with those, I will in future. I have cleaned my keys, depending what I’ve touched, again I use a paper towel with metho to clean those. When I was younger my family teased me over my fussiness with washing my hands, so I’m self conscious and not as fussy at times afraid of being looked at like I’m strange, but I’m not going to care anymore after reading what other people have said, especially opening a door after going to a public bathroom and use a paper towel if available, and menus.

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  6. I am a nurse. I can honestly say when I was not at work I probably did none of the things you all spoke about here. I have never gotten a communicable disease or any illness . All I have ever done is just not put my hands on my face as a routine thing and wash my hands if I touched anything g really dirty. Maybe I am just lucky. Just a little caution is necessary but going overboard with washing or disinfecting your hands seems unnecessary. I know I will get flack for saying that but there it is!

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  7. The receipt tape from most grocery stores & dept stores is made of a teflon substance. We shouldn’t eat with teflon pans anymore, therefore we shouldn’t touch it either. We should wash our hands after touching the receipts. Also, I give my keyboard & mouse a wipe down every other week or so.

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    • “Food is the top source of BPA exposure simply because so much of what we eat and drink comes packaged in BPA-containing plastic containers or cans (BPA is in the linings). But the form of BPA used in food containers is chemically bound, while the type used in thermal paper easily rubs off.” Consumer Reports Published: March 29, 2014 08:15 AM

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  8. Jillee, can you please do a segment on how you curl your hair so beautifully?

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  9. One thing that surprisingly wasn’t on the list was gas pumps. I always wash my hands after handling those.

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  10. Hi Jillee, may I suggest that you quit eating sugar. Since I stopped eating all carbs and sugar over two years ago, I haven’t been sick. I don’t get the toxic flu shot. I don’t worry about germs everywhere either. I used to get the flu every year before cutting out sugar which compromises one’s immune system. I’m much healthier now, and 30 pounds lighter to boot!

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  11. I would add gas pump handles to t his list!!!

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  12. I NEVER read magazines in a doctors office..people go there because they are sick! I never touch escalator handles, just make sure I am steady, put my bags down…never touch rails on steps, I hold my hand just above them in case I do lose my balance I can grab on. Friction is what dislodges bacteria from your hands so take the time to thoroughly scrub and clean your hands, short washings do not help much. Don’t forget to use toilet seat covers, and don’t touch anything else in there if possible.

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    • Good point Kat…. regarding escalator handles.

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  13. Brilliant Jillee. I didn’t think of most of these things. Brilliant given the coronavirus and flu season!

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  14. This is amazing. All the stuff you wouldn’t think about. I do use the Clorox travel pack wipes when staying at.hotels The bathroom door handles are the worst at these places . I also will sanitize the tv remote control. I try to keep a small bottle on me when I go out and also at work. Our main restroom
    at work has a door handle you can just slide your arm through and avoid touching the handle. I sometimes will use the bottom hem of my shirt or a paper towel for gripping door handles.

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  15. I always wash my hands after putting the dirty laundry in the washer.

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  16. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat / poultry / fish or use disposable gloves. No need to wash meat / poultry / fish, use paper towels to wipe down. I keep several paper towels, removed from the roll, stacked nearby in case I need them while I am handling the raw food. Cook raw food to safe temperature. Clean the area thoroughly where you were preparing raw meat / poultry / fish.

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  17. I’m now 78, and have managed to keep relatively healthy all this time, without going nuts over sanitizing everything in my path. As one poster has said, take normal precautions. Sanitize that grocery cart handle, and perhaps your hands and the steering wheel and gearshift after shopping trips, and before driving off! And wash hands after unloading groceries and Storing them. And sanitize your kitchen and other things with Jillee’s great formulas for your kitchen and bath. And did I mention, wash your hands! We definitely need some good and some other necessary germs that we probably don’t really want to dwell on!

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  18. Also at restaurants … I clean my hands between going to the buffet/salad bar and eating. Some people think it’s silly, but I keep thinking of all the people who have been touching those utensils.

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  19. The tongs used for serving at a salad bar.

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  20. Another one is your grocery. You come home empty the bags and put every thing on your kitchen counter. I wipe all my grocery off with Clorox Wipes before I put them away. They are mighty germy!! The I Clorox my counter tops!!!

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  21. Hotel remotes and phones/lamps/drape pulls, any toilet flusher handle, buzzers that restaurants hand out for long lines, steering wheels, pencils/pens/tray when signing for credit card use, dog leash and chair handles at vet, petting outside pets, mailbox handle, doors in public areas, NEVER touch door handles in public rest rooms after washing hands (use paper towel I dried with to open handle) then toss in trash.

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  22. I buy the disposable gloves (100 to a package) at the Everything a Dollar store and use them for lots of things such as putting gas in my car and especially when I am cooking or handling food, or cleaning the bathroom

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  23. I’ve been a nurse for decades and the one thing they drilled into our heads was the importance of hand washing. I still believe it’s the best. I’m not a fan of sanitizers at all. They are useful to a point but I think we are going overboard with them.
    Wash your hands! :)

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    • I SO agree with you! I have family members who work in the medical profession, and they tell everyone they know: there have been several studies that found that while hand sanitizers are helpful, they do not kill as many germs as good old hand washing! The baddest bacteria that hand sanitizer DOES NOT kill? MRSA!!! So ask your doctor to wash his or her hands, not just use hand sanitizer when they come into your treatment room.
      Also, they found that doctor’s neckties collect an amazing amount of germs- ewwww!

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      • Yet hospitals have hand sanitizer dispensers on the walls everywhere!

        In our doctors’ offices, though, they always wash their hands before and/or after the exam.

  24. You mentioned the menus, the salt and pepper shakers in restaurants are gross!!!
    I am a cashier and my hands are brown from handling the packages and the money. We have Purel at each of our registers, but hand washing is best. After saying that, I hope everyone washes all of their produce!!

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    • I’ve been washing my fruit and veg with vinegar which is antibacterial/antimicrobial but also edible.

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    • And other condiment containers on restaurant tables! Ketchup, BBQ sauce, syrup … all of those things that many people have been handling.

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      • I’m so nuts Melissa that I’ve been know to, with friends there, taking a wipe that I keep in my purse and wiping salt, pepper, ketchup bottles immediately when i sit down at the table. hahaha Or before I want to use one of those items I grab a wipe and wipe down the parts I’ll be touching. hahaha oh well, it makes me happy anyway. My immune system is very low, I need all the help I can get.

  25. IMO. Our immune systems need to be strong. If we constantly use wipes and avoid touching anything ie: your own keys…if you are the only one touching them, why do they need to be sanitized? We build up our immunity by exposing it to germs. This does not mean quit washing so often, no; wash often and with soap and water. No need at all for all the alcohol based sani-wipes that destroy everything, not just bad stuff. Not all dirt is dirt. Not all germs are bad. Take normal precautions.

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    • My doctor just told me that washing our hands is just basically moving the germs around. We need good bacteria as much as we don’t need bad bacteria. With that being said, I think we are all going a little overboard with the sanitizing. Your doing more harm then good. Seriously, a previous poster washes all her groceries???????

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      • I’m crazy and usually wipe my packaged goods over with metho on a paper towel before putting them away, mind you just a paper towel with my refrigerated goods all don’t wipe them at all so I’m not doing everything

    • I agree with Ellen. You need to wash your hands often but you can be TOO fussy and kill the good bacteria as well as the bad.

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  26. I always wash my hands after getting the mail. In today’s world, especially with the new corona virus, it’s scary to think of all the people who have touched the mail and mailbox.

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    • I read an article recently about the flu pandemic of 1918 /19 during world war I. It was world wide and soldiers were taking it to different countries. However, the article mentioned that people who were living in isolated areas or even homebound were still getting the flu because it was being passed with the mail. So good call on washing hands after touching the mail. Another thing is the newspaper. Especially if there are a lot of ads. These are touched by a lot of hands before they get to you.

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      • My grandfather died of the Spanish influenza and he was a young man…it’s scary! Of course
        they didn’t have antibiotics and drugs they have now..

  27. Jillee, please tell everyone that hand sanitizer is good only for up to three applications. After that, it loses its effectiveness and our hands need to be washed. Hand sanitizer is not a replacement for hand washing. I learned this working in a long term care facility.

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    • Is this still true for the essential oil sanitizers?

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  28. Also in the kitchen…… handles for refrigerator doors, microwave ovens, ovens, and dishwashers. Door and drawer handles also get dirty over time.

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  29. Thanks for this. Highlighted some items never considered…such as menus.

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    • Having been in the service industry in the past, I can attest to the filthy menu thing. You would not believe how gross they get, and sometimes diners put them on the floor, or let their kids put them in their mouths. Usually, they are not sanitized, many restaurants only wipe them down with a wet bus towel, and some restaurants only wipe them down when they are so crusty they won’t open. Ugh! Worth a trip to the restroom to wash your hands after touching one. Seriously.

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  30. Great article & advice!

    Don’t forget items associated with your car like your steering wheel, outside trash can(s) recycle lids once you put your trash in or the handles when you drag the cans to/away from the curb on trash/recycle day like I do… (but I guess most of us know that). :)

    Also, at the gas station, sanitize your hands after you pump your gas (gasoline pump).

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  31. I avoided an outbreak of illness on a cruise ship where 1/3 of the passengers were affected by using many of these same practices. I didn’t touch much of anything, washed my hands, and used hand the sanitizer provided all over the ship.
    •To add another: Use your knuckle, not your fingertip, when pressing buttons in an elevator or anywhere you can. I use my knuckle when entering my zip code at the gas pump, too.

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    • With regard to gas stations…I always use a disinfecting wipe on my hands after touching the handle of the gas pump. Also, occasionally wipe down your car’s steering wheel.

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  32. Would like to add to waiting rooms items. Those magazines are also full of germs too.

    Also, the door handle on the way out of a washroom, I usually save my paper towel after washing my hands to open the door to exit (I did notice I didn’t get as sick after that).

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  33. I worked in a bank and credit union handling money and was always given wipes after counting and wrapping it. I think the worst ever was counting bills that were moist. Heaven only knows where it had been and wished I had had on plastic gloves. One of the gals I worked with wore cotton gloves but I always thought they would get dirtier than just using my hands. Thank heavens I’m not a germaphobic. We were also taught to sing happy birthday to ourselves when washing hands as that is plenty of time for a good cleaning. I also use a lot of peroxide in a spray bottle in the kitchen to keep it in tip top shape. My daughter had a pick line in her upper arm for a bone infection and it was a must for her to be careful about not getting it dirty. Clean everything before even opening the meds. That was a definite eye opener. One last thing is I never use sponges, I use a wash cloth and two clean towels each day, one for hands and one for dishes if they need to be wiped off. At the end of the day they each get tossed in the laundry.

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    • Actually, the recommendation it’s to sing happy birthday TWICE to wash your hands for the correct amount of time (20 seconds).

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