The Nasty Truth about Your Toothbrush

Where is your toothbrush? Perched on the bathroom sink? Then let's hope you don't mind brushing your teeth with toilet water. Not to gross you out, but in the May issue of Prevention, we reported on 16 alarming, germ-breeding spots that are a whole lot nastier that you might have imagined. Take your commode: There are 3.2 million microbes per square inch in the average toilet bowl, according to germ expert Chuck Gerba, PhD, a professor of environmental microbiology at University of Arizona. When you flush, aerosolized toilet funk is propelled as far as 6 FEET, settling on the floor, the sink, and yes, your toothbrush. Shutting the lid, of course, is probably a smart move, but at the very least, put anything that goes inside your mouth behind closed doors (your medicine cabinet will do just fine). Here are a few more little known germ hot spots:

The worst place for your flip-flops and sneakers: The bedroom closet
Your comfiest shoes are on intimate terms with the sidewalk, the grass at the park, the track at your gym, the locker room... So everything they come in contact with (use your imagination) can end up all over your house, including your closet floor. In fact, a study found that chemicals clung to shoes and were tracked inside even a week after they were sprayed on a lawn. Shoes are also a magnet for pollen and other allergens, so if you're sniffle prone, you'll want to keep rough-and-tumble footwear far, far away from your bedroom. Store them in a basket by the front door or under an entryway bench--and for heaven's sake, make sure everyone does the same, even guests.

The worst place to set your handbag: The kitchen counter
Your Rafe bag is a major tote for microbes: When Gerba and his team swabbed purse bottoms (whatta job, right?), they found up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch-and a third of the bags tested positive for, ahem, fecal bacteria. It makes sense though; your carryall gets parked in some nasty spots: on the floor of the bus, beneath the restaurant table-maybe even on the floor of a public bathroom. Put your bag in a drawer or on a chair-anywhere except where food is prepared or eaten-and try not to drop it willy-nilly throughout the day. Ladies, this is what hooks are for!

The worst stall to pick in a public restroom: The middle one
Your instinct is probably to head to the middle stall. Problem is, it's everyone else's, too. The center stall has more bacteria than those on either end, according to unpublished data collected by Gerba. No, you won't catch an STD from a toilet seat. But you can contract all matter of ills if you touch a germy toilet handle and then neglect to wash your hands thoroughly.

Come clean: Do you have a particular germ phobia? How do you handle it?

Related Links:
13 More Germ Hot Spots
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