Well Being

Your Purse Is Probably Dirtier Than Your Toilet

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germs on purses

A new study from the British company Initial Washroom Hygiene found that women's purses and handbags are seriously germy and gross—even more so than toilets!

The study found that, on average, the bag you tote around on your arm each day contains more germs and bacteria than a toilet seat. 20% of the handbags swabbed by Initial Washroom Hygiene were found to have bacteria-related contamination which could contribute to cross-contamination. The technical manager at Initial Hygiene, Peter Barratt, said:

“Handbags come into regular contact with our hands and a variety of surfaces, so the risk of transferring different germs onto them is very high, especially as bags are rarely cleaned. Once these germs get on the bags, they can easily be transferred via hands onto other surfaces. Regular hand sanitization is essential to prevent the presence of bacteria in the first place and thorough cleaning of bags is recommended to prevent the build-up of contamination.”

The dirtiest part of bags were found to be the handles, and leather bags were thought to be more bacteria-laden than other materials, thanks to their sponginess (Apparently, that makes it easier for bacteria to live on them). As for the dirtiest items in handbags, hand and face cream were found to be the most bacteria-laden, with mascara and lipstick coming in just behind. Another gross item you've got in your purse? Your phone, of course.

Dr. Sorana Segal-Maurer, an infectious disease specialist with New York Hospital-Queens, told CBS New York that it's unlikely bacteria in your bag can actually make you sick, but that it's best to take precautions, anyway. She recommends wiping down cell phones, regularly washing or otherwise sanitizing handbags and, perhaps most interestingly, not keeping fruit in your purse. While it's handy to keep a healthy snack of an apple or a banana in your bag, Dr. Segal-Maurer said:

“Number one, you're probably not going to wash your hands before you go reaching for it, and number two, it's floating around next to all the other stuff in your bag and then you want to put it in your mouth — it's not a good idea.”

I keep all sorts of stuff in my purse, including water bottles, energy bars, lip stuff, keys—items that I handle frequently, items that are also easily contaminated. And while I try to keep my purse off of dirty bar floors and other questionably clean places, sometimes that's not always possible. While I don't think I'm necessarily going to be changing all my habits, I'll certainly try to keep to a more regular cleaning schedule (or at least switch out my bags more often) because ewwwwww. What about you?

Photo: Shutterstock