13 Everyday Habits That Are Way More Gross Than You Thought


There is probably something you do—or neglect to do—every day, even though you know it's not the healthiest of practices. Forgetting to floss before bed? Definitely something you should avoid. Not covering your mouth when you sneeze? We're all guilty of that grossness now and then.

But beyond these basic no-nos, there's a world of habits that are even more disgusting than you might think. So, to give your immune system a rest, we've rounded up the nastiest everyday habits you might be engaging in, but should definitely avoid.

Putting your bag on the table

Not only is it rude to put your handbag on the table during a meal, but it's pretty gross too. One 2013 study by Initial Washroom Hygiene, a U.K.-based hygiene and washroom company, found that the average purse actually contains more strains of bacteria than most toilets.

In fact, the researchers discovered that 1 in 5 handbags contain enough bacteria to pose a risk to the average healthy person. And when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: Your purse harbors bacteria from every place it visits, from office floors to crowded trains. It definitely doesn't belong near your food.

Using a hand dryer

You might think using a contact-free hand dryer is your best bet to avoid spreading germs, but a 2018 study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology found the opposite.

According to the study, the typical hand dryer blows 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria on to your hands. For comparison, the average person is only exposed to around one colony while in the bathroom. To make matters worse, some hand dryers contain harmful strains of bacteria, like pathogens and spores. A towel, or even hand sanitizer, is probably your safest choice in a public restroom.

Defrosting food at room temperature

Contrary to popular belief, you should never defrost your meat on the countertop. That's right: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, raw or cooked meat and poultry can breed harmful bacteria after they sit at room temperature for more than two hours or become warmer than 40 degrees. Instead, you should only defrost these items in the refrigerator, the microwave, or in cold water (but never hot).

Never cleaning your earbuds

You use your earbuds every day, so they deserve a cleaning every now and then. According to the Whittier Hospital Medical Center in Whittier, California, your dirty earbuds can put you at risk of rashes, allergic reactions, and ear infections, as well as increase your buildup of ear wax.

Cleaning your ears with your fingers

Jamming your finger into your ear to remove ear wax can damage your ear canal and leave it vulnerable to unwanted bacteria and harmful objects, like dust and debris. Not only that, but your finger (or Q-tip) only pushes ear wax further into your ear canal. Instead of using your finger, visit a doctor to have your ears professionally cleaned, suggest the experts at  Island Better Hearing, a hearing specialist in Melville, New York.

Trying other people's drinks

Though you really, really want to try your friend's prickly pear margarita, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn against sharing drinks with friends. According to the health agency, this transfer of saliva from one person to another can put you at risk of developing a number of easily-transmittable diseases and illnesses—from strep throat to meningitis.

Forgetting to swap out your dirty kitchen sponge

Can you remember the last time you replaced the sponge you use to clean up your kitchen? If not, it's probably not a good sign. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should swap out your dirty kitchen sponge at least once a month. If the sponge smells at all, replace it immediately. Between swap-outs, be sure to microwave damp sponges for one minute or stick them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle at least a few times a week to get rid of any unwanted bacteria.

Sleeping in your contacts

Sleeping in your contacts might seem like no big deal, but it can actually expose your eyes to harmful bacteria. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, doing so regularly increases your risk of infection and can potentially even harm your corneas, since they'll never get a chance to rest.

Biting your nails

According to a slew of research, biting your fingernails is more than just a bad habit. For starters, doing so exposes your body to the germs on your hands, which can increase your risk of illness, according to the Texas A&M University Health Science Center.

Additionally, biting your nails also harms your teeth, damaging the enamel and exposing your gums to the bacteria underneath your fingernails. And when you bite fingernails when they're painted, you're also exposing yourself to the toxins in the polish.

Sneezing and coughing into your hand

Hopefully, you already know that the most effective way to prevent germs from spreading is to cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. According to the CDC, when you cough or sneeze, your saliva can travel three feet or more—so by covering your mouth with the crook of your arm, you are preventing those germs from traveling to those around you.

Obeying the five-second rule

We hate to break it to you, but according to a 2016 study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, there is no safe amount of time for food to be on the floor. Researchers found that when food falls on the floor, numerous strains of bacteria immediately attach to it. That means it doesn't matter how long it took you to make that delicious sandwich—once you've dropped it on the floor, it belongs in the garbage.

Leaving your wet towel hanging in the bathroom

Wet towels are a breeding ground for both the bacteria that you carry from the outside world and the germs that you spread while doing your business in the bathroom. Susan Whittier, director of clinical microbiology at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, told Time that damp towels can lead to harmful bacteria like MRSA. To avoid it, wash your towels every two uses.

Using the same loofah every day

Bad news, loofah lovers: They are way more gross than you thought. According to an oft-cited 1994 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the damp conditions inside your shower and bathroom make it easy for bacteria to find their home within your beloved beauty accessory. So, to ensure that you're not putting your immune system in harm's way, be sure to swap out your loofah every three weeks. And for more ways to keep your bathroom clean, check out these 20 Amazing Tricks for Cleaning Your Bathroom.

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