There's a lot of bacteria out there -- and it can be dangerous stuff. But we shouldn't be worried about each and every microscopic bug we come in contact with. In fact, some of them may be keeping us healthy, we learned in the article "Talking Dirty: Why You Should Call a Truce with Germs."
So when is clean clean enough? And when is it too clean?
No one wants to get salmonella from a cutting board, says Evangeline Lausier, M.D., director of clinical services at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. "But you don't have to nuke it. Get a little less paranoid." Here, a common-sense cleaning guide.
Skip Antibacterial Soaps
Avoid hand soaps with the ingredient triclosan, says Elizabeth Scott, Ph.D., codirector of the Center for Hygiene and Health at Simmons College in Boston and an adviser to the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene. Studies have shown they're no more effective than soap and water and may boost antibiotic resistance in some bacteria.
Wash Your Hands Often
Rub your hands under running water for 20 seconds; the water flow and friction wash off germs. Don't worry about temperature -- sterilization happens at temperatures too hot for your skin to handle.
Can't Get to a Sink?
Lausier says alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an acceptable backup.
Avoid Triclosan Cleansers
Skip cleansers with this ingredient, too, says University of Colorado at Boulder neuroendocrinologist Christopher Levy, Ph.D. Not only should you avoid this chemical, but we often don't leave the cleansers on long enough for them to be effective anyway. If you just spray and wipe, that's about the same as using soap and water.
You don't have to disinfect the whole house, Scott says. "Identify places where infections spread, such as the surfaces hands touch -- like faucets and light switches -- and also food tools like cutting boards and cleaning aids like cloths and sponges." Clean those with hot soapy water. Also wash sponges frequently, and toss them when they become discolored.
Read more about why you should call a truce with germs.
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