Confession time; when I’m stressed out and my OCD has full reign, I find it hard to function. Most of the time I’m really not bothered by what’s lurking in the shadows out there, but then there’s that one day when it all bothers me. So, what are the things that scare me the most?
Whenever I feel like trying out a new takeaway (doesn’t happen that often to be honest; I’m a creature of habit), I check the food hygiene ratings on the Food Standards Agency website. Why? Because one day I made the mistake of checking my favourite takeaway and noticed that the rating was ‘improvement required’.
What are food hygiene ratings?
Well, most businesses handling food items need to get rated. An officer goes to the place of business to check that it meets the requirements of food safety law, and judges the premises on items like
- hygiene of handling the food (preparation/cookin/storing)
- condition of the building (cleanliness, lighting, ventilation, structure)
- food safety management (record-keeping, regular checks, generally ensuring the current standards are maintained)
Out of these findings, the business is then given a rating and this is published on the FSA website, and most businesses will also display this on the premises. In Scotland, you can see either a ‘Pass’ or ‘Improvement required’. There are various reasons as to why a business would be classed as ‘improvement required’, but as a general rule, I never buy anything from a place that hasn’t got a clear pass. In England, you can see how crucial the improvements are, but in Scotland both a lack of splashback and a mouse in the kitchen create an “improvement required”. Because of this, I have this general rule as I do not want to take that risk.
Have you checked your favourite takeaway?
And I’m not talking about the twice a day brushing kind.
Would you take your toothbrush, dip it in the toilet to wet it and then brush your teeth?
I sure hope not. Yet, if you’ve got your toothbrush sitting on a shelf above the sink out in the open, apparently you’re brushing your teeth with poo! A study done by students at Quinnipiac University suggests that 60% of toothbrushes (in shared accommodation) have fecal matter on them.
Now, mythbusters rebuked this in a way; they had toothbrushes uncovered near a toilet, as well as ones for control NOT in the bathroom, and both sets had fecal matter on them upon testing. But for the sake of having a bathroom cupboard? Worth the effort.
Toilet seat covers!
Let’s stay in the matter of all things toilet and discuss a thing that’s very popular in the US, but also used in the UK even if it is to a lesser degree: toilet seat covers.
These are just paper slips that you put between your butt and the toilet in order to avoid catching anything.
The thing is, there already is a protective cover between the toilet seat and anything that could catch germs; YOUR SKIN! Even if for some miraculous reason bacteria and bugs could live on the non-ideal circumstances of the toilet seat long enough to be able to infect you, they’d have to actually make their way to the most sensitive parts of you, which have been covered in this film of a fleshy nature. It’s almost as if nature had designed the human body this way!
The only reason you really should be using a toilet seat cover for is when there’s visible dirt on the seat, and even then – do you really want to sit on something that has a turd sitting on it? For all other seats, just plomp your behind down and make sure you clean your hands thoroughly afterwards and make sure you at no point set your bag on the floor!
So you’ve done your dirty deeds, now what?
Scrub your hands. Use soap, lots of it and use it all over, including between your fingers. Make sure you lather well and scrub. Once you’ve done the whole “doctor preparing for surgery” thing, get ready to dry your hands!
But what’s the best way of drying your hands?
Paper over Dyson. Every time. Companies prefer that you use the airdryers as they’re cheap to run and require less upkeep. They’re also the more ecological choice. Paper might spread less germs about, but even if the germs do fly about, are they harmful to humans? Unlikely.
Now you’re out shopping, you’ve done your number two’s and are now ready to go shopping! Germ-free right?
Let’s not even get started with the changing rooms (how many naked people do you think have sat on THAT?), or the fecal matter on the escalator handrails. Let’s talk about Cash Mo-nnnnneyyyy!
Within two weeks of entering circulation, british bank notes have traces of cocaine on them.
Take that in. Two weeks. And not only are they covered in the likes of Cocaine and hepatitis C, but in various other bacteria that can make you seriously ill, or at least give you the cold. Apparently, the influenza virus can stay on a note for up to 17 days and still infect you.
So next time you’re thinking of holding your notes in your mouth whilst raking about your purse for your loyalty card, just… Well, don’t. Anyone who has ever had to hand-count large sums of money can attest that it is one of the dirtiest things around. Never put money in your mouth, and wash your hands as soon as you can after you have handled money.
You’ve bought your new hotpants and high heels to wear, it’s time for makeup.
You head over to the nearest Boots and get super excited about the display, wanting to play with the lipsticks, each shade more delicious than the previous one. But before you reach for that tester, keep this in mind: you might as well reach your hand in a public toilet and smear shit all over yourself. How many people are in the store just now? Count them. Then think of how many hours that store is open a day. And how long that tester has been there. Each tester will have been touched by thousands of people, some of them with questionable hygiene. I mean, they are smearing tester products all over their face, right?
So how are you supposed to try the products out then?
If you can avoid it, please do. Some stores have a really generous returns policy just for this reason. But if you do insist on testing products, heed this advice. In most stores, they’ll have makeup counters there. At each of these counters, they’ll have sanitising products. Ask for some. The assistants will quite happily let you wipe the surface of a product to test on you. Once you have sanitised a product, test it on YOUR HAND, not your face. You can wash your hands quickly and easily, and prevent spreading of germs. If you must try on foundation, try it on your neck (as you’re meant to match the shade to your neck anyway) and wipe away immediately.
Thankfully my house is superclean!
Or is it?
When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard?
You know those noisy air-blowey things that look like they belong in the 90’s? When did you last run it across your laptop or keyboard? I did this the other day at work and was disgusted by the amount of dust & crumbs that was lurking between the keys. But it really does make sense! I do EVERYTHING in front of my laptop; I drink, I eat, I put my makeup on, I have a wee dig through the treasure trove of my nostrils and then happily type away. Even if I just sit there, I sometimes cough, sneeze and generally splutter in the general direction of the laptop. All these activities create dirt and spray bacteria towards my laptop. And the next time I sit in front of the laptop, I start typing away without thinking twice, potentially picking up the bacteria again. However this time it’s had time to grow and breed due to the heat and food.
And whilst you’re at it?
Clean your phone!
Whether it’s a landline (do people still have landlines?) or your mobile, you touch it and hold it against your face. The natural oils your body produces stick to the phone, attracting dust, dirt and bacteria which then breeds, multiplies and waits for attack.
Last but not least
No matter what happens, your food hygiene is on point! You wash your hands after handling raw chicken & eggs, you don’t keep cooked meat on the same shelf as raw meat. And you clean your knives between chopping meat and vegetables.
Spare a thought for your chopping board. Because it’s probably filthy. If you really hadn’t caught onto the theme of this post, you’re not doing well, are you?
We put sharp things on our chopping board, rubbing salmonella (chicken) and e-coli (vegetables) deep within those cuts. And after we’re done, we’re massaging a wet bit of cloth (that’s been sitting in the sink for a few weeks) on it. But because we spluttered a drop of washing up liquid in the squidgy mold-spreader, we feel that it’s okay.
Is it though?
It depends. Is your chopping board made of hard wood? Because you’re in luck. This type of wood can be considered as “self-sanitising” and can be safe to use. Softer woods are worse for your knives, and not as hygienic, nor are they that easy to sanitise. You will need to use wood-specific sanitizer in order to ensure proper hygiene.
Plastic chopping boards are super easy to sanitize, and are quick to do so. All you need is either boiling water, or chlorine-based sanitizer. Plain washing-up liquid just doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid! So do yourself a favour, and go wash your chopping boards. Because you probably need it.
The world is a scary place, and bacteria is all around us. Despite my OCD, I do feel that some bacteria is necessary for humankind to thrive. If we’re never exposed to dirt and bacteria, we will not develop the immunity to be able to thrive. You don’t need to antibac everything, and too much bleach is just that: too much. It might sound useful to just live in a bubble of antibac and bleach, never touching anything, but how realistic is that?
We’re going to have to leave the house and interact with people daily. We’re going to touch dirty things and we’re going to come across all kinds of gross things. But you’ve got two atomic bomb-scale weapons on your side:
Soap and hot water. Whenever you have touched something you’re doubtful of, wash your hands. Scrub every nook and cranny and then wash away the residue with hot water (not scalding, but as hot as you can bear.)
What are your gross facts/tips for proper hygiene?