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The Most Germ-Filled Parts of Your Commute (and How to Deal With Them)


Your hands might be clean when you leave your front door, but think about all the things you touch along the way to work every day. Whether you ride public transit and hang from the bus straps, or get in your car that’s also the grade-school carpool wagon, you’re bound to hit some germy quagmires along the way. Here’s how to deal with all that ick.


(Photo Credit: eblaser/Flickr)

You touch this, you touch that, then you touch your face.

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Do you hug on the metal pole in your subway car? Do you wear the same pair of gloves all winter and never wash them? Do you sneeze on your steering wheel? You might be encountering more germs during the day than you realize. Last winter, a New York-based television station tested swabs of common commute touchpoints, like transit card vending machines, poles, and grab bars. What the tests showed were a super gross variety of bacteria, some identical to what you’d find in poop (ew.). They also found the flu virus in easy-to spread areas — that makes it even more important to go get your flu shot this year.

Your car can’t protect you from germs.

Even if you don’t jump on public transit to get to work, you still encounter germs — in your own car. An ABC News piece profiled one such commuter vehicle, which also happens to frequently transport small children, and they found “millions of bacteria on the door handles, seat and floor of the SUV.”

What they learned was the worst parts were the dashboard, change holder, and beverage holders: “The reason is … because the air flows … over your dashboard and so, the bacteria tend to build up on that surface.”

But relax, because…

A little germ exposure is good for you. This City Lab piece details that even despite our best efforts to avoid germs, we’re still likely to encounter them. Instead of freaking out about opening doors (or flushing toilets) with our feet, it’s a better idea to accept the germs as part of your personal microbiome, instead of something to fight with all your might. And don’t scrub all day long: “Excessive removal of bacteria, either with soap or hand sanitizer, may hinder your body’s natural ability to fight off infection.”

Even if you want to clean your germ touchpoints, it’s easy to do so (no toxic waste suit needed). A simple clean with soap and water — just like how you should simply clean your hands and gloves — does the trick. If you want to get fast and furious, try a quick rubdown with a cleaning wipe on your steering wheel, dashboard, and other zones. On-the-go, that bottle of hand sanitizer can’t hurt after you touch the public transit zones. Just don’t go overboard. Germs are our friends (in small doses).

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What are the germiest parts of your commute? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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