15 Times You Should Definitely Be Washing Your Hands and Aren’t

You’re taught from a young age to wash your hands after using the bathroom. However, that’s not the only time you should lather on the soap. There are plenty of life situations that warrant hand-washing. Here are 15 times you should definitely be washing your hands and probably aren’t.

market cart and supermarket

Shopping carts are filled with germs. | iStock.com/olegkalina

1. After touching a shopping cart

Whether you’re walking around the store with a rolling cart or holding a hand basket just to grab a few items, you’ll always want to wash your hands the moment you leave the store. Shopping carts carry roughly 138,000 bacteria per square inch, and they’re one of the germiest things you can get your hands on while running errands. According to a Reader’s Digest study, 50% of shopping carts carry E. coli, while a shocking 72% carry coliform bacteria. Those are not germs you want to bring home with you.
Next: You probably use this often.

2. After using the ATM

elderly man inserting credit card to ATM outdoor

Wash your hands after using the ATM. | Dobok/iStock/Getty Images

The ATM is one of those machines that can be used by hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in a day, depending on its location. As a result, it’s loaded with germs. According to Telegraph, a study by British company BioCote found that ATMs harbor diarrhea-causing bacteria and are just as dirty as public toilets. Any form of public machinery is nearly guaranteed to be full of bacteria, so it’s always important to wash your hands after use.

Next: This small space spreads plenty of germs.

3. After getting off a plane

Airplane passenger listens to music on his phone

Airplanes are loaded with germs. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Planes transport hundreds of passengers in an extremely closed space. And those arm rests, pillows, and more definitely aren’t sanitized every time the aircraft turns over passengers. While the air you breathe on a plane can carry germs on its own, you’re still doing yourself a favor if you wash up as soon as you exit the airplane. Enclosed spaces always come with a health risk, but don’t up your chances by ignoring the hand washing.

Next: This gesture is used often, but it spreads germs.

4. After shaking someone’s hand

Handshake between two colleagues in office

Handshakes transfer plenty of germs. | Saklakova/iStock/Getty Images

It’s customary to shake someone’s hand when you meet them or before leaving them, but you’re spreading germs like crazy. When you shake someone’s hand, anything they’ve touched since the last time they washed is now on you. This can expose you to cold and flu viruses and potentially harmful bacteria. In a more casual setting, fist bumps are acceptable and a much better way to greet and say goodbye to someone. If that’s not an option, be sure to wash up after you shake someone’s hand.

Next: You might use this every day — but how often do you sanitize afterward?

5. When using public transportation

Passengers ride in a subway car two days after a man was pushed to his death in front of a train

Subways are full of germs. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It may be necessary to hold that subway pole while the train is moving. And it’s definitely necessary to touch the door handle of your Uber. But when you do this, you’re also picking up plenty of germs that could easily make you sick. Public transportation is a normal way of life, especially if you live in a big city. But the best way to prevent picking up any harmful germs is to wash your hands once you get off the train or out of your Uber or Lyft. Always carry hand sanitizer with you in case you’re not close to a bathroom.

Next: We all have these, but borrowing someone’s is germy.

6. After using someone else’s cell phone

Don't share cell phones.

Don’t share phones.| iStock.com/Dangubic

Phones are one of those objects you probably don’t clean nearly as often as you should. You might set it down at the cash register of your favorite coffee shop or on the sink ledge of a public restroom — and everyone else does the same. When you borrow someone’s cell phone, you’re subjecting yourself to anywhere their phone has been since they last washed it. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, avoid picking up someone else’s phone — let them show you that cool video while they’re holding it themselves. And make sure to wipe down your phone with a cleansing wipe at least once per week.

Next: If you’re in close quarters, wash up.

7. When someone in your house is sick

Sick woman with headache

If someone is sick, make sure to wash your hands. | BartekSzewczyk/iStock/Getty Images

This is one of the most vital times to wash your hands. Whether it’s a friend, sibling, child, or partner, when someone else in your home is sick, it’s important that you take hygiene seriously. On a hard surface, such as a kitchen counter, flu viruses can survive up to 24 hours. In addition to sanitizing your hands, make sure to sanitize any hard surface (and don’t forget the television remote), so you won’t pick up those germs.

Next: If you’ve visited this place, you should wash your hands.

8. After picking up a medication at the pharmacy

Woman choosing sunscreen

Wash your hands after visiting the pharmacy. | RossHelen/Getty Images

Whenever you pay for something, such as a medication, you have to sign for it using either the pen at the counter or the one attached to the touchpad. Both of these writing utensils have not only been touched by hundreds of hands throughout the week, but these hands have most likely been sick. Perhaps someone with strep throat signed before you, and a person with the stomach virus before them. Anywhere that distributes medication also attracts a lot of sick people. Make sure to wash your hands after picking up a prescription.

Next: Just like the pharmacy, this place is filled with sick people.

9. After visiting the doctor’s office

mom and son in doctor's office

Waiting in a doctor’s room? Make sure you wash your hands after. | Stockbyte/iStock/Getty Images

A doctor’s office or minute clinic attracts sick people the same way the pharmacy does. And when you arrive at the doctor, you almost always have to sign in. Once you touch that pen, you’re picking up plenty of other people’s germs. And anything you touch, from the bathroom door handle to the sign-in counter, is loaded with germs, too. Do yourself a favor and always wash your hands after the doctor’s office; you’ll avoid catching any more unwanted illnesses.

Next: This household chore is actually very germy.

10. After loading the dishwasher

A female hand is shown loading dishes

Always wash your hands after putting dirty dishes in the dish washer. | iStock.com/akit

Taking those dirty dishes from the sink to the dishwasher is a pretty gross task when you think about it. The sink is full of moisture, which means it leaves plenty of room for bacteria to grow on plates while they pile up. And if you handle raw meat on a plate, then put that plate in the sink, the bacteria are still there. Plus, dirty utensils that were in people’s mouths have also accumulated in the sink. The best way to avoid illness is to load all of the plates and utensils into the dishwasher, then wash your hands.

Next: Going out to eat is fun, but germy.

11. After ordering off a restaurant menu

Waiter serving table of five in a cruise ship

Wash your hands after ordering and before eating your food. | Creatas/iStock/Getty Images

Restaurant menus are not usually properly sanitized. They carry plenty of germs, and since you’ll be eating shortly after touching one, you should wash your hands. Restaurants should sanitize their menus after a long day, but many don’t do it properly. Since you can’t rely on the restaurant to prevent you from getting sick, take it upon yourself to prevent illness. Wash your hands in the restroom or carry hand sanitizer for after you order.

Next: Any contact with these means you should wash your hands.

12. After touching a stray animal

Stray kitten in a shelter

Call animal control if you see a stray animal. | points/iStock/Getty Images

A friendly cat in your bushes might seem harmless, but you don’t know where it came from or what diseases it could be carrying. Any time you touch an unfamiliar animal, you should always wash your hands. The best option is to call animal control and not touch the animal at all. However, if you can’t help it, at least make sure to wash for the full 20 seconds after. And if a stray animal ever bites you, notify your doctor right away; certain strays carry rabies.

Next: Handling certain foods requires hand washing.

13. After handling raw eggs or meat

Factory farmed meat

Always wash your hands after handling raw chicken or meat. | Bit245/iStock/Getty Images

Most people know to wash their hands after touching raw meat, but you may not know to wash for the full 20 seconds. This is the only way to guarantee you’re killing all of the harmful bacteria. And you might not thoroughly wash your hands after touching raw eggs, either, but you should. While salmonella from an egg is rare, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Any time you deal with any uncooked food, make sure to sanitize.

Next: Hand washing prevents you from getting sick, but it also prevents you from spreading anything.

14. After coughing or sneezing

Allergies sneezing

Sneeze into a tissue and wash your hands to prevent spreading illness. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

You always want to avoid getting sick from others. But it’s just as important to prevent infecting others with your own sickness. Anytime you sneeze or cough into your hands, you should wash them. But sometimes, if you don’t feel like you’ve spread any germs from a sneeze, you might head to the sink. As a safety measure, always cough into your arm and sneeze into a tissue. But if one isn’t available and you need to sneeze into your hands, make sure you head to the bathroom and wash up to prevent giving others your germs.

Next: Females should always wash their hands before and after this

15. Before and after using female hygiene products

Female friends

Wash your hands before and after using feminine hygiene products.| Rawpixel/iStock/Getty Images

When you insert female hygiene products, it’s always important that you wash your hands first. Otherwise, you run the risk of infection. Toxic shock syndrome, a serious, potentially life-threatening infection that can come from feminine hygiene products, has a greater risk of developing if you don’t wash your hands before insertion and removal. Washing your hands keeps bacteria away from that area, which just might save your life.

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