A bit of dirt never did anyone any harm, according to the saying. But is that really the case? As sales of antibacterial products increase we wanted to know – are we becoming more paranoid or are the risks real?
We asked two expert scientists to debunk some myths about germs as well as swabbing some everyday items to find out about the risks. We also looked at whether you need certain antibacterial products.
When we swabbed everyday items for germs we found some people really aren’t as hygienic as you’d hope. Of the 30 shopping trolleys and baskets we tested, three showed positive for enterobacteria – two at high levels.
These bacteria commonly come from human and animal waste and include E. coli, salmonella and shigella. Which? Computing has previously swabbed tablets and keyboards and found higher levels of bacteria, where 14 out of the 30 keyboards had very high levels of enterobacteria.
And with UK consumers spending an estimated £239m on multipurpose germ-killing cleaning products last year according to Mintel – it’s an expensive business.
Set on sanitising?
Now we live in reasonable harmony with many bacteria and viruses and most of the time we manage to resist getting ill. So while there’s a serious yuck factor, the chances are that germs are not going to harm most of us, most of the time.
In fact coming into contact with low levels of bacteria and viruses can help the body maintain an effective immune system. Other bacteria are actually beneficial or simply harmless.
It would be mad to say that germs are never an issue – any type can cause significant problems given the right conditions. And the risks multiply if you have a diminished immune system, or are very young or very old. It also depends on the type of germs you encounter and how many. But if you’re spending lots of money on antibacterial products, it’s worth considering if you could achieve similar results with soap and water.
So how do deal with germs? Are you a soap and water person or do you prefer to carry a bottle of hand gel with you everywhere you go?