How to flush your toilet & other tips for germ-free living

Practice germ-free living, so you don't get sick.

Microorganisms, as a whole, get a bad rep. The majority of these little critters are harmless, but we tend to focus on the minority that are out to get us — the germs of the world.

There are four major types of germs: viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa (parasites). The ones that we hear the most about are viruses and bacteria. The difference between them is that bacteria can reproduce on their own and viruses need a “host” organism (yup, that’s us).

Bacteria can cause infections, such as, strep throat or ear infections, which usually needs to be combatted with an antibiotic. Viruses, on the other hand, cause some unwanted symptoms that need to be treated individually and waited out (there’s no “cure” for the flu).

As much as we don’t like these little buggers, when you start looking into them, you have to be impressed. There are more living bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people on Earth. When you kiss someone, you trade back and forth somewhere between 10 million and one billion bacteria. Gonorrhoea bacteria are actually the strongest organisms on the face of the Earth, as they’re able to pull 100,000 times their body weight. Your sneeze or cough can travel up to 80 kilometres per hour and project approximately three metres. Whoa.

While all of that is kind of cool, the main thing we want to know about when it comes to germs is how to avoid them.

Close the lid of the toilet

When you flush the toilet, a disgusting number of unwanted micro-guests become airborne. If you’re like most of us, you keep your toothbrush by the sink…which is by the toilet, meaning that those bacteria are coming flying out of the toilet and possibly onto your toothbrush. Make it a habit to close the lid of the toilet after you go, or keep your toothbrush in a cosmetic case (or both).

Replace (or microwave) your kitchen sponge

A warm, moist environment (your sink) and access to lots of food particles means that your kitchen sponge is actually breeding all sorts of unwanted things. Replace your sponge often, or try giving it a zap in the microwave. A study from the University of Florida has shown that microwaving your sponge removes the majority of bacteria.

Wipe down your cell phone and headphones

It’s a gross fact, but your cell phone actually has more germs on its surface than a toilet seat. Likewise, your headphones also serve as home for a little colony of unwanted guests (again due to the moist environment). Give both of these essentials a wipe-down with an antibacterial cloth at the end of the day to reduce the ick-factor.

Wash your hands, often

This is hands-down the easiest way to prevent illness. Wash your hands before you eat, after you use the restroom and after you’ve been in a densely populated area (like a bus, or a gym, where you’ve been touching lots of communal objects). Some bacteria and viruses can live for over two hours on surfaces. When it comes to communal spaces, you often can’t avoid touching germ-laden surfaces, so just make sure you’re protecting yourself afterwards.

Carry hand sanitizer

It’s super handy to have a bottle of hand sanitizer in your backpack for those times when you can’t get to the washroom to wash your hands. Use it after you type on a communal keyboard at Stauffer, or grasp a stationary bike handle at the ARC.

Stay at home

If you’re really sick, do us all a favour and stay home rather than put your germs all over lecture halls, libraries and ARC door handles. Ask a friend to take notes for you and send your professor an email that you’re sick. Professors don’t want to get sick either, so they’ll be happy to have contagious students stay home.

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