10 Germ Myths Under the Microscope

While the alcohol rub stays on the hands and is not meant to be rinsed off, the antibacterial triclosan is rinsed off before it can do all its work and then enters the water supply.

"The reason I don't like it is because it gets in the water supply and stuff like that," said Hendley of his opposition to triclosan in soap.



Scott notes that resistant strains of bacteria have been created in labs using triclosan, although it remains to be seen if it will happen in the natural environment.

"It's something that's been observed in the laboratory, and it's something that needs to be researched," she said.

For Sattar, the long-term risks of triclosan in the environment also need to be looked at.

"Their accumulation in the environment or chronic exposure to them on a long-term basis, especially for children, may have a long-term risk that we will not discover until later on," he said.

Ultimately, Sattar said, antibacterial soap doesn't do enough to justify its use. "Don't take risk without a demonstrated benefit," he said.

Fact or Myth? Sponges typically don't help keep your kitchen cleaner, they just spread germs around.

Answer: Fact

Sponges pick up various contaminants when used to clean used to clean dishes or surfaces that food has touched, and those contaminants can be easily spread.

"Sponges are probably the most germ-laden object in the household," said Gerba. "They usually contain 10,000,000 or more fecal bacteria. In a study we did some years ago, we found salmonella in 10 percent of them. The reason is that they are wet and pick up food for the bacteria. They do a great job of spreading bacteria around the household."



So in order to keep sponges from being bacteria farms for your kitchen, several steps should be taken.

Hendley said he maintains separate counter and dish sponges and makes sure to have detergent in the sponge whenever he uses it.

Scott said that maintaining separate dish and counter sponges is key.

"I think the best practice is to keep the sponge at the kitchen sink for washing up, and to use paper towels for wiping down kitchen surfaces," she said.

Sponges can be placed in the dishwasher or laundry to decontaminate them, although the research on how much that helps remains unclear.

Perhaps the best way to clean sponges is by microwaving them, but it's important to ensure that they are wet before putting them in.

Fact or Myth? Plastic cutting boards are more sanitary than wooden ones.

Answer: Fact -- if the board's handled right

The difference in sanitation has little to do with the cutting boards themselves.

"[The cutting boards] are about the same," said Gerba. "In the average household they have 200 times more fecal bacteria that the average toilet seat."



Scott explains that the wear on the cutting board affects its cleanliness more than the material from which it's made.

"The most important thing is, whatever cutting board anyone's using, it's not badly scoured," she said.

So why did we deem this a fact?

As Scott explained, a plastic cutting board is easier to clean, by bleaching it at the sink or putting it through the dishwasher.

In any case, she noted, separate cutting boards should be used for raw chicken or beef and vegetables.

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