Germ Alert: Are Women Dirtier Than Men?

New study says women's offices have more germs than those of men

Feb. 13, 2007 — -- A new study from the University of Arizona says that women's offices have 3½ times more germs than men's.

On "Good Morning America," Dr. Charles Gerba -- aka "the Germ Guru" -- shared tips on how to get rid of germs and stay healthy.

Gerba explained why women's offices tended to have more germs than men's.

"Women's offices tend to be dirtier than men's for the following reasons. First, they tend to use hand lotion more often, which gets on surfaces and traps germs. Then, they tend to be around children more often then men, and we all know how easily kids transmit germs. And finally they use makeup, which tends to absorb germs. Then it rubs off the face or gets scattered by brushes and sponges," he said.

Gerba explained that germs often hid in desk drawers.

"Women, in particular, are more likely to put food in there. I'm not sure exactly why -- maybe because they are more likely to be secret snackers," he said.

"We actually found a lot of mold inside the drawers because of food. Disinfectant wipes are a good way to eliminate bacteria and mold that accumulate."

Gerba said everyone should arm their office with a germ arsenal that includes:

Disinfectant wipes

Disinfectant spray

Paper towels

Fruit (for drawer)

According to Gerba, people should clean cell phones and desk phones to get rid of bacteria.

"You need to use a disinfectant wipe, or spray disinfectant on a paper towel, and clean the phone off. Never directly spray disinfectant cleaner on phone," he said. "Do not use soap and water -- that just pushes the germs around."

Women's purses can pick up a lot of germs. Gerba's study found fecal bacteria in one-third of the handbags tested, but Gerba found that men's wallets and Palm Pilot cases were actually dirtier.

"We think in the case of the wallet, it's because it tends to stay in a warm place: the back pocket. Germs like warm places. Also, for the Palm Pilot, men like to play a lot of games and fiddle with gadgets, so they just tend to get touched a lot," he said.

"We recommend that you use a wallet or purse that can be easily wiped off -- like leather. A fabric bag is harder to clean and just holds more germs."

Finally, Gerba said to give office knickknacks and accessories the same thorough cleaning as everything else.

"People tend to touch and pick up the knickknacks on their desks. It's a vicious cycle of germs transferring from hands to objects to desks," he said.

"Hand sanitizers are great in eliminating the transfer of germs from your hands."