You may be able to pick up some great bargains at the mall on Black Friday, but if you’re not careful, you could also pick yourself up some E. coli or staphylococcus by way of someone else’s feces or nostril phlegm–because, you know, no one washes their damn hands anymore. Fox News recently had a panel of experts weigh in on the most germ-infested places at the mall, and here are the ones to avoid–or at least break out the hand sanitizer before and after touching.
1. Restroom sinks
You might think these would be clean since people are supposed to be using soap and hot water, but in actuality, this was deemed the “filthiest area” in a restroom. Even more so than the toilets! Why? Bacteria, including E. coli, fester on the faucet and handles because people touch those surfaces right after using the toilet, explains panelist Charles Gerba. In addition, the sink is continually wet, and that’s an environment where bacteria thrive. Oh, and be leery of soap dispensers too–one in four was found to have unsafe levels of bacteria.
2. Food court tables
You know when you see a worker wiping down the tables at a restaurant or in the food court? When was the last time that rag was washed? How many dirty tables has that rag been used on? We probably don’t want to know. So don’t assume the table is sanitary even if it was just wiped down because these rags can actually spread harmful E. coli.
3. Escalator handrails
Eww. “In our testing, we have found food, E. coli, urine, mucus, feces, and blood on escalator handrails,” says Gerba. Not only is this totally disgusting, but cold and flu viruses can also be found there. Think of it this way: People touch themselves (nose, mouth, butt) without washing and then spread those germs on the handrails.
4. ATM keypads
Think of how many people must use these every day. And we would bet they are never cleaned. In fact, one study showed that on 38 different ATMs, each key contained an average of 1,200 germs, including E. coli and cold and flu viruses.
5. Toy stores
We all know kids can be gross and dirty. One panelist said, “Kids lick toys, roll them on their heads, and rub them on their faces, and all that leaves a plethora of germs on the toys.” Then the toys end up back on the shelves after parents refuse to buy them.
6. Fitting rooms
Apparently, the dirty carpeted floors and guest chairs are not the germiest places; it’s the clothing! Skin cells and perspiration can accumulate and serve as a breeding ground for bacterial growth. Your best bet? Leave your underwear on and be sure to wash everything before wearing it.
7. Gadget shops
As tempting as it might be to test out the latest iPad, thousands of people before you had the same idea. And while experts say most stores clean their equipment, they certainly don’t do so after every use.
8. Makeup samples
A 2005 study found that between 67 and 100% of makeup counter testers were contaminated with bacteria, including staph, strep, and E. coli. “This study shows us that someone was sick or went to the bathroom, didn’t wash their hands, and then stuck their finger in the sample,” one panelist said. Gross.