1. Not Putting the Lid Down When you Flush

Toilet bowl

Most of us don’t think twice about closing the toilet lid when flushing but you really should. A 2012 UK study of hospital toilets by researchers from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals found that flushing with the lid up can spray diarrhoea-causing bacteria[1] into the air. The bacteria were detected as far as 25cm above the toilet seat. Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiology and environmental sciences professor at the University of Arizona with more than 400 peer-reviewed papers on infection and disinfection, told greatist.com[2] that the water droplets can also carry bacteria such as “E. coli[3], norovirus, salmonella, or shigella”. 

So always remember to wash your hands with soap after using the loo, as everything from the flush button to your hands could carry germs. Use the HPB’s 8-step handwashing method to eliminate germ count by 99%. Bonus tip: try to avoid touching the main door handle when exiting the washroom as it could also be teeming with germs.

Related: How to Protect Yourself From Travellers’ Diarrhoea

2. Not Flossing Daily

Woman using a mirror to floss her teeth

We all know we need to brush our teeth at least twice daily. But that’s not enough, according to Kimberly Chim, Oral Health Therapist at the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS). In an interview with Singapore Health[4], she said that flossing nightly is vital as brushing cleans only 60% of teeth but does not remove bacteria and food debris from tight spots and gum pockets.

Flossing, however, can help remove plaque and food stuck in between gums and teeth. During the day, regular saliva secretion helps to combat bad bacteria in the mouth. At night, the saliva secretion slows down, allowing bacteria to damage gums and teeth. So skipping the flossing could allow bad bacteria to create havoc at night!

Bad oral hygiene could lead to Gingivitis, that causes gums to turn red and swollen, and bleed easily. If left untreated, the condition can deteriorate to Periodontitis where the gums and bones supporting the teeth are damaged. So don’t be lazy — just reach for the floss tonight.

Related: Tools for Terrific Teeth

3. Sharing your Towel or Toothbrush

Young boy having fun in a water park

Having an impromptu sleepover with friends but there aren’t enough spare guest towels or new toothbrushes for them? Do not ever share yours! The process of drying your body rubs dead skin off, which sticks to the wet towel, making it a hotbed for germ reproduction.

Dr Kelly A Reynolds, an environmental health science professor at the University of Arizona told Buzzfeed Lite[5] that bacteria and mould begin to accumulate on towels after each use but “growth will be slowed as the towel dries”. If anyone has an infection like viral conjunctivitis, the disease can be spread when towels are shared.

Your toothbrush too, is teeming with millions of germs, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Oral Health Division[6]. “In removing plaque and other soft debris from the teeth, toothbrushes become contaminated with bacteria, blood, saliva, oral debris, and toothpaste… Limited research has suggested that even after being rinsed visibly clean, toothbrushes can remain contaminated with potentially pathogenic organisms,” it said.

The Division added that sharing toothbrushes is a no-no as body fluids could be exchanged as a result, leading to increased risk of infections. So sharing might be caring but when it comes to towels and toothbrushes, it’s best to be selfish. Hide your toothbrush and pass your friends the mouthwash instead.

Related: Keep Germs Away

4. Leaving your Used Tissues Around

Asian woman throwing away a used piece of tissue

Having the flu? Did you know that you could be spreading the virus to others because every time you sneeze, cough or even speak, the flu virus is transmitted into the air via droplets? The virus could then enter the nose, throat or lungs of anyone nearby and attack their respiratory system. In fact, you can also spread the virus when you touch your nose or mouth when sick and then touch other surfaces like a cup, a door knob or even a spoon.

According to The New York State’s Dept of Health[7], anyone within a metre can be infected and flu germs can live for hours on surfaces like desks and tables. So when you have the flu, remember to wear a mask, sneeze or cough into a tissue and throw it into a closed bin. The longer a piece of used tissue is left on the desk, the more germs get transmitted in the air.

If the area is ventilated by air-conditioners, germs linger for longer periods of time with repeated air circulation in the enclosed area. Why is it important to take these precautions? It’s because influenza can result in severe complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infection, meningitis (inflammation of the lining that covers the brain) or even death. So keep the virus at bay with good hygiene!

Related: Protect Yourself and Others Against the Flu

5. Lingering in your Gym Clothes for Too Long

Female jogger wiping her sweat after having a run

Do you have the habit of staying in your gym clothes after a workout? No matter how tired you are, it’s still best to hit the showers or even have a change of clothes before going home or hanging out at a café. Bacteria and fungi love the warm and humid — making your drenched clothes an ideal breeding ground.

Even high-tech fabric that wicks moisture and accelerates the evaporation of perspiration can’t prevent bacterial growth, according to a 2014 study[8] by researchers from the University of Ghent, Belgium. After incubating wet gym clothes for 28 hours, they reported that shirts made from synthetic material smelt worse than cotton ones. This was due to different bacterial growth — the micrococcus bacteria thrived in polyester, while staphylococcus lived on both materials.

Furthermore, the longer you linger in your gym clothes, the more vulnerable you are to ringworm infection[9], while sweat, excessive humidity and tight-fitting clothes can also aggravate atopic dermatitis[10].

If your clothes are wet, your undies are probably drenched, which can lead to a really itchy situation down under. As explained in “7 tips to prevent yeast infection”[11], yeast loves to grow in damp places so change out of your sweaty clothes or wet swimsuit as soon as you can. Yeast infections cause itching, redness and swelling. So please, just peel off the icky wet clothes and jump into the shower asap.

Related: She Lost 30 Kilos To Fit Into Her Old Clothes

6. Sharing Nail Clippers

Asian mother cutting the nails for her baby

Are you guilty of sharing your nail clippers with Mom, Dad and everyone else at home? While we know we should never share razors as they can spread infections when we accidentally cut ourselves shaving, few people realise that it’s the same when it comes to nail clippers. Accidental cuts when clipping our nails (and dead skin), could lead to the spread of Hepatitis B, says the HPB while fungal nail infections[12] could be spread too, according to the CDC.

The HPB advises us never to share “personal items like razors, toothbrushes, earrings, body piercing or any other instruments that may result in tears to the skin (and hence spread of any blood borne infection).” At your next visit to the nail parlour, make sure you check they’ve sterilised the nail clipper before use. To keep infections at bay, how about buying one for every family member? If that doesn’t suit your budget, make sure you sterilise the nail clipper thoroughly before each use!

Related: Keep Those Little Hands Clean

7. Eating at your Desk

Business man eating pizza at his desk while working on a project

Time for lunch but there’s too much work to be done? Having a snack while reading a report? Multi-tasking might just be the way to go but did you know that eating at your desk is really eeky? In a study[13], Dr Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona found that the average desktop had more than 400 times of germs as compared to the office toilet seat, with almost 21,000 germs per square inch.

Phones fared worse, with more than 25,000 germs per square inch. Your desk, phone, keyboards and mouse are key transfer points for germs because you touch them so often. Also, did you know that coughing and sneezing leaves behind a minefield of viruses that can survive for up to three days? By eating at your desk, you could potentially be exposing yourself to a large multitude of germs.

In addition to this, food crumbs on your desk or in the crevices of your keyboard might invite pests such as cockroaches and mice. So, the next time you have your lunch, take some time off to walk to a nearby eatery. It’s healthier too.

Related: Chew on Mindless Eating

8. Bringing the Mobile to the Toilet

Woman using her phone while in the bathroom

Feel the urge to use the toilet? These days most people are so attached to their mobile phones that they take them almost everywhere and anywhere. If you’ve already read “Mistake #1 — Not putting the lid down when you flush”, you would know that the flush is literally a germ geyser that sends bacteria everywhere — including the phone in your hands.

A 2015 survey[14] of 400 Singaporeans revealed that three in four respondents used their phones in the toilet, but only 2% sanitise their phones after that. A 2011 UK-wide study[15] by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the Queen Mary University of London found that one in six mobile phones in Britian was contaminated with faecal matter containing the E.coli bacteria, which when ingested can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhoea.

They say the most likely reason for the finding was that many failed to wash their hands properly with soap after going to the loo — unclean hands can lead to phones that are covered with faecal matter. Faecal bacteria can survive on hands and surfaces for hours — especially in sunny Singapore — anyone with contaminated hands touching food, door handles and mobile phones can also pass the bacteria along.

So the next time you answer Nature’s call, put the phone away first and be sure to practise the HPB’s 8-step handwashing method to get rid of any germs before you use your phone again. If you “die die” must use the phone while using the toilet, be sure to sanitise it thoroughly with suitable cleaning cloths or wipes afterwards.

Read these next:


  1. Best, E. L., Sandoe, J. A., Wilcox, M. H. (2012 Jan). Potential for aerosolization of Clostridium difficile after flushing toilets: the role of toilet lids in reducing environmental contamination risk. Journal of Hospital Infection, 80(1), p. 1-5
    Retrieved March 2016 from doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2011.08.010

  2. Nussbaum, R. (2015, Oct 30). The Least Disgusting Way to Use a Public Toilet, According to Experts [Greatist].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://greatist.com/grow/how-to-use-public-toilet

  3. Naughton, M. (2014, Dec 18). Everything You Don't Want to Know About Household Germs But Really Should [Greatist].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://greatist.com/grow/fight-household-germs

  4. National Dental Centre Singapore. (n.d.). Why and How You Should Floss [Healthxchange].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/healthyliving/SkinBeauty/Pages/Why-and-how-you-should-floss.aspx

  5. Lowry, C. (2015, Jan 30). This Is How Often You Should Actually Wash Your Towels [BuzzFeed].
    Retrieved March 2016 from https://www.buzzfeed.com/candacelowry/this-is-how-often-you-should-actually-wash-your-towels?bffb&utm_term=.cx8GmYL38Z#.sbRAWo8dwa

  6. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Oral Health. (2013, Jul 10). The Use and Handling of Toothbrushes [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/OralHealth/infectioncontrol/factsheets/toothbrushes.htm

  7. New York State, Department of Health. (2013, Nov). This is How Germs Spread… It's Sickening! [New York State].
    Retrieved March 2016 from https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/7110/

  8. Callewaert, C., Maeseneire, E. D., Kerckhof, F., Verliefde, A., Van de Wiele, T., Boon, N. (2014, Nov). Microbial Odor Profile of Polyester and Cotton Clothes after a Fitness Session. American Society for Microbiology: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 80(21), p. 6611-6619.
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4249026/

  9. Berman, K. (2015, Apr 4). Ringworm [MedlinePlus].
    Retrieved March 2016 from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001439.htm

  10. Kim, D. and Lockey, R. (2010, Jun). Dermatology for the Allergist. World Allergy Organization Journal, 3(6), p. 202-215.
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3488899/

  11. Cheong, T. (n.d.). 7 Tips to Prevent Yeast Infections [Healthxchange].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/healthyliving/womenhealth/Pages/7-Tips-to-Prevent-Yeast-Infections.aspx

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, Sep 30). Fungal nail infections [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/nail-infections.html

  13. Canada Safety Council. (2009, Apr). On the Job — Germs: Here, there and everywhere [Canada Safety Council].
    Retrieved March 2016 from https://canadasafetycouncil.org/safety-canada-online/article/job-germs-here-there-and-everywhere

  14. TODAY. (2015, Sep 27). 3 of 4 Singaporeans use mobile phones in the toilet, but few sanitise them: Survey. Channel NewsAsia.
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/3-of-4-singaporeans-use/2153494.html

  15. London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. (2011, Oct 14). Contamination of mobile phones and hands revealed for Global Handwashing Day [London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine].
    Retrieved March 2016 from http://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2011/global_handwashing_day_2011.html