You carry your purse with you and then—here’s the rub—you set it down in places like public restrooms, or worse, on the restroom floor instead of using handy hooks. Microbiologist Chuck Gerba of the University of Arizona reports that a third of purses have fecal bacteria on them, and that we should beware handbag bacteria.
Turns out that purse handles also love bacteria, and that the inside of the purse gets contaminated by the things we put in there, like our cell phones, which we also rest in less-than-hygienic places. Think of all the places you’ve put your cell phone, then picked it up and put your mouth next to it. (Or maybe don’t think of that!)
This sudden focus on handbag hygiene is a response to a study from a British cleaning and hygiene company—Initial Washroom Hygiene Solutions—which has an incentive to make people wary of omnipresent microbes. The company said a high percentage of women’s bags harbor more bacteria than the average toilet.
Leather is an attractor of bacteria because it’s “spongy, said Initial. Containers of hand cream in the purse carry high levels of bacteria, which makes sense considering where our hands go in the course of our daily lives.
Bacteria inside and out
In a 2006 story with ABC News, Gerba said he’s examined lots of purses and found thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions of bacteria on or in them. That’s a lot of bad bugs.
Yeah, yeah, you don’t really “touch” that purse or lick it, but those germs are transferable—getting on your hands and sometimes on food preparation areas. Purses, he said, are “subways for micro organisms,” something that Louis Vuitton won’t be putting in its advertisements anytime soon.
How to fight handbag bacteria
What should you do? Add this to the already overwhelming list of precautions we humans must take every day if we are diligent, which we are made to feel we should be—and I’m not helping here, I know. But we can use antibacterial wipes on the purse exterior, and in an OCD sort of way, wash our hands every time they go in or on our purses.
Overkill? Maybe. It will be difficult to point the finger at a purse the next time we get sick. This story could continue with a discussion of good and bad bacteria, but let’s end it with a dose of common sense. Bet we ladies will be a lot more careful the next time we run in the ladies’ room at the airport.