If all the fuss about proper hand hygiene has taught us anything, it’s that we’re probably not as clean as we thought! Surprisingly, there’s a specific step in the hand-washing process that a lot of people miss—and it’s the reason why part of our clothes get dirty, too. When we think of dirty laundry, we usually think of stinky gym socks and pit-stained tees, but according to microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., the hip portion of jeans is actually the dirtiest. A study found that the most bacteria were isolated from the hips, while the least were found under the arms, after clothing was cut from different sections of clothes every 6 inches and the number of bacteria counted.
One reason for the high level of bacteria on the hip portion of jeans is that they are constantly touched, whether it’s when we stand with our hands on our hips or use our hips to wipe our hands dry. Many people do not dry their hands thoroughly enough, so when they leave the bathroom, they may use their hips to finish drying their hands. Wiping wet hands on the hip portion of our jeans increases the moisture level, making it more receptive to bacteria. Even after washing our hands, some bacteria still remains. Properly drying hands is essential as hand-washing, but is often overlooked, as it reduces the risk of contamination.
To ensure clean hands and cleaner hips, it is recommended to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use a hand towel or paper towel to dry them. Air dryers have been shown to blow bacterial spores into the air, so if there are paper towels available, they are generally the better option in a public restroom. If air dryers are the only option, they are still a better alternative to wiping on the hips. If soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizer can be used, but it should be rubbed in for at least 30 seconds to ensure its effectiveness.
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