Every single day, humans come into contact with, breathe in, touch and even eat the stuff nightmares are made of. And I’ve got news for you — that includes you, too.
Even if you live a healthy lifestyle or consider yourself a total “clean freak,” the unavoidable reality is that there are tons of tiny, mundane things we all do without so much as a second thought that are pretty darn gross.
Can you avoid these secretly disgusting things entirely? Not likely, but the following list should at least inspire you to wash your hands often and invest in a few (thousand) bottles of sanitizer.
1. Handling money
A 2014 study identified 3,000 different types of bacteria on a dollar bill from a Manhattan bank. According to New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, who conducted the study, most of the bacteria came from microbes on the skin — but others matched those found in mouths and even vaginas.
2. Applying lotion
Lots of lotions contain lanolin. So what, right? Well, here’s the rub (haha, get it?). Lanolin is a byproduct of the wool industry. After a sheep’s wool is sheared, the wool oil — aka lanolin — is extracted from the wool for use in lotions as an emollient. Since lanolin in sheep is similar to the sebaceous secretions of human skin, lotion is essentially made using sheep sweat.
I know, I know — going from sheep sweat to making out is a weird transition. However, kissing lands on the list of gross daily doings for good reason. A recent study in the journal Microbiome found that a 10-second French kiss can spread 80,000 bacteria between mouths.
4. Eating peanut butter
Woe is us. Woe is us! The FDA has confirmed that eating peanut butter is a dicey business — allowed in each jar is up to an “average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams” and an “average of one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.”
5. Brushing our teeth
According to the researchers at the University of Manchester in England, the average toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and Staph. What’s more, a toothbrush — or should I say poo-th brush? — within six feet of a toilet can get airborne bacteria from flushing.
6. Using our cell phones
I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’m just going to come right out and say it. That smartphone tethered to your hand? Well, it quite possibly carries 10 times more bacteria than the typical toilet seat. Part of the problem lies in the lack of routine cleaning, so stock up on antibacterial wipes.
As unavoidable activities go, this one pretty much tops the list, eh? And while breathing has many wonderful side effects (namely, living), it does cause us to suck in some questionable stuff. For example, did you know that we inhale roughly one liter of other people’s anal gasses on a daily basis? Not to mention that since the average adult produces about half a liter of flatulent gas per day, that figure could be conservative. We also each inhale copious amounts of dead skin flakes per day — about 15 percent of what we breathe in — along with the particulated carapaces of molting arachnids and insects.
8. Cuddling with our cats
How could you not cuddle with your furry feline friends? They’re the cutest. Unfortunately, they also scratch around in boxes filled with their own urine and excrement on a regular basis. Even if you clean the litter box religiously, the odds are good those kitty paws kneading your lap right now contain traces of E. coli or some other bacteria.
Our sinuses make a liter of mucus every day, and studies have shown that mucus spray can travel between five and 200 times farther via sneeze than it might by, say, a cough. And since sneezes expel air and mucus from the body at speeds of up to 93 miles per hour, there’s pretty much no outrunning ’em.
10. Wiping away eye crusties
In my husband’s Hawaiian family, the cutesy name for the crud that accumulates in the corner of your eyes some mornings is “maka pia p’ia,” which roughly translates to yellow eye clusters. But whether you call it by a cutesy name or not, it doesn’t change the fact this discharge is comprised of nasal mucus, blood cells, skin cells and dust particles. Yuck.
11. Working on the computer
Joining cell phones in the category of technology that will now gross you out forever is your computer. A 2008 study conducted by British microbiologist James Francis showed that computer keyboards actually contain far more bacteria than toilet door handles or even toilet seats.
12. Ingesting vanilla flavoring… or a bagel
Are these unrelated? Sure. Do you do them every day? Maybe not. But seriously, you guys, you should know that castoreum — a liquid found in castor sacs near a beaver’s anus — is sometimes used in substitutes for vanilla flavoring. If that doesn’t totally put you off food, know that bagels, breads and breakfast foods often contain L-Cysteine, which is a compound made from human hair and/or duck feathers.
13. Putting on lipstick
Unless the lipstick you’re painting your pucker with is PETA-approved, you may be coating your lips in fish scales. Guanine, a crystalline material obtained from these scales, is often used in the formulation of cosmetics for the way it reflects light and reduces the transparency of products. And since women end up digesting most of the lipstick they apply… uh, bon appetit?
14. Drinking orange juice
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows up to 10 fruit fly eggs per every cup of orange juice. But, hey, don’t worry — only two maggots are acceptable. Between this and the whole human hair bagel thing, I may be off breakfast for life.
15. Going to bed
Although I feel fairly certain much of what you’ve just learned may keep you up nights now, here’s one last nugget to seal the deal: Mattresses are full of dead skin cells, colonies of dust mites (which feed off the dead skin), dust mite poo, oil and moisture. So much so, in fact, a typical mattress can double in weight during a 10-year span. Sweet dreams!
This post was sponsored by Clorox. All stories and opinions are that of the author.