9 Common Tricks for Avoiding Germs That Actually Don’t Work

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If you try to avoid germs by using your foot to flush public toilets or your knuckle to press elevator buttons, prepare to be disappointed. Here’s what doesn’t work—and what really does—according to hygiene experts.

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Toilet paper put on Open Toilet seat. Cover The Toilet Seat With Tissue Paper.aSuruwataRi/Shutterstock

Using a paper toilet seat cover

You may feel more comfortable in public restrooms when you can place that thin sheet of paper between the bare toilet seat and your bare behind, but in reality, you might as well sit straight down. Those toilet seat covers, which are often made of tissue paper, are absorbent, and any bacteria or liquids will quickly be wicked up to your tush. But don’t fret. Your skin is all the protection you need. Any potentially problematic bacteria you might pick up would have to find a way into your body through an open wound or, more likely, your hands.

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Pizza slice dropped on the groundPeter Gudella/Shutterstock

Living by the five-second rule

Everyone does it—scoop up a snack, pacifier, or utensil that just hit the floor and claim that it’s OK thanks to the “five-second rule.” Research shows, however, that this bit of wisdom is a myth. Yes, the longer something stays in contact with a dirty surface, the more bacteria it will pick up. But germs can be picked up in as little as one second, so wash it or toss it—the damage is done.

(Also, check out the most germ-infested things you touch every single day.)

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