Germ wars

Germ wars
Carolyn Bouma, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology at West Texas A&M University
Carolyn Bouma, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology at West Texas A&M University
Bacteria growing from one hair tie
Bacteria growing from one hair tie
Local mom, Chrissi Clavel, took part in NewsChannel 10's bacteria experiment
Local mom, Chrissi Clavel, took part in NewsChannel 10's bacteria experiment
A 3-year-old's toothbrush tested for bacteria
A 3-year-old's toothbrush tested for bacteria

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Being clean is a number one priority, but even if we wash our hands constantly, is that enough?

Many of us forget to wipe down and clean the things we use every day -- like your cell phone or your car keys. So, I took three of the items I use every day to be tested -- just to see how much bacteria is on them. And I asked one of our viewers to do this experiment with me.

For Chrissi Clavel, maintaining her household can be hectic at times.

"My oldest son, Andrew is in soccer, so we are constantly doing soccer with him," said Clavel. "Plus my husband does indoor and outdoor soccer himself and I have a 3-year-old who is in and out of everything."

And it's her family that keeps her on her toes, especially when it comes to cleanliness.

"I just try to keep a clean house as much as I can," said Clavel.

And many of us do the same, but do you clean everything in your home? All the individual items?

"Many of us don't think all the time of the potential disease transmission from some common household items," said West Texas A&M Associate Biology professor, Dr. Carolyn Bouma. "But they're there."

With the help from Dr. Bouma, we decided to test just how much bacteria is on a toothbrush, a T-V remote, and a simple hair tie. Clavel also joined in on the experiment. We started with the hair ties.

Dr. Bouma placed both hair ties in a test tube with saline solution, hook it up with a machine, plated them and then put them in an incubator.

A few days later, we were ready to take a look.

According to the test -- my hair tie had over 100 colonies of bacteria on it. Clavel only had one.

"Oh, wow!," said Clavel. "I never thought of hair ties having a lot of bacteria on it. So, I thought I would just use them until I lose them or break them but I think now I'll throw out the old and get new more often."

We headed back to the lab to test the toothbrushes. This time it was Clavel with the dirtier item.

She gave us her 3-year-old's toothbrush, which had 600 bacteria removed from the bristles compared to my 200.

"I was actually surprised there wasn't more on it just because it's in his mouth, there's lots of bacteria in the mouth," said Clavel.

And lastly, we tested the remotes. My remote produced a total of 660 bacteria, where as Clavel's only had 180.

"I thought this is going to be the one to capture what's really in my house and so I'm very surprised that one wasn't dirtier," said Clavel.

The tests can't determine what bacteria is on the items but Dr. Bouma says they still have potential to make you sick.

"Your hands, just tons of bacteria on those and just touching every day things, you don't think about that," said local mom and teacher, Arron Hughes.

"I'm a bit grossed out by it," said local mom, Alecia Thorne. "I think that I'll be buying some new hair ties and maybe a new toothbrush every two weeks."

And that's exactly what you should do, after too much wear and tear, it's time to replace. Dr. Bouma also suggests a daily cleaning for not only your items, but for yourself.

"Maintain good personal hygiene and to make sure you're up to date on all your vaccinations," said Dr. Bouma. "Especially in the winter as we approach that season, making sure you wash your hands and keep your home clean are very important."

Something Clavel is already getting a head start on.

"I should clean more often," said Clavel.

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