Washing (and drying) your hands and grocery cart handles

Marcia Patrick, director of infection prevention and control for a health system in the state of Washington (and a spokeswoman for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology), pointed out in the Washington Post this month,

"All the different things we touch in the regular course of our day can contain germs,” including grocery cart handles.

I tend to refer them as “pathogens,” but I agree: they’re everywhere. As such, I was quite excited to have my first experience with grocery cart wipes.

I, an avid user of lemon-scented disinfecting kitchen wipes, noticed a little stand in my local grocery store about a year ago that held a container of sanitizing wipes to use on the handle of the cart after the cart’s previous user (or user’s child) was done sneezing/coughing/drooling/chewing on it.

That container was empty for my entire senior year of college.

But last night, while shopping in a new location, I spotted another stand—this one complete with pre-moistened wipes! (That’s my husband, at right, wiping the cart handle.)

And they were certainly moist; I spent the rest of my shopping experience getting disinfecting juice on my grocery list.

Perhaps one wipe is intended to sanitize an entire cart, rather than just the handle…

Washing your hands is extremely important to avoid getting sick. Drying is an essential aspect.

Pathogens stick better to wet hands (and grocery cart handles). Drying them after washing will significantly reduce what you may pick up.

Paper towels are the ideal tools, as all handwashing agents are more effective when a paper towel is used for drying. (See Doug’s quote in a USA Today article that ran yesterday.)

Blow dryers are just disgusting. They collect pathogens that may have been aerosolized when the toilet was flushed and blows them onto your hands. (Yet another instance where ecological friendliness does not equate to microbiological safety.)

E-mail me for the refs, if you’d like. And don’t eat poop, people: Dry your freshly-washed hands and grocery carts.