Much of the country has had quite the rough winter, and it’s not over yet. You already know how essential winter gloves are, but those hand protectors can easily turn into germ distributors if you’re not careful.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to protect yourself and others from the germ-spreading risks of gloves.
How Gloves Spread Germs
It’s probably fairly obvious how gloves spread germs. They can pick up any germs you have on your hands, but unfortunately you won’t be able to wash your gloves as often as you wash your hands. In fact, gloves can be an even better breeding ground for bacteria than your hands.
“Moisture, sweat and dead skin cells provide a cozy environment for germs where they can rapidly grow,” Kelly Reynolds, PhD, of the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, told Yahoo Health. “Increased number of germs means increased risk for infection.”
Mittens can carry up to 27 different forms of bacteria around with them, according to a report by KIMT News 3.
“You can pick up the influenza virus [and] the common cold virus, and you can pick up norovirus,” Jeni Stiles, an infectious disease nurse, told KIMT.
How to Stop Spreading Germs with Your Gloves
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to prevent the spread of germs with your gloves.
1. Wash your gloves more often.
This one may be obvious, but the key is paying attention to how often you wash them and how you wash them.
“Wash them at least once a week; if they are more soiled, even more often than that,” said Stiles.
For that weekly wash, you’ll want to use the highest water temperature you have available for best sanitizing results.
2. Dry your gloves properly.
According to Reynolds, how you dry your gloves is just as important as how you wash them. If possible, dry your gloves in the dryer on its highest setting. “Most germs are killed in the dryer cycle,” said Reynolds.
However, some gloves aren’t able to go into the dryer. Check washing instructions before drying your gloves.
If you can’t put them in the dryer, air-dry them completely before stuffing them in your coat pocket to avoid providing germs the damp surface they love to use for a home.
3. Wash surfaces before touching for more protection.
If you really want to cut down your chances of transferring germs via gloves, Yahoo Health recommends cleaning public surfaces like doorknobs and ATMs with disinfecting wipes before touching. This should be done with your gloves off, but be sure to use sanitizer before putting them back on.
This last step may be a bit extreme for many nurses and others unless you have a weakened immune system, but can provide even more protection against germs.
We want to know: How often do you wash your gloves? Let us know in the comments below!