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Taking Your Rings Off When You Wash Your Hands? You May Want To Rethink That

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Over the past few months, people have been resensitized to just how gross normal, everyday items can be. Card readers, shopping carts and handles are all being wiped down and cleaned off with religious fervor thanks to the state of things.

We’ve also been reminded of just how much filth is on our hands. We pick up new particles everywhere we go, which is why washing your hands regularly has become such a major movement.

In our renewed dedication to cleanliness, though, there is one aspect many have overlooked: rings.

Some people take them off while washing their hands, others leave them on — but is one or the other better?

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It should come as no surprise that jewelry can harbor germs. One study by U.K. pre-owned jewellery and watch seller Est1897 and referenced by Metro found that in the course of a week, jewelry can build up more than 428 times as many germs as a toilet seat.

Many health professionals are discouraged or prohibited from wearing rings for just that reason.

“Wearing rings and keeping our hands clean and less likely to spread infection has been studied over the years, especially with regards to surgical wounds and scrubbing before surgery,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Erum Ilyas told TODAY Style.

“Most surgical suites have rules that prohibit the use of rings or even nail polish out of concern for bacteria embedding in microscopic imperfections in jewelry or chipped nail polish.”

While Ilyas admitted that these concerns are more pressing for doctors, nurses and surgeons, wearing jewelry — even when cleaned — can still be questionable.

Do you take your rings off when you wash your hands?

“Although your ring may not be transferring viruses around after washing, if there are tiny cracks or breaks in your skin that are perhaps concentrated around your jewelry, then you may be leaving yourself more susceptible to viruses attaching to your skin after contact with potentially infected surfaces,” Ilyas explained.

As for taking your jewelry off when you wash your hands, you shouldn’t — or, you only should if you’re going to clean them on the spot.

David Bellman, a jeweler who invented a sonic jewelry cleaning system, says that dirty jewelry contains 10 times as much bacteria than your just-washed hands, according to the Grand Forks Herald. So if you take your rings off, wash your hands, and then put the rings back on … you’ve just re-contaminated your nice, clean hands.

However, if you’d like to keep your rings on, you can. You just need to be vigilant about cleaning them more often.

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“After much research and consulting with a local physician, we feel confident in recommending the same cleaning routine that we always do: warm, soapy water — don’t skip on soap, either — and a toothbrush,” jewelry designer Kate Maller said.

“Is the soap you’re using strong enough to get fat, like bacon grease, off of your pan or dishes? If the answer is yes, it’s good enough (as long as) you’re scrubbing long enough to get through a round of the ABCs. If the answer is no, then opt for a soap you know can handle the task.”

Maller warned against skipping this cleaning, noting that even the grossest of things might be hiding beneath that seemingly innocent band.

“Everything from food to fecal matter can get stuck in the sweaty and moist places in between parts of your jewelry and even in between your skin and your jewelry (think wedding bands),” she said.

So how do you deal with the nasties lurking in your jewelry? Might be a good time to break out the dish soap and a toothbrush or set aside that extra bit of glam for a while.

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking