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?
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.
“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.
“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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