Germaphobe: why do I care about this so much?

Shopping cart handles, bathroom doorknobs. I've made considerable effort to avoid each. I use the sanitary wipes provided at my local grocery store to wipe the funk off the shopping cart and I pull my sleeve over my hand before using the doorknob to exit the bathroom  (anyone else see a huge market opportunity in manufacturing kick-buttons that open bathroom doors?). I know, my sleeve is all funky now...what can I do?

For some reason, when I travel, it all goes out the window in the interest of being flexible. But still, right now? Shopping cart handle? Ew.

via Darren...he's barefoot and Canadian. I wouldn't recommend the barefoot part...see above. Edit: I just found out that Barefoot is Darren's last name (I just thought it was just part of a cool blog title). I still don't recommend that people go barefoot in the bathroom ; )

Comments (44)

  1. Darren says:

    Heh, it’s okay, the frost up here kills all the germs.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure to what degree you were playing on this, but my actual last name is Barefoot (I know, a blessing and a curse). Ever since I started blogging, a bunch of people have concluded that my URL et al is like ‘Darren, barefoot’. Sadly, my URL is dreadfully boring, and just my full name.

  2. Jerry says:

    Glad you at least use your sleeve leaving the bathroom.  Huge pet peeve are people who use a paper towel and then just throw it on the floor behind them.  I find this incredibly rude and inconsiderate.

    That said, unless you use your sleeve on *every* door handle and public surface you touch I can’t imagine that you are saving yourself that much exposure to the little nasties…

  3. tod says:

    Ok, but did you read the first comment by kyrsten? A very well presented rebuttal/explanation to the article.

    And yes, I open bathroom doors with a paper towel. 🙂

  4. Kristen says:

    How about the keypads to get into office buildings.  

    I have to swipe my card then enter a code to get into my office, the really bad part is that this door is just down the hall from the bathrooms.  

    I just look at the keypad and cringe so I have resolved to sacrificing one of my knuckles for entering the code.   I agree with the kick buttons in bathrooms that is a great idea.

    You’ve forgotten the worst of all, kids.  How is it possible for kids to generate so much runny, gooey, disgusting snot and not dehydrate.  I love the comment it is just a little cold.  What?  What is coming out of the kids nose makes Niagara Falls look like a trickle.

    It gets on everything and sticks better than super glue.

    Luckily, I’m the aunt (8 times over, my brothers need to stop) and can send them home at the end of the day and resort to hours of spraying Lysol Antibacterial spray on everything.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Darren, I definitely thought there was a comma after Darren (meaning "barefoot" is an adjective).  I’m sure you have had to explain that about 100 times. There’s been a discussion here about people barefoot in the bathroom (ew!) so that’s what I was thinking when I wrote that. I think with the lastname of Barefoot, it makes your url the opposite of boring. It certainly catches attention (I thikn Robert Scoble just praised your blog design). Notice that I declined to use my actual last name in my url. Hamilton is pretty common.

    Jerry-I know. I think the idea of touching the knobs (especially when you hear reports of how many people don’t wash their hands) is a problem enough for me. I’m with you on the people that do the papertowel thing and throw it on the floor. Since when is it OK to throw stuff on the floor?

    Tod-we will assume you aren’t one of the people that throw the papertowel on the floor ; ) I’m not sure Kyrsten’s comments make me feel better. It’s like hearing about dust mites that live in your mattress. People can be matter-of-fact about it but it still freaks me out. I have to try to not think about it.

    Kristen-I’ve used the knuckle technique myself. When I lived in Chicago and took the El to work, I wore gloves (you kind of have to hold on to something on the El, something everyone else has been holding on to as well). Then I’d remind myself not to bring the gloves anywhere near my face. I think I threw those gloves away when I moved here.

    Now I have almost no experience with kids with runny noses but I suspect I’d chase after them with a kleenex. Would it be weird to wear a haz mat suit at the same time?

  6. tod says:

    The paper towel ALWAYS goes into the trash.  Even if I have to do a special maneuver like open latch with paper towel, push the door open, jump back to throw away the towel and then catch the door with my foot as it’s swinging shut.  Now that I type it out it sounds kinda weird.  :-

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Tod-I’m envisioning a behind-the-back maneuver and nothing but net. ; )

  8. The front pocket of my laptop bag is stuffed with those single-use wet nappy things, and there’s a bottle of those pop-up Clorox wipes at my desk.  The wet nappy things are also in my glove compartment and in the drawer under the passenger seat.  I’ve gotten better–I used to be very Monk-like when I actually worked in a lab.  It was the best working in the medical centers–many doors can be kicked open, and the doctors make sure there’s a trash can right there so you don’t need any advanced yoga to not be a littlerbug.  Plus I had several lab coats and a never ending supply of gloves.

    I’ve always told people that if they’re worried about teenage promiscuity, one good week of medical microbiology and the little snot factories won’t even hold hands.  Pennicillin, anyone?  Bwahahahahaaaa!

  9. Forgot to mention…I also stock Airborne and Zicam at my desk, and a little tube of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer on t.

  10. Mom says:

    And the keypad (at the grocery store) when you use your debit card!  

    The handle on the gas pump!

    Gloves, gloves and more gloves.  

    Hand sanitizer in your car–don’t touch your face until you’ve used it.

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Richard-I have all those things too with the exception of the Zicam.

    Mom-now do you understand what bothers me about funky sponges? ; )

  12. mom says:

    Funky sponge solution–wet, pop in microwave, sponge and microwave (steamed in the process) are clean and


  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    And it still smells funky. I prefer to keep it from getting funky in the first place. I hate touching it because that smell gets on your hands and it’s rank.

  14. Hi Heather’s mom!  I think we’ve just figured out the "why"…

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Not why I am a germaphobe.  This apple fell off the other tree. My mom left my sponge all stinky on her recent visit and looked at me like I was defective when I practically dove into the sink to wring it out and place it on the sink board at a nice 90 degree angle to the faucet (let’s just say that the microwave theory was already discussed). She’s much more laid back than I am about house-cleaning stuff. I threw away the sponge when she left ; )

  16. Boring!  I had this image of a young Heather, playing where she shouldn’t (in the cupboard under the sink) and becoming trapped with a funky sponge.  In the dark, microbes transmorgify into fanged creatures which can swallow you in one gulp.

  17. Witch says:

    I guess the song ‘Germs’ by "Weird Al" Yankovic strikes a chord with you, then? [url for lyrics:]

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Thanks Richard-I’ll probably dream about that tonight.

  19. Mom says:

    Stay tuned . . .I think I have that picture of her under the sink!

  20. HeatherLeigh says:


    Luckily, you can’t post pictures in comments! Whew!

  21. SiggyF says:

    There seems to be a common thread here having to do with the fear of germy sponges.  I think that going to Sam’s Club and buying the 20 pack of identical sponges would be the perfect work aournd.  Just think you can throw the funky sponge away, replace it with a new one and mom would never know.  

    Either that or hours of talking about your childhood, parents and why you feel the need to put that sponge at a 90 degree angle, especially when everyone knows it should be parallel to the faucet with the scrunge side up, would cure this problem.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Siggy-just having a little fun with my mom 9she who hears me complain about wet sponges). She lives on the other side of the country so it’s not a problem for her to avoid my phobia and me to avoid her stinky sink sponge. I do buy sponges in quantity, by the way, but if you wring your sponge out instead of plopping it in the sink wet, you don’t have to worry about it as much. I admit it, I’m the one with the wet sponge phobia and that is the solution that keeps me from going through several  gross sponges a week. There are lots of nasty messes that I could let happen in my house and clean them up later, I prefer to avoid the nastiness if posible. And it keeps my house smelling lemony fresh too ; )

    And let me just say that I’ll stop talking about sponges when you guys do. So I have some weirdness (so?!). Doesn’t it make me slightly more interesting? Just a little tiny bit? ; )

  23. MOM says:

    If I send the picture to Richard, can he post it on his web site?

    Evil  Mother

  24. HeatherLeigh says:

    You can try, but then I’ll get the photo album out of the closet and we’ll all have some fun! Don’t worry, fashion-wise, I don’t think the 60s were good to anyone.

  25. Will do gladly Mrs. H!  rich [at] rjdudley [dot] com.  Can you scan a daugerrotype?  😉

    This is no longr about spongs.  This is all about Heathr.  And having the perfect name to mutate Web 2.0-style.

  26. HeatherLeigh says:

    Settle down Dudley, nobody’s scanning anything. ; ) And I will not be Web 2.0-ized!

  27. mom says:

    Sorry Dudley–she’s got me on eternal maternal photo- probation.

  28. grandpa says:

    Grandma and I love the grandkids but in the Winter, October to May here, they always seem to have colds and runny noses.  They are toxic to our aging imune systems. Shortly after a visit, we both begin to come down with various "daycare" bugs.  We use antibacterial soaps and hand cleaners but we still fight the bugs.  This might be like the European explorers infecting and killing off the natives in the new world with a new set of bugs.

  29. HeatherLeigh says:

    grandpa (someone’s, not mine, of course…we are past the runny nose age in our family)- have you tried Emrgen-C or Airborne? I use them when I have close contact with folks or fly and they work great. You dissolve them in water (kind of like Tang…remember Tang?) and they are packed with vitamin c and electrolytes.

    It’s cool to know that someone’s grandpa is reading my blog ; )

  30. Here is how being a germophobe cost me a lot of money.

    This elderly man, Victor, called me by mistake. From tjhat phone call, we developed a friendship and I would visit him occasionly and phoned often. A ten year non-paying tenant on his property provided him some limited care as well as cleaning up after Victor’s many dogs and cats. Victor always told me that he would leave his money and property to whoever would take care of his animals. He did not like this woman very much and always wanted me to visit him more often and to help provide more care for him.

    However he was very dirty and his property was cluttered and filthy. I could not stand to go into his house, touch him, touch his money or gifts, etc. He died recently and this woman gave him a fancy funeral; much more attention than she gave him while he was alive. So she got the over 2 million dollars in money and property as well as the animals.

    I’ve been interested in animal rescue for years so I would have provided much better care for his much loved cats and dogs and I could have done more for him while he was alive as well. But I couldn’t stand his filth nor could most other people.

    Therefore I lost all of that money and he lost out on care and company he really wanted because I am a germophobe.

  31. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, I just deleted all the comments from people that work for a company that has a "great new product" that kills germs. This isn’t the place for free advertising.

  32. Jodi says:

    my friend percy has a phobia of sponges he says he just hates the feeling of them he screams if you try to touch him with one

    its so weird

    well ok bye

  33. Eric says:

    Hey fellow germaphobes, check this gadget out at

    It actually kills germs on public restroom doorknobs!  I love this thing! A restaurant where I live has them installed, I  take people there just to show them the thing.

  34. Germaphobe says:

    Ew! I would never wipe my sleeve on the door handle!!  I ALWAYS use a paper towel.  There is a trash can somewhere nearby so I take it with if I have to.  SICK.  If there aren’t paper towels in the bathroom I am stuck.  I wait for people to open the door!!  They should just not have doors on bathrooms.

  35. pringle_sam says:

    The grossness of germs on bathroom doors is one thing, but no bathroom doors?  Awkward!  ;D

    Yeah, I’m a germaphobic high school kid, so I’m writing a research paper on germs and the communicability of disease on unclean hands.  I get to present it and inform everyone about the nasty little things all over them… Then I’m giving all of my teachers massive amounts of hand sanitizer.

  36. HeatherLeigh says:

    pringle_sam, good luck! I heard someone on TV say not to bother using toilet seat covers because they do no good. Maybe they are there for our peace of mind. Perhaps you could work that into your paper : )

    GOod luck with it!

  37. Holly says:

    I am a total germaphobe.  I wash my hands until they are cracked and bleeding.  One thing I hate in our school is that we have to type in a password on a keyboard in order to get into our lunch account.  I have the last lunch period so everyone in the entire school has touched the keyboard.  UGH! I tried using my knuckle, but it took to long.  Now I use my left hand to type my code and my right hand to eat.  Oh, and all the bathrooms in our school have no paper towels, only those hot air dryers.  I am stranded until someone else comes in.  I secretly wash my pajamas, in the bathroom, before I go to bed because my mom touches them.  She never EVER washes her hands.  I want to EXPLODE at her.  She wants me to get pshciatric help.  Just because I am aware of germs and she isn’t, doesn’t mean that I need help. Life is so FRUSTRATING!

  38. Maggie says:

    I carry my own kleenex or moist towlettes with me at all times, as I never use the toilet paper or paper towels that are provided. I will wash my hands and then wring out one of the towelettes to dry them. I have seen restroom attendants handle both toilet paper and paper towels after touching just about everything else in the restroom without washing their own hands. I’ve also witnessed women on many occasions ask a stranger in the next stall to "pass them some paper". Then there are the loose rolls of toilet paper stacked or standing alongside the "flusher"; I could go on forever. All of it is completely disgusting! If there is no trash receptical positioned near the door, tough luck! I’ll use my own kleenex or wipe to open the door and then toss it into a corner. The management of any establishment would have to be a complete idiot not to realize a trash pail in that corner would be wise!

  39. mike says:

    Here’s a great option, StepNpull.  It’s a simple bracket that attaches to the bottom corner of any commercial latch less door and allows the user to open the door with their foot instead of their hand.  There is a short demo video on the website.

  40. Sally says:

    You shouldn’t by embarrassed about being a germaphobe or what we preferred to be called: GermAware.  With the horrible effectiveness of the flu shot this year and Avian flu still threatening to make the jump to humans, it is only common sense to make every effort to protect yourself and your family.  Check out this site for the latest info for the GermAware: <a href=""></a&gt;

  41. Ed says:

    Here’s another good bathroom trick.  If there’s an overhead door closer, just push the connecting linkage to the right.  The door pops open just enough to grab it from the outside.  Nobody else seems to know about this and it has very little human contact.  Shhhhh!  Don’t tell anyone!!

  42. HeatherLeigh says:

    I won’t tell because I am 5’3". I can’t reach that thing!

  43. kathy says:

    How in the world do you go on an airplane?  That’s what I am trying hard to figure out.  Like so many of you, I just try not to think about it.

    Also, the hospital.  I had to go visit my mother in-law, who is very sick, and I was completely disgusted.  I lost 6lbs in about 5 days because I just would not eat anything unless it was pre-packaged.  

    I have heard if you leave anything out in the sun for 15 minutes the ultra-violet rays will kill 99% of the germs.  After visiting the hospital, I wanted to stand out in the sun for the 15 min.    :O)

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