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Ask Dr. Laundry

Handbags Beware

By Dr. Laundry December 15, 2007

So in keeping with things to avoid for the holidays, I’ve talked about those tough holiday stains and how you can find some great solutions on my toll-free Holiday Stain Hotline: 1-877-STAIN-411 (877-782-4641). Then, I talked about avoiding cold and flu germs. Today, it’s another thought provoking item that came to my attention in an e-mail: the carry-all that is the HANDBAG.

Women carry handbags everywhere: from the office to public toilets to the floor of the car. Most women won’t be caught without their handbags, but did you ever stop to think about where your handbag goes during the day? Have you ever noticed women who sit their handbags on public toilet floors, then go directly to their dining tables and set it on the table? Happens a lot! It’s not always the “restaurant food” that causes stomach distress. Sometimes, what you don’t know will hurt you! Mom got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their handbags down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up food. She always said that handbags are really dirty, because of where they have been. It turns out handbags are so surprisingly dirty, even the microbiologist who tested them was shocked.

The microbiologist said nearly all of the handbags tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria:



  • Pseudomonas that can cause eye infections,

  • Staphylococcus aurous that can cause serious skin infections,

  • Salmonella and E.coli were also found on the handbags and these could make people very sick.

In one sampling, four of five handbags tested positive for salmonella.

Leather or vinyl handbags tended to be cleaner than cloth handbags, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception. The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contaminations of all. Some type of feces, or possibly vomit was involved.

So the moral of this story – your handbag won’t kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat. Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don’t put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen countertop.

Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a pair of shoes. If you think about putting a pair of shoes onto your countertops, that’s the same thing, you’re doing when you put your handbag on the countertops.

Finally, periodically consider cleaning your handbag using a washcloth, disinfectant wipe or use leather cleaner to clean the bottom of leather handbags for your peace of mind and everybody’s good health.