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Does Your Purse Harbor Germs & Bacteria?

does your purse harbor germs and bacteria

Your handbag carries your wallet, keys, cell phone, lipstick, the list goes on. But does it also carry something you can't see that's really... icky? Probably. A 2015 National Institutes of Health research study found that purses (and some wallets) contain bacteria on their surfaces, both inside and outside.

The study found that of the 138 purses and wallets swabbed, 95% had bacterial contamination, with the highest concentration on the strap or handle of the purses.

You carry your purse with you everywhere, and when you touch it or what's inside it with contaminated hands, bacteria transfers from hands onto those surfaces. Washing your hands removes germs and bacteria from your hands, but if you already handled your purse, phone, wallet, etc. between contaminating your hands and washing them, you could recontaminate your hands as soon as you pick those items up again. You could also contaminate other surfaces, like your dining room table or kitchen counter, when you set a dirty purse down on them.

Furthermore, if you set your purse down in public places, especially when using the restroom, it's likely to pick up bacteria from any surface it comes into contact with.

Fortunately, the bacteria discovered on the purses in this study was not pathogenic, i.e. disease causing. Staphylococcus, which most people have on their skin already, was the most common one. But it's still gross to think about how long you've had your purse (years?), how many times you've cleaned it (none?), and how likely it is that your purse is "colonized" with bacteria.

So what should you do?

First of all, if you wonder if your purse is gross, it probably is. Clean it.

Option 1 is to put it in your washing machine at home. This will work for some fabric purses. But you probably can't wash it in hot water without damaging it, so try adding some Lysol laundry sanitizer or Wysiwash laundry sanitizer to the washer for extra germ-killing power. If you can't put your purse in the clothes dryer, air dry it in direct sunlight — UV is great at sterilizing.

Option 2 is to bring it to your nearest Max I. Walker location and let us professionally clean it. You'll definitely want to do this with leather and other luxury purses, but we can also clean and sterilize fabric purses or those made of multiple materials. If your purse has spots, we are expert stain removers. Dry cleaners have an array of what are called 'spotting agents' at their disposal; each is formulated to remove a specific type of stain. We have several spotting agents that each have just one job to do. They remove things like ink, oil, makeup, wine, and more.

Secondly, now that you know what's lurking out there, try to keep your purse as free of germs and bacteria as you can between cleanings. Our suggestions:

  • Leave your purse on your shoulder in public. Don't set it down anywhere, especially not on any horizontal surfaces in a public restroom. Did you know you can purchase a magnet keyring to hang your purse on a bathroom stall door so you don't have to set it on the ground? One option is the Bagnet.
  • Use your mobile phone for contactless payments whenever you can, so you don't have to get into your wallet with germy hands. Phones are easy to sanitize regularly. Cash is notoriously dirty, so avoid it when you can.
  • Attach a small container of hand sanitizer to the outside of your bag, so you can sanitize your hands before opening it and touching what's inside.
  • Have a designated hook where you can hang your purse up at home. Don't set it on the counter, table, bed, etc.
  • Clean the items inside your purse as often as you can. Consider what you put in your purse and how likely it is to be or become contaminated/how easy it is to clean. For instance, don't carry shoes in your purse — shoes have E. Coli and fecal matter on them.
  • Place your purse in a sunny spot or leave it out on the patio on a sunny day for an hour or so every so often. Remember, sunlight kills germs and bacteria.
  • Next time you buy a purse, add how easy it is to keep it clean to your list of considerations when making a choice.


Author's note: This article is for informational purposes, and is not an endorsement of any of the linked companies, websites, vendors or products. We do not receive any incentive from sales of the products mentioned here. The suggested products are shown as examples only. We encourage you to do thorough research before making any online purchases.