As someone with a little touch of OCD, I find that I feel stressed when cleaning my bathroom because I worry about cross contamination. When I finish cleaning one part of the bathroom floor, and then clean the other part, if I end up needing to touch something I've either already cleaned or a cleaning product, I tend to wash my hands before doing so.

For example, while cleaning the toilet, I feel the need to wash my hands before grabbing the spray bottle, as I'm concerned that there may be cross contamination between the spray bottle and the toilet. Overall, I tend to take cleaning the bathroom in the same light as if I were in a Nuclear Bio Chemical attack zone.

I know it's not the same. Unlike NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical), cross contamination isn't (and hasn't) killed me yet, but I wonder, what is the general rule of thumb for hand washing while cleaning the bathroom.

Should we hand wash after cleaning each fixture, wait until the end, or is there some other procedure? What research is out there on this topic? I tried googling the title of the question "How often should I wash my hands when cleaning the bathroom?" and nothing came up; hence, I ask here.

  • Incidental bio-contamination has kept you alive to this point in your life. Without exposure to common bacterial and viral pathogens, your body would have no immunity to any of them. Just clean the entire bath and wash your hands with soap and warm water when you are finished. If you want, go back and use anti-bacterial spray to decon your spray bottle and faucet handles and cleaning equipment, but even that is OCD germaphobe behavior. – Jimmy Fix-it Feb 18 '17 at 16:48
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is nowhere near DIY.SE material... – ThreePhaseEel Feb 19 '17 at 12:39

I generally wash my hands once at the end. I'm very conscious of keeping clean, but don't have any OC tendencies when it comes to germs. I'm not concerned about cross contamination while cleaning my bathroom. Ideally, the cleaning products are doing their job, and the amount of pathogenic germs around the sink, tub, and most of the floor are minimal. I'll use a sponge or scrub to wash the sink and bathtub first, then floor, and do the outside of the toilet and floor around the toilet last (I use a toilet brush for the inside). Doing it in that order prevents carrying any potential pathogens from the toilet to the sink where someone might set their toothbrush. I usually wear rubber gloves, but either way my hands are mostly just touching the sponge so they wouldn't be likely to cross contaminate anything.

I think in general people are a bit overly concerned about fecal contamination. A few weeks ago I caught my 1 year old daughter with cat poop in her mouth (gross!), I casually cleaned her hands with antibacterial wipes, and tried my best to wipe the inside of her mouth out. She is absolutely fine. Just an anecdote, but it at least proves that you're not guaranteed to have problems if you eat poop.

Just an anecdote, but hopefully it gives you peace of mind that you're doing a good job cleaning your bathroom and that you don't need to wash your hands multiple times throughout the process.

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  • I like the anecdote. We can eat sh!#, and it won't kill us, haha. :) – jmort253 Feb 18 '17 at 6:51
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    It's worth bearing in mind the possibility of parasites, including toxoplasma, in the case of cats specifically. – Chris H Feb 18 '17 at 8:32
  • That you are "mostly touching the sponge" is no protection but your overall method and thoughts are mine. You have more bacteria on your body than exist on a toilet seat, btw. I use a separate cloth for cleaning the toilet and use cloths because they get laundered. Do you clean your sponge? Many health departments ban sponges in restaurants as a harbor of bacterial growth. I only wash my hands when I'm finished. – Rob Feb 18 '17 at 14:42

I too am very persnickety about the bathroom. My technique:I use disposable latex gloves and clean tub/shower first, using the shower to wet all surfaces and then sprinkle powder cleanser (Ajax, Comet).Using a scouring pad, not a sponge, I scrub the shower walls, tub, and fixtures, then rinse thoroughly with clean water and wipe down all surfaces with a clean, dry rag. I use windex on the glass doors, inside and out and on faucetry.

Same process on the sink, always completing with a dry rag to avoid water spots. Next, the toilet, from top to bottom, using a toilet brush and cleanser inside the bowl, being certain to get under the rim--spatter and fungus will live there otherwise. With the lid and seat up, I use a spray-on bathroom cleaner and paper towels on the other toilet surfaces. Paper towels are disposable and eliminate cross-contamination. I never use the toilet brush outside of the bowl; I always use a fresh paper towel for the top of the seat, another for the bottom.

I clean other any other surfaces (walls, towel racks, shelf) with a clean rag in a very light solution of dishsoap (a couple of drops in a quart of hot water), rinsing in clean, hot between surfaces. Finally the floor starting at the tub and working my way out of the room. I use the rag I used for the walls and rinse it out frequently. I never rinse the rag in the soapy water to keep the solution as clean as possible. I usually go through 3 pairs of latex gloves for this procedure.

As a medical professional, I frequently deal with sterile conditions and am conscious about keeping germs, viruses, etc., at bay.

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  • Why do you think disposable gloves won't transfer bacteria from one surface to the next like your hands will? – Rob Feb 18 '17 at 14:37

Gloves transfer fewer contaminants than bare hands and with frequent changes, risk is further reduced. The point is to use good hand hygiene, effective products and disposable towels or clean rags between areas to be cleaned. Work your way out of the room as you clean. I use gloves to protect my hands and spread fewer germs.

Indications for hand hygiene are as follows:

• Wash hands with soap and water when visibly dirty, when soiled with blood or other body fluids, or after using the toilet.

• Handwashing with soap and water is preferred when exposure to potential spore-forming pathogens, such as Clostridium difficile, is strongly suspected or proven.

• In all other clinical situations, use an alcohol-based handrub as the preferred means for routine hand antisepsis, if hands are not visibly soiled. Wash hands with soap and water if alcohol-based handrub is not available.

• Hand hygiene is needed before and after touching the patient; before touching an invasive device used for patient care, whether gloves are used; after contact with body fluids or excretions, mucous membranes, nonintact skin, or wound dressings; if moving from a contaminated body site to another body site on the same patient; after touching inanimate surfaces and objects in the immediate vicinity; and after removing gloves.

• Hand hygiene is needed before handling medication or preparing food using an alcohol-based handrub or handwashing with water and either plain or antimicrobial soap.

• Soap and alcohol-based handrub should not be used together.

Recommendations for Glove Use

Some specific recommendations for use of gloves are as follows:

• Glove use does not replace the need for hand hygiene.

• Gloves are recommended in situations in which contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials is likely.

• Remove gloves after caring for a patient, and do not reuse.

• Change or remove gloves if moving from a contaminated body site to either another body site within the same patient or the environment.

-WHO Guidelines, Authors: Laurie Barclay, MD, Penny Murata, MD

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