How Your Dirty Purse May Be Affecting Your Health

You may be carrying more than clutter in that dirty purse...

Life & Travel

To me, purchasing a new purse feels like investing in a new relationship. 

Even if I don't purchase a handbag, the experience of finding a purse that fits my fun personality is exhilarating - just like it feels when you go on a first date with someone you're really feeling.

The smell of a high quality handbag is as intoxicating as the scent of a well groomed man. The feel of an extra soft handle gives me butterflies, like the first time my crush ever touched my hand. But while selecting a purse is fun and games, I often fall short when it comes to caring for it. I found myself putting the purse that I once loved in the back of my closet. It no longer served a purpose to me. Out of sight, out of mind.

The problem is that when I finally pulled my old purses out of the closet to rekindle what we once had, I fond all kinds of things filthy things inside of it. Money. Buttons that broke off of my favorite chenille sweater. Lint. Cookie crumbs and chicken nuggets from the countless times my son half ate his meal and threw it into my purse because he mistook it for a trash bag.

One time I found spilled baby formula in my purse, and it smelled putrid. Yes, I'm one of the few women in the world who takes zero time cleaning my purses. But I recently learned I'm compromising my health by not cleaning my handbags. Back in 2013, a microbiologist told the Today Show that dirty purses have been known to carry fecal bacteria. Yuck! But life happens, and dirty diapers have been known to find their way inside of mommy's purse. No judgment here.

But still, I should clean my purse more often, and you should too.

Here are a few ways a dirty handbag may be affecting your health:


I've seen my fair share of women who have placed their handbags on floor next to them when using a public restroom. By not going the extra step and putting your handbag on the door hanger located on the back of some public restroom stalls, you could be transferring all kinds of bacteria, including the germs that causes diarrhea, from the public restroom to your own home.

Microbiologist Chuck Gerba talked with ABC News about how the germ transaction goes down in the bathroom stall.

"We found fecal bacteria you normally find on the floor of restroom...We found bacteria that can cause skin infections on the bottom of purses. What's more amazing is the large numbers we find on the bottom of purses, which indicates that they can be picking up a lot of other germs like cold viruses or viruses that cause diarrhea."

Surprisingly, some women said that they weren't worried about the germs on the bottom of their purses because they didn't lick the bottoms of their purses, therefore they didn't feel like they were in danger of getting sick. But Gerba disagrees. He said that whatever touches the bottom of your purse can compromise the things you ingest. For example, imagine putting your purse on your kitchen table, and then later, your kid drops some potato chips on that same table and eats them. Guess whose kid is eating a side of poop germs along with their potato chips? Yours.


Purse handles are a haven for germs. Donna Duberg, a professor of biomedical laboratory science at St. Louis University, told revealed to Yahoo! that our hands touch about 300 surfaces every 30 minutes, including desktops, bathroom sinks, restaurant and kitchen counters, and door handles. None of these surfaces are very well cleaned, if you get my drift.

What you're doing when you fail to clean your purse handle without cleaning your hands is transporting bacteria, and the kinds of bacteria that's transporting is alarming. Duberg told Yahoo!,

Germs found in and on purses can include E. coli, a coliform bacterium, which can be a source of food-borne illness; Staph aureus can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea as well as skin infections, and mold spores are everywhere but can stick to the leather and fabric of purses, readily available to cause mild respiratory distress and some of the viruses that cause colds and the flu.


The best way to transporting germs on your handbag is to first become an expert hand washer, which includes wiping down your purse handle when you bring your purse into a restroom.

Duberg also suggests that you wash your hands more often. She revealed to Women's Health:

Lathering up will not only help reduce the amount of bacteria you’re putting in and on your bag, but also the amount that you expose yourself to. “Having better hand hygiene breaks the cycle of infection.

How often you clean your purse would depend on your lifestyle. For instance, if you have pets or babies, you may find yourself cleaning your purse more often than a single woman who has more purses than hot dates.

Duberg also suggests that you get into a regular purse cleaning routine to help you fight off those bad germs.

Make cleaning your purse—and everything you carry in it—a weekly practice, suggests Duberg. For leather purses, look for disinfecting wipes that don’t contain bleach or alcohol and wipe down the exterior and interior. Remember to pay special attention to the parts that you touch the most, like handles and straps. As for bags made from cloth, wash them in cool water on a delicate cycle, and add just a bit of baby soap to the machine. This will get the bacteria down to a safer level, says Duberg.



You should also clean off the surfaces of the makeup inside of your bag, and put it in a clean, fresh makeup bag during cleaning operations.

Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of the best-selling book The Germ Files told Yahoo! that the best makeup cases and compacts are rest havens for germs too. So pull out those Lysol wipes, and get to work.

“Makeup is a great place for bacterial and fungal growth; there are diagnostic tests to find the most harmful species,” said Tetro. Escherichia coli (E. coli), Candida albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Aspergillus niger can cause a variety of irritations and possible infections. 


Think about all of the times where you picked up your car keys or mobile phone knowing that your hands were filthy. Now think about how many times you've actually disinfected your car keys or phone of bacteria.

The truth is that not many people consider the cleaning of car keys or phones very often, which is dangerous. Keys are phones carry just as many germs as a toilet seat. Tetro said,

“Mobile devices were once considered to be low risk...But recent studies have shown that they can become covered with bacteria and viruses, including pathogens that can cause infections, particularly for those with weakened immune systems."


Whatever you do, don't put food, used tissues, or shoes in your handbag. Just don't do it. Duberg says that each of these items are moist, and creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. The best solution is for you to put food, shoes, and used tissues in its own plastic bag before throwing them in your purse.

Do you have any tips on how you clean your purses? Let us know in the comments below.

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