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Just How Dirty Is a Gas Pump Handle?

A gas station pump is outdoors.
Jeff McCollough/Shutterstock.com

When you think of dirty public places, you probably conjure images of bathrooms in seedy bars and highway rest stops. But one of the dirtiest things you can touch in public is in neither of these places. It’s at the gas station pump.

Gas station pump handles are some of the grossest areas you can touch in public, so you might want to toss some hand sanitizer into your car.

Now, obviously, none of us assumed gas pump handles were clean. We’re not going to chow down on the Cheetos we bought inside the station right after touching them. But they might just be worse than you thought.

Charles Gerba, known as “Dr. Germ” who is a University of Arizona microbiologist, participated in a 2011 study and helped a team from KimberlyClark Professional discover that 71% of gas pump handles tested were filled with some of the most common illness-causing bacteria. In fact, of the surfaces tested, they were the most contaminated.

Why is this important? Because even if you aren’t eating road trip snacks right after pumping gas, you shouldn’t just hop back into your car. Those contaminants follow you. If you touch your steering wheel, keys, or wallet, a transfer happens. No one wants to bring those germs into the car.

What should you do? You can always use a pair of latex gloves when pumping, but if that’s going a little far, it’s as simple as hand sanitizer. Keep it easily accessible and use it as soon as you’re done pumping your gas. Be sure you allow it to completely dry, and you can cut down on cross-contamination.

The next time you go to pump gas, just be sure you’ve got a plan in place to get those hands clean.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is the Assignments Editor at LifeSavvy. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Allure, and Hello Giggles. Read Full Bio »
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