Wash your hands AND your wristband!
Their popularity never seems to diminish, and where there’s one, there’s usually a stack of them: wristbands. Silicone is a popular material choice because it is flexible, durable, can be colorful, shaped into wide or small bands, and even hold useful appliances like smart watches and gym passes. However, depending on the material and the wearer, wristbands can carry harmful germs that don’t get as much attention as they should.
According to a study by Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, there is a correlation between the material (plastic, rubber, cloth, leather and metal (gold and silver)) and the prevalence of bacteria. Plastic and rubber had the highest incidence of bacteria because they tend to hold moisture between it and the wearer’s skin, and foster microbial growth unless some sort of antibacterial coating is incorporated. Not surprisingly, gold and silver had virtually no bacteria (these are age-old non-toxic anti-microbial materials due to the ions they release).
The other variable was the activity (hygiene) of the subject at sampling time. (no significant differences between males and females were detected in the occurrence or distribution of the bacteria groups). This means that more activity (exercise) and specifically going to the gym, increased bacteria counts. Here are the types of bacteria monitored:
Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas, which are common skin residents. The highest staphylococcal counts were found on wristbands from gym-goers. Besides the skin, Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria found in the nose, armpit, groin and other areas, and causes a wide variety of diseases. Pseudomonas spp. can cause infections in blood, lungs (pneumonia) or other parts of the body following surgery.
Intestinal organisms of the genera Escherichia, specifically E. coli: these are prevalent in the bathroom and can land anywhere on you after you flush a toilet (don’t fear, we show you how to protect against this here). However, raw foods in the kitchen are another source for these bacteria.
Thankfully, the study also investigated what types of cleaners were the most effective at reducing bacteria:
Lysol™ Disinfectant Spray and 70 percent ethanol were highly effective regardless of the wristband material with 99.99 percent kill rate within 30 seconds. While Lysol has been trusted for disinfection for many years, it’s not non-toxic: most of the spray can formulations earned an “F” rating on the Environmental Working Group’s website. Instead, try hypochlorous acid, like this Force of Nature Starter Kit. For more about hypochlorous acid, check out our post here.
Apple cider vinegar, a common “DIY” cleaning ingredient, was not as potent and required a full two-minute exposure to reduce bacterial counts.
Although they weren’t tested in the study, we do have some simple alternatives to help you wear your wristbands with less germs:
If it’s flexible enough, turn your wristband inside-out once in a while during the day to expose the underside to light and air. The UV rays in sunlight, as well as the ions in fresh air, kill germs!
Although many wristbands can be worn 24/7, it’s a good idea to take them off after showering to let your skin and the underside of the band dry out. Leaving them off overnight is even better.
Hand sanitizers: Sanitizers are super convenient when soap and water is not available, so whenever using it on your hands, spread some around the wristband and your wrists. The same goes for washing your hands–just make sure to rinse off the soap.
If you decide to upgrade your rubber silicone wristband, think gold or silver. In this case, you will get what you pay for–less germs!