Does the five-second rule work?

You know when you drop a piece of food and if you pick it up within five seconds it's still good to eat? Researchers have studied whether that's true or not and in doing so have inadvertently shone a light on how utterly covered our world is with bacteria and germs. Prepare to shudder in this episode of Stuff You Should Know.

Male Speaker: Brought to you by the 2012 Toyota Camry.

Female Speaker: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from

Josh Clark: Hey. And welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. Charles W. Chuck Bryant's consulting his notes. He's wearing his glasses, everybody. He's getting ready to podcast, so that means this is Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck Bryant: Stretching, doing my Yoga. You just peed for the fourth time in the last hour and got more coffee.

Josh Clark: I drink a lot of coffee.

Chuck Bryant: Boy, that was exciting.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and while I was getting coffee, I was like I used my elbow to press the buttons to make coffee.

Chuck Bryant: Are you doing that now?

Josh Clark: I have become - I'm trying to think back to what initiated it, but I have definitely become far more germ-conscious. I'm not a germophobe because I can just be like, oh, god, you know, it's fine. Your fingers touched your mouth. Stop simpering.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Right? Like I can get a hold of myself like that, but at the same time, you know what it is? It was - it was flesh eating bacteria when it was going around Georgia for a little while.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah?

Josh Clark: And then, simultaneously, like being aware that like the gym is lousy with germs.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And I think that did a one, two number on me and now all of a sudden I'm just very - I'm very aware of what I touch.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I'm not super germ conscious. I have been more so, though, since we've started learning more about this crap. But we have a mutual friend whose girlfriend won't even keep her toothbrush in the bathroom.

Josh Clark: Oh, really?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. She said, "Why would I - among the fecal air? The particulates in the air? Why would I keep my toothbrush in the bathroom?"

Josh Clark: It makes sense.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. And she knows who she is.

Josh Clark: I don't know who she is.

Chuck Bryant: I'll tell you after.

Josh Clark: Okay. Good. So you're kinda - you're okay with it? You're okay with the idea of germs? I mean, there is this whole - there's this whole thing, called the hygiene hypothesis, which makes utter and complete sense to me.

Chuck Bryant: What? That if you allow more germs then you'll just learn to fight them and have a more robust immune system?

Josh Clark: Yes, especially growing up as a child -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I believe in that.

Josh Clark: - and that children who develop allergies, it's because they are raised in a sterile, Lysol environment.

Chuck Bryant: My environment was filthy dirty.

Josh Clark: And so when they finally get out into this very filthy, dirty world, e.g. preschool, they are - they don't have any antibodies built up for it. It makes a lot of sense. I don't know that there's any hard science that backs it up, but I don't know that it's ever been disproven. But it's called the hygiene hypothesis. It appeals to me.

Chuck Bryant: It appeals to me. I don't have allergies. I don't get sick that much.

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: And I'm unhealthy as it gets.

Josh Clark: I wouldn't call you that.

Chuck Bryant: No? I'm in the middle.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: I appreciate that.

Josh Clark: Okay. I guess, really, the division line between a germophobe and a non-germophobe would probably be found somewhere in the 5-Second Rule, wouldn't you think?

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: So like if I drop something, depending on what it was and where I dropped it, I would possibly eat it. There's a - there's a comedian here in Atlanta. He's pretty good. His name's Noah Gardenswartz.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah?

Josh Clark: And he's saying that -

Chuck Bryant: Great name.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Yeah. It means Noah black garden, I think.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And he was saying that the 5-Second Rule is basically - exists on a sliding scale. Like if it's a piece of broccoli, it's like a 0-Second.

Chuck Bryant: Agreed.

Josh Clark: If it's like a Cheetos, it's like a whenever I find it rule.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Whenever I find it and pick it up and eat it rule. He does it way better than me, but he had a great observation about the 5-Second Rule. The point is, for me, it depends on what it is, where it is, not really even how long it's been there. I mean, if it's -

Chuck Bryant: Oh, come on.

Josh Clark: - been there so long and it's under the couch and there's like dust bunnies accumulated on it, I won't eat it.

Chuck Bryant: No, no, no. You wouldn't eat anything that you didn't recently drop. Would you? If you just found a cookie on the floor, you would eat it.

Josh Clark: Again, it depends on where -

Chuck Bryant: The cookie?

Josh Clark: - on where it was found. Like some places seem far cleaner to me than others, like mine and Yumi's apartment is very, very clean.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: So if it fell and was just slightly under the couch -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: - I would - yeah, I'd eat it. It depends. I mean, if it were a piece of salami or something, I wouldn't, but if it were like a very dry cookie, perhaps a - oh, a good potato chip that wasn't stale yet, it's very clean; I would blow it off and eat it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I would - since we're talking about our sliding scales, I would eat nothing that I didn't recently drop unless it was a - if it was like A Little Bit Sweets, The King, their candy bar, The King.

Josh Clark: Yeah, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: If I found one of those that I'd just forgotten that was under my couch, unwrapped on the floor, I would eat that no matter how long it had been there.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I would maybe rinse it off or I would melt it down or - and reform it or do something.

Josh Clark: Deconstruct it?

Chuck Bryant: I would - yeah.

Josh Clark: That's all the rage now.

Chuck Bryant: That's what - I would do that.

Josh Clark: You know they released a box - a selection of caramels called Stuff You Should Eat, A Little Bit Sweets did.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: And it says specifically on their website that it's in honor of us.

Chuck Bryant: Thank you, Liz and Jen.

Josh Clark: Okay. So I feel like we've gone in depth on what we'd do with the 5-Second Rule. The question still remains, Chuck, is it - is it viable? Is that a real thing? Like if you are an adherent to the 5-Second Rule and you're like I'm a very clean person. I only eat stuff that's been on the floor for five seconds or less, are you full of it?

Chuck Bryant: Well, you're sort of full of it.

Josh Clark: You're totally full of it.

Chuck Bryant: There was a high school student in 2003, Julian Clark. And she was doing her internship at the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois, and she said, "You know what? We should do a little study," because it's the old wives' tale about the 5-Second Rule.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And she coated these towels with E. coli, which is really gross, and dropped cookies and gummy bears and things onto the surface for certain amounts of time and then studied what kind of bacteria it picked up.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And of course, no matter long it had been down there, bacteria did jump onto the food.

Josh Clark: Within five seconds?

Chuck Bryant: What is important to point out, though, is the longer you left it there, the more it picked up, so the five seconds or under is important. Like it's usually not five seconds for me. If I drop a piece of food, I've got it back within my hand in like two seconds.

Josh Clark: I've seen it. You're like a - you're like a Ninja.

Chuck Bryant: And it matters because the longer it's there, the more bacteria it's gonna pick up. Right?

Josh Clark: Yeah. So Julian Clark just did this very initial preliminary investigation, but she was a pioneer and received the 2004 Igno Bell Prize for Public Health for her efforts.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Good for her.

Josh Clark: And so, she kind of - she established this trail. She blazed the trail. And then, about four years later, some Clemson University researchers really kind of dug in to figure out what was going on with this 5-Second Rule and built on Clark's work.

Chuck Bryant: Go Tigers.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I mean, we've got to say it.

Josh Clark: I don't feel like we do.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. Screw you, Tigers. All right. So what did they find out? They found out the same thing.

Josh Clark: Well, if you thought that the - right - if you thought the E. coli bacteria on the towel's was gross -

Chuck Bryant: I know where you're going.

Josh Clark: - these guys created a broth of salmonella.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. They called it Salmonella Soup, which is so nasty.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And they - they applied it to three different types of material, because I mean, like sure, maybe five seconds you're gonna get some bacteria on it. But doesn't it depend on the kind of food? Doesn't it depend on the kind of surface it comes in contact with? So these investigators, they're pros. They were at Clemson. They applied the Salmonella Soup to tile, wood surface and carpet.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And then, they started dropping bread and baloney on it.

Chuck Bryant: Good choice.

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: Why not?

Josh Clark: And they - they found what Clark found, that in less than five seconds, no matter how short the time, there was a bacterial transfer.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, between 150 and 8,000 bacteria if under five seconds.

Josh Clark: Under five seconds.

Chuck Bryant: Or five seconds or under.

Josh Clark: And consider this, with salmonella, you only need ten individual bacterium to - for what's called an infectious dose.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. So that is five seconds or under. If you left it down there for a minute, it was gonna be ten times that, and there are ten strains of salmonella, not - I mean, besides just the bacteria, it's - there's a lot of stuff going on down there on your floor, most notably poop on your shoes.

Josh Clark: Yeah. That's another thing, too, man.

Chuck Bryant: There's poop everywhere.

Josh Clark: But you should - you should take your shoes off. My wife is of Japanese ancestry and -

Chuck Bryant: Do you guys do that?

Josh Clark: - one of the things I definitely picked up from her is like you take your shoes off when you come in the house.

Chuck Bryant: So you just walk around without shoes on all the time?

Josh Clark: Or with slippers or something.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, sure.

Josh Clark: Yeah, because like especially if you're germ conscious, man, if you go into a public bathroom and you walk out of there, you're - the bottom of your shoes are just like a nightmare. You don't want to track that all over your house because you might find a cookie on your couch that you want to eat. You have to plan for the future, basically, and that starts with taking your shoes off in your house.

Chuck Bryant: For some reason, I don't think the Japanese culture is rooted in the hopes that you'll find a cookie on your floor and be able to eat it.

Josh Clark: No, maybe not, but they are big into their shoes off.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. My friend, Jason, in Tokyo, he is married to a woman named Kako, and years ago when we were living in Athens, they started that tradition of removing your shoes. And he's, "Okay, you mind?" I was like, "Of course not. Watch this."

Josh Clark: Watch this. Well, sometimes they'll even provide like slippers and stuff for guests, like if you're in a Japanese home.

Chuck Bryant: So you're still wearing shoes in there. I guess the point is - [Crosstalk] Josh Clark: But shoes that have never left your house.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. So that's the deal.

Josh Clark: Yes. And I don't -

Chuck Bryant: So in a controlled environment, you're all good.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And I won't wear my slippers in the bathroom either.

Chuck Bryant: I got to tell you I just got some new slippers.

Josh Clark: Are they nice?

Chuck Bryant: What? Do you go barefoot in there, in the bathroom?

Josh Clark: Or socks or whatever, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: But like I don't want -

Chuck Bryant: And then, you burn the socks.

Josh Clark: I cut my feet off.

Chuck Bryant: I bought some new slippers, dude. I'm not usually one to plug things on the air, but if you're a grown man and you want some - the best slippers you've ever had and you don't mind throwing down a little cash, Uggs men's slippers.

Josh Clark: My friend, what do you think I wear?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is that what you wear?

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: I wonder if they're the same ones.

Josh Clark: They -

Chuck Bryant: They look like little loafers sort of, suede with -

Josh Clark: Mine don't have a back. They just have the sole and like the front.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay. Mine have a back and they have like the hard bottoms you can like go out and get the mail or go - if you're me, go to the grocery store.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Man, it's so comfortable.

Josh Clark: Yeah. That's nice.

Chuck Bryant: And all the - what is it?

Josh Clark: The Sherpa or whatever?

Chuck Bryant: It's not a Sherpa.

Josh Clark: It's called Sherpa lining.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, is it?

Josh Clark: Yeah. The sheep sheer, wool.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, it's called Sherpa lining?

Josh Clark: That's what some people call it.

Chuck Bryant: So cozy.

Josh Clark: Okay. So slippers.

Chuck Bryant: I need to start plugging these things and getting them for free. I'm a sucker. I always buy them and then plug them.

Josh Clark: Right. I know, but it's not a sucker, Chuck. You're above the board.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. So back to it.

Josh Clark: Oh, oh, so the longer the stuff stayed in contact, the more it was, the more bacteria that came upon it. But surprisingly, what they found was that the transfer was the least for carpet. The type of surface it came in contact with made a difference.

Chuck Bryant: I thought it was the most for carpet. It was the least?

Josh Clark: It was the least transferred, but the stuff survived in the carpet longer, so it all washed out.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay. Got you.

Josh Clark: So it made some difference but not really, whether it's wood, tile or carpet, when you drop something on it, there's going to be a lot of bacteria transfer. But the stuff survives on these surfaces. Carpet you're kinda like, okay, yeah, there's a lot to it. There's pile, then there's some sort of Berber factor and all that.

Chuck Bryant: You can't forget the Berber factor.

Josh Clark: Right. So of course, carpet, that's not much of a surprise that there's a lot of bacteria in there, but wood or tile? Not only do they find that like the stuff can survive for a while; it survives for up to a month - a month. After they put the stuff on there, a month later there was still living bacteria, enough for an infectious dose on all three surfaces. A month, dude.

Chuck Bryant: Geez. That's - okay, I'm becoming more of a germophobe.

Josh Clark: And - yeah, we're all turning into David Putty right now, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. David Putty, was he a germophobe?

Josh Clark: Yeah. Remember? He and Peggy, who called Elaine Suze - Suzy - they both turned out to be germophobes. They had like a little bacteria necklace and all.

Chuck Bryant: I don't remember that.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Remember Cramer made a radish rose in his shower. He had a garbage disposal in his shower so he could cook and bathe at the same time?

Chuck Bryant: I do remember that. Yeah.

Josh Clark: It was that episode.

Chuck Bryant: so I know earlier you mentioned - you just kind of off-handedly said, "You know, if it's something dry, like a cookie or - that actually it makes a difference." You found out that moisture can be the key to more bacteria transfer.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So a dry cookie versus a piece of like wet baloney or salami or moist baloney - I said moist baloney - will have more bacteria. And that's why they say when you go to the restroom and you wash your hands, the drying is just as important, if not more important, than the washing.

Josh Clark: Yeah. They found that this transfer of bacteria seems to be facilitated by moisture. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So when you touch something with your wet hands, you're gonna get a bunch of - a bunch of bacteria transferred onto your hands. If you wash your hands and then use one of those hands free paper towel dispensers and dry your hands, you could touch that same surface that you would have touched with your wet hands. And you're gonna have far less bacteria transferred to it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Or nowadays the air dryers in the bathroom, have you noticed in the past few years, are just like - for 50 years it was the same air dryer.

Josh Clark: Oh, now there's the accelerator.

Chuck Bryant: Now there's the accelerator and the Dyson Blade Dryer.

Josh Clark: I like the accelerator because the Dyson Blade you have to stick your hands down in there.

Chuck Bryant: I like that.

Josh Clark: And it's almost - it's like playing Operation, like it's almost impossible not to touch the sides.

Chuck Bryant: You don't want to touch - yeah, that's true.

Josh Clark: And then, like what's - does anyone clean the bottom of those things? Like I don't think so. The accelerator, it's all just like blowing your hands and you're done. And you cannot touch things more easily.

Chuck Bryant: That's true. I like the accelerator because the - the way it makes your skin ripple, like the G-forces is pretty amazing.

Josh Clark: That's neat. Like we were in the indoor skydiving thing.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: And let's talk about hands real quick, Chuck. So there's this study that came out of the University of Colorado at Boulder. And they found some really surprising things using this technique called metagenomics, where they take a swab of - like a sample - of your hands. And then, rather than doing culture, they do basically a DNA profile for everything found in that swab.

Chuck Bryant: What did they find?

Josh Clark: Well, they did 51 participants. They found 4,700 different bacteria species across the 51 participants. And what I found was particularly interesting, they found that only 5 percent of these species were found in all 51 participants.

Chuck Bryant: No, five period, not even percent.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah, five period.

Chuck Bryant: so out of all these species, the only one we're sharing - so that means we - there's just way more out there than we thought, I guess, huh?

Josh Clark: Yeah. And -

Chuck Bryant: And it's just luck of the draw as to what leaps to your hand?

Josh Clark: I guess so. And not only your hands, but specific hands, too. They found that the right and left palms of a single person shared only 17 percent of the bacterial species. So that means there's different species on different hands of the same person. That's weird. And then, women tend to have a higher diversity of bacteria on their hands than men, not necessarily more bacteria more, but more diversity among species.

Chuck Bryant: Interesting. So depending on which hand you shake, you're going to be getting a different type of bacteria from someone.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And if somebody like shakes your hand and is like, "Oh, it's just water. I washed my hand," punch them in the head.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Because that's bacterial transfer, jerk. Dry your hands.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. And since you mentioned women, I think the study by the girl in 2003 found that women are more likely to eat something off the floor than men, which surprised me.

Josh Clark: What surprised me is where the person who wrote this article got that. I couldn't find it anywhere.

Chuck Bryant: I couldn't either.

Josh Clark: I saw that women were more familiar with the concept of the 5-Second Rule but not that they used it more.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you know what? I'm gonna call that a dubious statement, then.

Josh Clark: Dubious, indeed.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. So you've eaten something off the floor. Are we good on hands?

Josh Clark: Yeah. Thanks for that.

Chuck Bryant: Okay. I like in the article they pointed out that out of the 51 participants there were 102 hands.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It was just like, "All right. So good. You didn't have any amputees in the study."

Josh Clark: Right. What was funny is I was - I didn't think it added up.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, did you?

Josh Clark: And then, I realized - that's why I stopped for a second a minute ago.

Chuck Bryant: All right. So you've picked up a cookie off the floor. It's dry. It's been down there for three seconds, and you think, you know what? I'm gonna roll the dice and eat it because my stomach acids and the acids in my saliva is gonna kill all this stuff. Fact or fiction?

Josh Clark: That is fiction.

Chuck Bryant: That is very much fiction. So it says the Germ Guru of the University of Arizona - go - what are they? Wild cats?

Josh Clark: Sun Devils? Or is that Arizona State?

Chuck Bryant: That's Arizona State.

Josh Clark: Arizona's Wild Cats then.

Chuck Bryant: Wild Cats. Go Wild Cats. Charles Gerba - his name almost looks like germ.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: close.

Josh Clark: Or Gerber.

Chuck Bryant: It's closer than Clark.

Josh Clark: Like he's the adult version of the Gerber Baby.

Chuck Bryant: So he says that viruses actually survive the low ph and, in fact, a lot of them like it and that pretty much any bacteria that you can infect your intestine with is gonna stay alive long enough to get to your intestine.

Josh Clark: Right. It's gonna survive that acidity in your stomach.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Look for our podcast on digestion. That was a good one.

Josh Clark: Man, that was great.

Chuck Bryant: If you wanna learn how that works. And it does make a difference on where it's landed, like you said. Some floors are more dangerous than others, and bathrooms are the worst place on earth and kitchens.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Actually, kitchens are the worst. They're supposedly dirtier than bathrooms.

Josh Clark: It depends on the bathroom, but yeah, Gerba points out that of all the shoes that he's ever analyzed - and this guy runs around on Good Morning America and the Today Show and analyzes stuff and just freaks people out. It's like kind of his - his trade.

Chuck Bryant: Sure. His calling.

Josh Clark: Yeah. He said that the fecal matter appears on about 93 percent of the shoes he's ever analyzed.

Chuck Bryant: Of course it does.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Like I said, there's poop everywhere.

Josh Clark: Poop everywhere.

Chuck Bryant: Especially in my house.

Josh Clark: So yeah, you'd think a public restroom's pretty bad, and it is, but it depends on what part of the public restroom you're talking about and sometimes compared to other places, that - it doesn't hold a candle. There's some surprising germ statistics that we're about to unleash on you.

Chuck Bryant: Let's start with - let's just jump all over then. I got the kitchen floor, the area on the kitchen floor just in front of your sink where you're gonna be doing your dishes and dropping food and poop has more bacteria than your trash can, 830 per square inch, as opposed to 411, so double. And your kitchen sponge - I know everyone knows that that's a really filthy thing to have.

Josh Clark: Yeah, remember that one.

Chuck Bryant: It's necessary but filthy.

Josh Clark: Remember the - I think the Clorox wipes or Lysol wipes commercial where the lady was using a sponge. They're like, "If you're using a sponge, you might as well be doing this," and she was just rubbing a raw chicken breast on her counter like it was a sponge.

Chuck Bryant: that's basically true, though.

Josh Clark: That's so gross.

Chuck Bryant: Like you - you should be really careful with your sponge, what you clean with it, what you don't clean with it, letting it dry out, changing it regularly. Like if you've got a two-month old kitchen sponge and you're using that to wipe your counter, you are spreading bacteria all over the place.

Josh Clark: You don't love your family.

Chuck Bryant: So you can use it at first. This is what I do because I'm a clean guy. My wife is not. I will clean up after her with a sponge, and then I'll go back with my organic spray and then do the paper towel wipe after that.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: So that's the final step in the process is always the dry paper towel with my - with 7th Heaven stuff is what I use.

Josh Clark: And then, a little bit of lighter fluid?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Sterilize the counter.

Chuck Bryant: All right. So your kitchen floor is dirtier than your trash can. Your sponge holds 60 times more bacteria than your pet food bowl, even though pet food bowls are pretty gross, too, supposedly, because you don't clean them out as much.

Josh Clark: Sure. And all of this is germier than a toilet seat.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. You always hear that, the old toilet seat.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And I think the reason why they toilet seat is surprisingly cleaner, in comparison, or surprisingly germ-free compared to other things like your kitchen sink and all that is because people clean the toilet seat more frequently because they think of it as a dirty place. And this is kind of born out in another study that Gerba carried out on behalf of the Clorox corporation, who make Lysol wipes. And he found that one of the dirtiest places in the universe is a person's desk.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And he found that, apparently, the average desk has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet. And one of the reasons is because people don't ever wipe this down. So he did this study where he divided workers into two groups. One group used the sanitizing wipes once or twice a day, and then the other group didn't. And after two days, there was a 99.9 percent reduction in bacteria on the desk of the people who were using the wipes.

Chuck Bryant: So wiping down your telephone handset, your desk -

Josh Clark: Mouse is a big one.

Chuck Bryant: Your mouse, your keyboard.

Josh Clark: Apparently, where you typically rest your hand on your desk - mine's on my mouse - has about 10 million bacteria on average.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: But he also found that over the course of a day, if you don't wipe your stuff down, you actually increase your bacteria from 19 to 31 percent on telephone, mouse, keyboard, desktop surfaces. Throughout a day, it increases that much more.

Chuck Bryant: Man, I haven't cleaned my desk in so long.

Josh Clark: It's been a while for me, too.

Chuck Bryant: I don't use the phone, though.

Josh Clark: I don't either.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, no one calls us.

Josh Clark: I don't even know my number to give out, and any time - if somebody asks for it, I'm like just email.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. That's what I do. Molly Edmonds, the former co-host of Stuff Mom Never Told You back in the day, she wrote about cubicle death and specifically germs in the workplace, like we were just talking about. And she points out that if you were at a restaurant and you have more that 700 bacteria per square inch, you're gonna be considered unsanitary, but you will come into contact with 10 million bacteria a day in your office.

And statistics like 20 percent of people eat at their desk and don't clean. I eat at my desk, occasionally, and I don't clean. 75 percent of people only occasionally will wipe down their work area and your desktop itself, not the computer desktop, but your desk is gonna be 100 times germier than a kitchen table.

Josh Clark: Right. And again, 400 times germier than a toilet seat.

Chuck Bryant: And presenteeism, which is a big problem, 75 percent of workers - I'm sorry, one-third of workers - that's not 75 percent -

Josh Clark: It's close.

Chuck Bryant: - reported to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases that they felt like they were obligated to go to work, even when they were sick.

Josh Clark: Yeah. That's not - it's not okay.

Chuck Bryant: It's a problem. And I know around here, especially Tracy, our -

Josh Clark: Yeah. Tracy from Pop Stuff.

Chuck Bryant: - from Pop Stuff, she takes it pretty serious. She's like - she gets pissed off when people are in here sick.

Josh Clark: She'll yell.

Chuck Bryant: She'll say, "If you're sick, please stay home because the office is dirty. Your bathroom's dirty. Your kitchen's dirty. That cutting board that you're cutting your vegetables on, filthy. It's all dirty. It's all gross.

Josh Clark: Well, I can't remember - I was trying to think of what episode Biofilm came up. You were telling everybody about Biofilm.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. What was that?

Josh Clark: I can't for the life of me remember, but that's how bacteria survive. That's how they can survive on stainless steel. That's how they can survive on wood, on tile, on nonporous surfaces, on synthetic surfaces that are designed to keep bacteria from thriving, these things can survive because they live in Biofilm. It's this protective film on any surface, and if a surface has grooves or things like that where a biofilm can hide, there's gonna be a lot more bacteria in a cutting board, apparently, is one of those great examples.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, especially a wood cutting board, I think, which I prefer.

Josh Clark: Me, too.

Chuck Bryant: You got to clean them well, though.

Josh Clark: Yeah because I'd rather have some bacteria in my food than like shards of plastic, you know.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. That's a good point. So before you freak out and jump in a pool of Purell, most of these germs are benign, like we've quoted all these tens of thousands and millions of germs and things. Most of them are benign, and your body is gonna take care of most of it, too, but it only takes like - you know, when you find yourself retching over the toilet with a stomach virus, it might have just been one little bacteria that got through.

Josh Clark: All it takes is ten for salmonella to get you and 100 for E. coli.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Ten. Ten little guys. The bottom of a woman's purse, randomly, Gerba again just ran up to some people and was like, "Let me touch your purse." And he found from the hundreds to 6.7 million on the bottom of one woman's purse.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, but that -

Josh Clark: And all it takes is ten or 100.

Chuck Bryant: He didn't say that that also had like pieces of pot pie and like there were probably reasons.

Josh Clark: Yeah. But I think that was a good -

Chuck Bryant: For that one lady.

Josh Clark: That was a good thing to go out on, Chuck. You did good by reassuring everybody that as long as your immune system is in order, you're probably okay as far as these bacteria go.

Chuck Bryant: Don't keep your toothbrush in your bathroom, so says our friend's girlfriend.

Josh Clark: Let's see. Before we say anything like what's in the mail or go find this article, I wanna do a quick shout out. Okay?

Chuck Bryant: Do it.

Josh Clark: Our Kiva team, Chuck, recently hit a very significant milestone, 1.5 million dollars in loans.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: That's enormous.

Chuck Bryant: What's Kiva?

Josh Clark: [Laughs].

Chuck Bryant: No, just say it.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah. Kiva is -

Chuck Bryant: I know what it is.

Josh Clark: is a micro lending site where you can make loans in little $25.00 increments to people in the developing world to use for entrepreneurship, to have their taxi license, to buy oxen, to retail clothes, what have you, farming, whatever. And our Kiva team has doled out 1.5 million in these $25.00 loans. That's just such an amazing accomplishment.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. When we started this, we had no idea that it was gonna have legs like this.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And we're gonna keep it going in perpetuity, so -

Josh Clark: We are. One of the reasons I wanted to shout out is because we are resetting our goals. We're setting our goal to $2 million by the summer solstice, June 21st. It's an international date. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And Glenn, the team leader at Kiva, came up with this and I think it's a sound idea.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. Thank you to Glenn and Sonia as always.

Josh Clark: So we're going to 2 million by June 21st, and if you want to join us in these, we are not the least bit exclusive. We're a very inclusive and welcoming group of people. We can go to Okay.

And if you wanna know anything more about the 5-Second Rule, type 5 Second Rule in the search bar at I said search bar so it's time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: It is, Josh. This is - we are just a few days way from our TV show premiere, and we would be remiss - I know you're probably tired of hearing about it by now.

Josh Clark: I'm not [inaudible].

Chuck Bryant: But we would be remiss if we didn't remind everyone that on Saturday night at 10:00 pm on the Science Channel, you are going to get two episodes of Stuff You Should Know back to back. The premiere Episode 2 following the season premiere of Ricky Gervasis' Idiot Abroad with Carl Pilkington.

Josh Clark: Yeah. That comes on first and then we come on at 10:00 with two brand new - the first two episodes of Stuff You Should Know, the TV Show.

Chuck Bryant: That's right. And if you do not have cable, fear not, because as we have announced, you can purchase these episodes on iTunes after they are released the next day, and because we love everyone so much in the world, you can get the premiere episode for free on iTunes.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So just seek it out, download it, watch it, and make some noise over at the Science Channel for us.

Josh Clark: Yeah. And on Twitter, too, and we think you're gonna like it. It's us and we play ourselves, but it's set in like kind of a fictionalized version of the office, our office. And there's podcasting and action and adventure and all sorts of goodness. So it should be - hopefully everybody likes it.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. As we have said before, it's the real us in a fictional world [inaudible]. All right. I hope you stuck around for this listener mail because it's pretty good. This is from Ben.

"Guys, my name is Ben. I'm a 30-year-old husband and father. Never considered myself a very smart man. I did mediocre in high school, not because of lack of trying but because of being viewed as a lazy student. And I was just socially awkward, to be honest. My wife has talked me into catching up with your podcast, and since then I've gotten a Smart Phone and done so and all I can say is thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. It has helped me become a better husband and father.

Let me explain. After high school, I became a father to a beautiful boy with an ex-girlfriend who is not the best person. Due to some heart complications, my son, Logan passed away four days after his first birthday. This resulted in me not following through with college, shutting down emotionally, basically becoming angry at the world and God for my son's passing.

To put it bluntly, I became someone who I said I never would become. I was full of hate. The years that followed in my life was just gray as I went through the motions of life. Things turned around when I met my wife, Jordan, got married and had our son, Raydon. And yes, I did name him Raydon after Mortal Combat.

And then I was turned on to your podcast. After listening to over 200 of them, you two have opened a hard spot in my heart. After listening to you guys and hearing how good natured you are, I myself have been trying to give everything in life a fair chance, and I've become more of a good hearted person who no longer battles something bad within myself."

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: I know. Right. "I'm happier in life than ever before and I have my wife and son and now Chuck and Josh to thank for helping. I'm trying to further my education. I can't stop reading and learning, and I save your show so when my 1-year-old son is old enough, he can experience something that changed his daddy's life for the better just like he and his mommy did. So I can't thank you guys enough for all you've done without even knowing it. Sometimes all it takes is good hearts and a good podcast to make even a small difference. If you guys are ever up in Ohio, I would like to buy you both a drink." That is from Ben Chilton.

Josh Clark: Man, Ben, thank you for that.

Chuck Bryant: Good one. Josh Clark: We're not even trying.

Chuck Bryant: I know, dude. I read this stuff, and I'm just like are you kidding me?

Josh Clark: That's pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant: Like what are you supposed to say to that?

Josh Clark: Thank you.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So thanks, Ben. If you want to get in touch with Chuck and me about the 5-second rule, how about this. We want to know the nastiest thing you've ever eaten, whether it was something that was prepared, something that touched the ground, tell us - tell us your nasty eating story.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. And if you're one of those kids, I had friends in elementary school that would have like gross eating contests that would like throw mashed potatoes on the floor and then eat them.

Josh Clark: I explored that once. I was like, you know what? Maybe I am that kid. Let's find out. And I ate a sticker that was on the ground with some hair attached to it, and I was like, "Nope. I need to keep seeking my persona out because that one's not it."

Chuck Bryant: Not me.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Well, we want to know about them. Right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah. I can't believe you've held out on me on that story.

Josh Clark: Tweet to us at syskpodcast. Join us on and as always you can send us an email, to:

Female Speaker: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit

[End of audio]

Duration: 34 minutes

Topics in this Podcast: five second rule, food, germs