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8 Germ Facts You Need to Know

Learn how germs spread, where they live, and (most importantly) how to stay germ-free.

Germs are a part of everyday life. Whether viral or bacterial, germs are lurking on nearly every surface with the potential to cause sickness. However, these little microbes are pretty fascinating – and understanding how germs spread is the first step in minimizing their impact on your life. To learn the most shocking germ facts and the best ways to reduce the spread of germs in your house, look no further.

Germ Facts You Didn't Know

#1: There are 4 major types of germs.

That's right – "germ" is a catch-all umbrella term for all the pesky organisms that lurk in your environment. There are four major types of germs: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa.1 Bacteria and viruses are the main germs to be wary of, as they are the culprits behind common illnesses. Bad bacteria (not to be confused with good bacteria, like the ones living in your gut and helping with digestion) can cause things like strep throat and food poisoning. Viruses cause sicknesses like the common cold as well as the flu and pneumonia. Killing these viruses and bacteria is the best way to prevent getting sick.

#2: Germs have existed for over three billon years.

Fossil records of bacteria have been traced back over 3.5 billion years!2 Scientists have even found 100 million year-old microbes buried in the ocean that were still alive.3 However, germ theory didn't occur until at least 1850.4 Before then, people believed that bad smells or evil spirits caused disease.

#3: One germ can multiply into more than 8 million germs in a day.

Bacteria reproduce by dividing one cell into two – and on and on. Bacteria like E. coli, which can cause food poisoning, can divide every 20 minutes! That means that in just seven hours, one bacterium can divide into over 2 million bacteria.5

#4: The human body is home to over 10,000 species of bacteria.

Researchers calculate that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human ecosystem.6 Don't get grossed out, though – these bacteria help us survive by digesting food and helping us absorb crucial nutrients. Interestingly, the species of bacteria in your gut are constantly changing and evolving as you go about your day, though the microbiome typically returns to a state of equilibrium.

#5: Nearly 80 percent of illness-causing germs are spread by your hands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch.7 While a little scary, that means that the key to preventing sickness is, quite literally, in your hands. Proper hand hygiene is an incredibly effective way to reduce the spread of germs and infections.

#6: Effective handwashing takes over 20 seconds.

Unfortunately, the average length of time that people wash their hands is only 6 seconds.8 In order to properly reduce the number of microbes on your hands, you need to scrub up with soap for at least 20 seconds.9 If counting gets boring, try humming the "Happy Birthday" song twice through, from beginning to end. It's likely longer than you think!

#7: There are more germs on your smartphone than on a toilet seat.

With the number of germs living on your hands, it's no surprise that your smartphone is probably covered in invisible germs. But it may shock you to learn that it's even dirtier than a toilet seat!10 One study estimates that there are ten times as many germs living on your smartphone than on your toilet.11

#8: Germs can live on surfaces for more than nine hours.

While the lifespan of germs really depends on the variety, cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces like your countertop for up to nine hours while remaining infectious.12 Other bacteria, like the kind that causes staph infections and fungal infections, can survive for months on dry surfaces.13 Germs can also live on your hands for hours, so make sure to wash up frequently – especially before and after preparing and eating food.

Top Ways to Keep Your Home (Relatively) Germ-Free

  • Practice (and teach) proper handwashing technique. Handwashing is an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep everyone healthy.14 Make sure to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and teach your loved ones to do so, as well. It's most important to wash up after using the restroom, before and after eating, and after using shared public spaces.
  • Disinfect your surfaces (and personal items) regularly. After learning that bacteria can live on dry surfaces for months, you're probably more excited to clean your house than ever before. Use a damp disinfecting wipe to remove gunk that may be on the surface. For a hassle-free deep clean, the SoClean O3 Smarthome Cleaning System™ can help. The O3 Smarthome Cleaning System uses Activated Oxygen Technology to confidently clean surfaces and personal items without the use of harsh chemicals. The SoClean Device Disinfector kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria from personal items like your phone, your watch, and your headphones – all places where viruses and bacteria like to stay.15
  • Improve your air quality. Use an air purifier to improve indoor air quality easily. Air purifiers can reduce viruses in a home or confined space.16 SoClean's lab-proven filtration technology removes allergens and mold, and captures up to 99.99999% of viruses and bacteria.17

Understanding these tiny microbes is a step towards a cleaner and healthier future. We know that a clean environment and lifestyle can provide peace of mind and protection for the people and places you love most. That's why our team at SoClean Labs spends so much time pioneering the future of an easy, safe clean. While you may never remove bacteria or viruses from your home completely, we're committed to developing innovative products that help you get as close to clean as scientifically possible.


  1. KidsHealth.org
  2. UCMP
  3. ScienceMag.org
  4. PubMed
  5. Microbiology Society
  6. NIH.gov
  7. Memorial Medical Center
  8. CBS News
  9. CDC.gov
  10. Time
  11. University of Arizona
  12. PBS
  13. PubMed
  14. CDC.gov
  15. SoClean
  16. EPA
  17. SoClean