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Video: How gross are you?

updated 5/11/2009 11:36:10 AM ET 2009-05-11T15:36:10

Glamour polled nearly 1,000 women on everything from sitting on public toilets to re-wearing dirty clothes, then sent the results to Billy Goldberg, M.D., and Mark Leyner, authors of “Let’s Play Doctor.” Here, find out which habits are unhealthy — and which are filthy but fine.

As men, we know a little something about being gross. In fact, we’ve pretty much always assumed that whatever the average woman’s personal hygiene habits are, the average man’s are much, much worse. But when we read the results of Glamour’s recent poll of almost 1,000 women, we realized some of you are less civilized than you look (and smell!). Do you need to clean up your act? Well, maybe not; some dirty habits aren’t as nasty, medically speaking, as most people think. Check it out:

Do you go barefoot at the gym?
32 percent of women admitted doing it.

Sorry, going barefoot is not a good thing to do at the gym. Even if you’re not worried about slipping on wet feet, you should be wary of the stuff found in sweaty, steamy places that can cause athlete’s foot and plantar warts. If your feet (and the areas between your toes) remain moist, an infection can grow … and grow. So splurge on a pair of $1.99 drugstore flip-flops.

Have you ever peed in the shower?
Almost 75 percent of poll-takers have.

Let’s start with a few facts: Toilet flushing accounts for almost 27 percent of indoor water use in a home. The amount used per flush ranges from a gallon in eco-friendly models to a whopping seven in older types. Where are we going with this? We beseech you: Save water. Save the planet! Pee in the shower! OK, we won’t insist. But it isn’t really that gross. Unless you have an infection, urine is sterile and nontoxic. Proponents of “urine therapy” even believe it can help treat athlete’s foot. Heck, Dr. Billy freely admits that he is a shameless shower squirter.

Do you wash up after using the bathroom?
24 percent of women don’t do it every time.

“I’ll scrub if I’m about to eat, but if I’m in and out real quick and don’t pee on myself, why wash?” asks Alanna, 25. Here’s why: When you wipe, your hand is awfully close to the source of stomach-churning E. coli. A little time at the sink will prevent those germs from finding their way into your mouth and causing you — or a person you shake hands with — some nasty gastrointestinal distress. Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the transmission of disease of almost any kind. So without question, wash up after using the bathroom. And do it right: According to a recent study involving a supposedly “unobtrusive” research-observer hiding in a toilet stall, 63 percent of women washed their hands after using the bathroom, but only 38 percent used soap (a must) and a measly 2 percent did it for 10 or more seconds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 15 to 20 seconds. (Note: If you ever find someone sitting in a toilet stall with a clipboard, please demand her credentials.)

How often do you shower?
Almost a third of women said they don’t lather up every day.

Grody? Depends on how much you sweat. Unhealthy? Nah. Stink-causing bacteria feast on sweat released by your apocrine glands, which are concentrated in areas like your armpits and groin. The longer these germs are allowed to grow, the smellier you get. They pose no health risk, but you may clear out a row at the multiplex.

Do you brush your teeth every night?
43 percent of poll-takers said they don’t.

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Brushing before bed always seemed like a no-brainer to us. Skip it, and you’re giving the germs in your mouth time to multiply, especially since the production of bacteria-killing saliva decreases when you sleep. All this can lead to cavities and gum disease — and many studies suggest that the bacteria responsible for gum disease may also play a role in heart trouble. If that won’t get you brushing, consider this: These nasty little germs emit gases called volatile sulfur compounds, which smell like a porta-potty.

Ever wear dirty clothes?
A full 85 percent of women have.

Says Penny, 32: “Isn’t that what Febreze is for?” Yes — just draw the line at underwear  (which 52 percent of poll-takers have reworn). According to microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., there is roughly a tenth of a gram of fecal matter in worn undies; that translates to about 100 million E. coli bacteria, which, in ferreting through your laundry, may get on your hands. Then, if you rub your eyes or, God forbid, eat a sandwich, you could get sick. If you’re a regular hamper digger, wash your hands after rooting around in there.

Do you follow the five-second rule?
More than 40 percent of womeneat food that’s fallen on the floor.

First, what floor are we talking about? There’s a NASA Clean Room floor, and then there’s the floor of a restroom in the Port Authority bus terminal near Times Square. But either way, the five-second rule — which states that if you retrieve a morsel quickly enough, it’s safe — isn’t exactly true. Researchers tossed food on grimy flooring and found that it was germy after just a few seconds. Since it takes very little bacteria to make you sick, it’s a good idea to toss fallen food into the trash.

Do you sit on public toilets?
Toilet seats, despite their reputation, are not that dirty. It’s perfectly fine to plop down on these thrones bare-bottomed like 43 percent of poll-takers do. There are germs there (like the fecal bacteria E. coli), but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll catch anything from the dreaded potty. Your butt’s formidable first line of defense, i.e., your skin, keeps the germs from entering your body. (You do still need to wash your hands.) Actually, as we never tire of telling people, eating lunch at your desk may be worse for your health than using public toilets. Microbiologist Charles Gerba, Ph.D., found that the typical office desk harbors around 400 times more bacteria than the average john seat.

Billy Goldberg, M.D., is a host of the weekly Sirius Satellite Radio show “Doctor Radio,” and novelist Mark Leyner is writing a screenplay called “Hurricane Jerry.”

For more great tips and information, visit Glamour magazine online.

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