Gross Habits You Think Are Normal (But They’re Not)

Gross Habits You Think Are Normal (But They’re Not) iStock

Ever bitten your fingernails? Shared a friend’s lipstick? Maybe blown out a few birthday candles? You might want to rethink a few things. Germs are lurking in the most unexpected places, and some of our everyday habits are like giving them a VIP pass. Here are some of the nastiest habits you might be guilty of — stop ASAP!

1. Biting your nails is basically eating bacteria.

Your nails are magnets for dirt and germs, Prevention notes, and if you’re a biter, you’re basically giving your gut a dose of all that nastiness, which can make you sick. Eww! Plus, think about all the stuff you touch – now it’s going straight in your mouth. Just remember, that cool thing you high-fived earlier could be giving your tummy a not-so-cool surprise.

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2. Sharing makeup is like sharing an eye infection.

Best friends might borrow each other’s mascara, but it’s a risky move. Eye makeup, lip products, anything that touches your face – these can harbor germs that spread super easily. It’s tempting to try that awesome new lipstick your bestie just bought, but trust us, pinkeye is definitely not a cute look. Think of your makeup like your toothbrush – meant for you and only you!

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3. Leaving your toothbrush out is like giving it a toilet water shower.

Every time you flush, germs get aerosolized… including onto your toothbrush, per CNET. Unless you’re into that, keep it in a case or at least as far from the toilet as possible. Toilets aren’t exactly known for being squeaky clean, right? Now imagine all that gross stuff misting its way to your pearly whites. Yuck!

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4. Not washing your hands after the bathroom… shudder.

This should be obvious, but sadly, it’s not universally practiced. Enough said – wash your hands, people! Nobody wants to think about where your hands have been before you shake theirs or make them food. Let’s spread soap, not germs!

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5. Double-dipping turns that salsa into a bacteria party.

Think no one saw you? The germs did. Unless you want to share microbes with everyone enjoying the party snacks, either take a small portion onto your own plate or resist that second dunk. Nobody wants to be the party guest who gets the whole crew sick. Plus, have you ever seen what happens to salsa after a double-dip attack? Not pretty.

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6. Chewing on pens is like licking a public doorknob.

Pens go everywhere, touched by countless hands. Is that really something you want to shove in your mouth? Break the habit! Imagine all the stuff those pens have touched – not so appetizing, right? Find another way to fidget, because sharing germs with a thousand strangers is definitely not the vibe.

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7. Popping pimples can make things way worse.

It’s oh-so-satisfying, but squeezing those zits can spread bacteria, cause scarring, and make your breakout last even longer. Hands off! We know it’s tempting to take matters into your own hands, but sometimes the best thing is to let pimples run their course. Your future self (and your clear skin) will thank you!

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8. Walking barefoot in public is gross (and risky).

Gyms, pool decks, airport floors… these are breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus. Shoes aren’t just a fashion statement; they’re a barrier between your feet and some nasty stuff. Think of all the sweat, spills, and questionable substances lurking on public floors. Do you really want all that on your feet?

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9. Not changing your sheets often enough is like sleeping in your own filth.

Dead skin cells, sweat, dust mites… your cozy bed gets surprisingly nasty. Aim to wash your sheets weekly to keep things feeling (and smelling) fresh. Imagine all the stuff your body sheds at night – trust us, you don’t want to be marinating in it for a week. A quick sheet-change is a small price to pay for that fresh, clean feeling!

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10. Touching your face constantly spreads germs everywhere.

Hands touch doorknobs, phones, keyboards… then you rub your eyes or pick your nose, and bam! Germs have a new home. Break the face-touching addiction for clearer skin and fewer colds. Think of it this way: every time you idly touch your face, you might as well be shaking hands with a doorknob. Plus, no one wants to be the person with the mysterious smudge on their cheek all day.

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11. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is an invitation for mold and bacteria.

Sure, you’ll do them “later,” but that pile of crusty plates becomes a science experiment better left undone. Wash those dishes ASAP to avoid a stinky, germy mess. Imagine that leftover spaghetti sauce slowly growing its own little ecosystem… not a pretty picture, is it? Do yourself (and your nose) a favor and tackle those dishes sooner rather than later.

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12. Wearing the same jeans for days is grosser than it sounds.

You might not see the grime, but bacteria are thriving down there. Give your jeans a wash every few wears to minimize odor and keep things hygienic. Think of your jeans like a sponge – they soak up sweat, dead skin… not exactly stuff you want hanging around. Plus, who doesn’t love that fresh-laundry feeling?

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13. Not disinfecting your phone is straight-up nasty.

Your phone goes everywhere – including the bathroom. Enough said. Wipe it down regularly with sanitizing wipes to get rid of all the germs it picks up. Your phone might look innocent, but trust us, it’s got more germs than a subway pole. Think twice before you scroll through Instagram after using the restroom!

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14. Licking your fingers to turn pages is unsanitary (and ineffective).

A little saliva isn’t going to magically give you paper-turning superpowers, and you’re just leaving germs behind for the next person. Invest in a little finger sponge or just lightly dampen a fingertip with water – much more hygienic. Plus, who knows what was on your fingers before – that jam sandwich from lunch doesn’t belong in your favorite novel.

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15. Forgetting to wash your reusable water bottle is a bacteria paradise.

Dark and damp? Perfect conditions for mold and bacteria to grow. Wash your reusable bottle daily – your health will thank you. Imagine all the backwash and old particles floating around in there if you don’t wash it…yuck! Do your immune system a favor and keep that bottle squeaky clean.

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16. Letting your pet lick your face is surprisingly unsanitary.

smiling bearded guy with his dogiStock

We love our furry friends, but their mouths are full of bacteria that’s not meant for humans. Kisses on the head are much safer and less likely to get you sick. Those puppy kisses might be adorable, but their breath probably isn’t. Better to stick with forehead smooches and ear scratches!

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17. Blowing out birthday candles is kind of like spitting on the cake.

It’s a cute tradition, but in reality, you’re showering that cake with a fine mist of saliva. Maybe skip the candles next year, in favor of a germ-free celebration! Imagine everyone else having to eat a slice of spit-covered cake. A cupcake for the birthday person to blow out on their own might be a better – and more hygienic – idea!

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Josh grew up in Connecticut and thought he could never be happier away from big bodies of water until he moved to Minneapolis and fell in love with it. He writes full-time, with his lifestyle content being published in the likes of Men's Health, Business Insider, and many more. When he's not writing, he likes running (but not enough to train for a marathon even though his buddy won't stop asking him).