One of the first etiquette lessons you teach your kids is to share. In most situations, sharing is a kind and generous habit to get into. Of course you can use my yellow crayon. Yes, I’d love one of your crackers. Let’s take turns at the easel. But there are some items that even the closest of friends and family should never share.
A swipe from a friend’s lipstick is unlikely to be dangerous — even if it’s just not your color. But think before you loan out some of the items on this list, and be smart about it when you do share. Don’t hand out a handkerchief — if anyone still uses hankies — to someone who’s showing early signs of a cold. Know the most likely places to catch a cold or the flu. (The average computer mouse is three times dirtier than a toilet seat.) And with the lipstick, honestly, your lips can go bare for a few hours until you get your hands on your own cosmetic case.
There are plenty of benefits to those little in-ear Bluetooth headphones. No wires! No giant sweaty over-the-ear pads! And you can give one to a friend and tune in to the same music or movie, right? Uh, maybe rethink that last one. According to a study from the Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences, frequent use of earbuds increases bacterial growth in the ear, and sharing those earbuds can lead to ear infections and other aural hygiene issues. “It is therefore, always better not to share or else to clean the earphones before sharing,” the study reports. We hear that.
When properly fitted, bike helmets can be lifesavers. But it’s a really bad idea to share them. The EPA reports that a school where kids shared common bike helmets ended up with a lice problem; lice is usually spread by direct contact with an infected person’s hair, and hair may be left behind in a helmet that an uninfected child then uses. Schools and bike-share programs can vacuum and wipe out the helmets between use if they absolutely must share, but for your own family, get everyone their own helmet.
iStock.com/chee gin tan
Let’s cut right to the chase. Razors can nick you, and a nick draws blood. You don’t want to be exposed to the possible nightmare of a blood-borne infection. And as razor-maker Gillette points out, you don’t know how old someone else’s razor is. If it’s old, the blade may be dull and could cause cuts, skin irritation or razor burn.
Every so often, a horror story makes the headlines about a nail salon that didn’t clean its equipment, spreading painful and ugly infections. If you get manicures or pedicures, ask your nail technician about their sterilization policies, and make sure they’re followed. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology offers a number of tips for what to look out for at a salon, including heat-sterilized metal tools, and disposable pumice stones, emery boards and nail buffers. It makes sense that you should be equally wary of sharing your home manicure equipment. (Dad can wait till he gets back home to get the dirt out of his grody fingernails, right?)
Africa Studio/ Shutterstock
Towels may seem like a pretty innocent thing to share, especially since they usually look pretty clean. But be careful: Looks may be deceiving. You've probably heard nightmarish stories about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also called MRSA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that MRSA germs can survive on towels and some other items, such as athletic equipment, for "hours, days, or even weeks." So don't pick up your partner's towel and give yourself a rub-down with it. (Some good news: The CDC says that large surfaces, such as floors and walls, haven't been associated with the spread of MRSA.)
Hey, can I use your Chapstick? Rethink that request. The Mayo Clinic says sharing lip balm or lip moisturizer "increases your risk of contracting cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)." The practice of keeping your lips soft and moisturized is good for you, but just buy your own balm.
You may want to borrow your friend’s cute rose gold hoops for a night out on the town, but you may want to think twice before putting someone else’s earrings through your lobes. The organization Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases notes that pierced earrings may come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids, and sharing could cause health issues. If you are really in a pinch and need to borrow someone else’s jewelry, clean the earrings with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol before and after wearing them.
Toothbrushes are plentiful and inexpensive these days, so don’t share them. The American Dental Association warns that sharing a toothbrush could result in an exchange of bodily fluids and microorganisms. Most dentists hand out a free toothbrush at each visit, so stockpile a few in your bathroom and there’ll always be a fresh one for that forgetful houseguest.
As we noted with helmets, lice pass through infected hair coming in contact with an uninfected person. While the CDC notes that it’s rare to get lice by sharing clothing and belongings, don’t risk it. No need to be a mad hatter.
Whether you call them flip-flops, thongs or shower shoes, that cheap summer footwear can come in awfully handy, especially on pool decks, beaches or other wet areas. But don’t share them. One reason? The fungal infection known as athlete’s foot is contagious, and the Mayo Clinic reports that it can be spread by sharing shoes, especially wet shoes, worn by an infected person. That’d ruin your day at the pool for sure.
Disposable wipes are "disposable" for a reason. Wipes can be great for baby care, picnic cleanup or general kid messes, but one customer per wipe, please. The FDA notes that you should always discard a used wipe immediately. Using it to clean more than one person can cause cross-contamination.
Your contact lenses are yours for a reason. You wouldn't share your vision-correcting contacts with a friend — they don't have the same vision issues you do, so what's the point? But then comes Halloween or Comic-Con, and maybe you want to borrow your friend's cool cat- or snake-eye novelty contacts. Now that's scary. The FDA warns that decorative contact lenses can be risky. The administration advises getting them prescribed, not to buy them from a Halloween store or fly-by-night online vendor, and cautions against sharing lenses, since all eyes are not the same shape and size.
Body wash has all but left the good old-fashioned bar of soap in the dust. But if you like to belly up to the bar soap, keep your bar to yourself. While it’s probably not a huge danger, the CDC recommends liquid soaps for hand washing instead to minimize the spread of harmful bacteria.
Dani Llao Calvet/Shutterstock
A smoky eye can look gorgeous, but a red, painful sty on your eyelid? Not so much. The Mayo Clinic advises that to reduce your risk of recurrent eye infections, you shouldn't share eye makeup. Mayo Clinic also encourages makeup users to throw out old eye products, and not to sleep in eye makeup, including mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow. And if you didn’t remember that health lesson, you may want to brush up on these other health myths you learned in school that turned out to be false.
More from The Active Times: