Food Allergy Tips For Handling & Cleaning Contaminated Money

So, How Dirty Is Money?

I’m not much of a germaphobe, though, after going through COVID-19 I am definitely more aware of (and grossed out by) germs than ever before. Money is a specific cross-contact example I wanted to bring up because while we do often use payment methods besides traditional dollar bills and coins, they are a major source of cross-contact and potentially coming into contact with your deadly food allergen. Debit cards and wallets in general, just like our phones, are highly contaminated due to being high-touch items.

Cross-Contact Contaminated Money 

Not long ago I started having lip swelling and hives when I was out and about running errands, and I was frustrated because I didn’t know what was triggering the reaction and I hadn’t eaten anything recently to be causing a peanut allergy allergic reaction. While digging through my purse for my Alavert and intuitively taking inventory of my epinephrine and Benadryl whereabouts for peace of mind, I scanned my mind listing out all the things I had handled during the day, focusing on what may have been risky. Then it clicked! I’d handled money in my wallet only a few minutes before feeling like I was having a mild reaction. I must’ve touched my lip! I vaguely remember putting on chapstick and some of my hair got stuck to my lip after bending over to put my purse back down, and I used my hand to wipe it off. Ah-hah, I thought, and also …how gross! What types of bacteria were on the money in addition to microscopic peanut particles? Yuck. Thinking of all the things found on money started really grossing me out. 

Okay, I had to look up what percentage of money has feces on it. And let me tell you, cards are dirtier than money, it turns out. I found an article answering “how dirty is the average dollar bill?” and the website ShareCare stated in response, “researchers used a device that tests for bacteria on a surface and calculates a germ score. The higher the score, the dirtier the area. Credit cards had a score of 285, with the magnetic strip side considered the dirtiest part of the ATM card. In contrast, dollar bills averaged 160 and coins were usually around 136.”

In case you are nerding out like I am on the subject, and want another quick tangent, I’ll tell you what germs are found on money commonly from the article 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Money. It states, “Also found on bills: fecal matter. A 2002 report in the Southern Medical Journal showed found pathogens — including staphylococcus — on 94% of dollar bills tested. Paper money can reportedly carry more germs than a household toilet.” Okay, back to food allergies and cross-contact with money.

In hindsight, I should’ve taken the precaution of wiping my hands before touching my mouth after handling something as public and likely contaminated as money, but I didn’t think about it. Normally I do use hand sanitizer and tissue if I’m out and about and without a wet wipe, and I try to wash my hands with soap regularly as well because they say the thing that really moves germs & particles off your hands is the soap suds. I do all this as a precaution to keep from becoming itchy and/or having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction take place, which could lead to anaphylaxis. It goes to show you something as simple as your phone or money can cause a life-threatening accidental exposure.

Volunteering & Handling Contaminated Money

I actually pick up money for the Kentucky Humane Society “Belly Banks” and I got involved doing this because I wanted to volunteer with KHS, but knew I couldn’t be around the animals and their facilities since they use peanut butter heavily. Picking up money from places around town and bringing it to KHS has been rewarding, and a more safe way for me to contribute, but it came with its own surprising element that it could still put me into a reaction and also cross-contact contaminate my car, clothes, etc. I have to be really careful to not touch my face, and also make sure I wipe my car steering wheel, my purse, my phone, and anything I’ve touched after handling all the cash and coins and when dropping it off at the Kentucky Humane Society. Another way I volunteer with KHS is by painting them pet portraits that they can auction off at their silent auctions. It’s fun being able to contribute in ways that are true to me, while not putting myself at unnecessary risk. I used to actually volunteer in person when I was a kid and in high school, and as I got older, I realized the risk level was too high for my comfort level and there were better ways I could contribute while staying involved.

Now That You Know Money Is Dirty

I am now extra cautious about handling change in my coin purse and handling dollar bills, and I hope you are, too. I’m not sure if I’ll go as far as to start washing my own coins and wiping dollar bills with a damp cloth or wipe, but honestly, it isn’t a terrible idea. Unfortunately, peanut contamination doesn’t get removed by alcohol, like how germs and COVID-19 are, so really wiping items well and if you can and sudsing them up is key to removing peanut and food allergen particles. I wipe almost everything else already, so why was such a widely recognized germy, contaminated thing like money getting an exception in my book? No longer will it be, it’s a red flag for me now as a common form of dangerous cross-contact.

How To Clean Money FAQs

How To Sanitize Money From Food Allergens

Wash & sanitize coins with warm water and a sudsing soap, you don’t need to worry about water or soaps causing erosion to the currency because it’s made of hard metals. Scrub and then let them air dry on a towel. For cleaning dollar bills, they’re made of paper so you do not want to use water, I repeat, do not use water. The best thing to do is to wash your hands after handling.

How To Disinfect Money From Germs

Alcohol wipes are the easiest and safest way to sanitize credit/debit cards, and also work for cleaning coin currency. Because hand sanitizer takes time to dry, it can negatively impact your credit and debit cards and break down the plastic. Instead, using alcohol wipes that are higher than 60% alcohol is best since they dry quickly and can be easily disposed of.

How Long Can The Flu Virus Live On Paper Money?

It’s important to understand how viruses like the flu spread and one way are on money and objects such as paper money, coins, payment cards, your wallet, phone, your hands, and any high-touch surfaces. A University Hospital of Geneva study found flu viruses on paper money survived up to 72 hours. However, when mixed with human mucus, one Type A strain remained active for 17 full days.

How To Clean Money With Vinegar

If you’ve read my post on allergen-free cleaning products, then you know I love cleaning with vinegar. Coin currency can be soaked in white vinegar in a non-corrosive container for a minimum of 30 minutes, up to overnight, and then scrubbed clean and left to air dry.

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