Could Your Coffee Mug Be Making You Sick?

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Winter is coming, which means cold and flu season is too. You probably take your vitamins and regularly wash your hands, but there may be something making you sick you haven't considered before -- your coffee mug.

If you're like us, you probably have a favorite coffee cup (some of us have had ours for years!). But the way you use and clean your mug could have some serious effects on your health.

Jeffrey Starke, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and former director of infection control at Texas Children's Hospital for 22 years, told the Wall Street Journal that, while the average coffee mug isn't a Petri dish, when you fill it with coffee, sugar, cream, and touch it to your hands and face, “you provide the opportunity for organisms and bacteria to fester.”

Gross, right?

Some microbiologists also say that leaving your cup of coffee for any longer than 45 minutes after pouring it is unhealthy since standing liquid can encourage pathogens like mold to grow.

Dr. Starke told the Wall Street Journal, “If I went and cultured the average unwashed coffee cup, of course I’m going to find germs...But remember the vast majority came from the person who used the cup."

Dr. Starke adds that you should probably take extra precautions during cold and flu season, "I would guard my mug and make sure no one else is using it. Don’t share.” 

The biggest concern isn't the mug or the liquid inside; it's actually how you clean it. Dr. Starke told the Wall Street Journal, “The sponge in the break room probably has the highest bacteria count of anything in the office."

Think about it -- many people in the office use that sponge on all sorts of food, and it sits wet for hours at a time. Dr. Starke recommends avoiding the sponge altogether and opting for cleansing your mug with soap, hot water, and your fingers. He says if you properly clean your mug, your risk for sickness will be reduced significantly.