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Finger Rings and Germs--What Organisms Lurk Under That Band?

Having suffered eczema and temperature sensitivities, Athlyn offers her insights, tips, and workable approaches to readers.

What Hides Beneath?


Are Your Rings Making You Sick?

Rings are worn every day but hand jewelry can pose certain health hazards. Many people wear finger jewelry and assume that routine hand washing is adequate to kill any germs, so they don't give their rings a second thought. But is that all there is to it? Can rings harbor germs that lead to transmission of sickness and disease?

Hands can be a source of transient microorganisms, which colonize superficial areas of skin, and resident microorganisms, which reside in deeper areas on the body and skin.

Hand washing removes transient microorganisms and can curb or prevent the spread of organisms that cause gastrointestinal infections, infectious diarrhea, Staphylococcus, influenza, and hepatitis A, but... is hand washing effective for those who wear finger rings?

While most people know that washing their hands can prevent illness and disease transmission, and they are diligent about cleanliness, they may have never considered that rings pose specific health hazards, even after hands are washed. Why?

Wear Rings?

If so, you need to take extra precautions.

Clean on Top But... What About Underneath?


Studies About Rings, Handwashing, and Hand Contamination

Researchers have found that those who wear rings should take additional precautions. Also, how hands are actually washed also makes a difference.

  • According to a study done to assess ring wearing and hand contamination among nurses working in intensive care settings, cultures were taken from 88 nurses who wore either plain bands or rings with stones. The results showed that even after hand washing with an alcohol-based rub, nurses who wore rings had higher bacteria colonization on their hands. The type of ring worn made no difference, as both groups tested higher. Conclusion: wearing rings can contribute to transmission of nosocomial pathogens. (1)
  • How many microorganisms remain on the ring finger after hand washing? A study was conducted to determine number of microorganisms present on the ring finger before and after hand washing. 15 MICU and SICU staff nurses wearing rings had their hands swabbed three times before hand washing and afterwards--after application of soap and followed with a bethadine solution. Results showed that there was a major difference in the number of microorganisms present on the ring fingers. Regardless of the hand washing agent, these results were consistent. (2)
  • In another study, 10 surgeons and 10 anesthetists were asked to scrub-up. They did so, then removed their rings. Results showed that a standard surgical scrub procedure was more effective in removing unwanted bacterial colonies from hands and rings. (3)

Surgical scrub routines proved more effective but they differ from regular hand washing, so this does not negate risk factors associated with ring wearing and hand contamination. Caution is still warranted.

Why Rings Pose Health Hazards

The following scenarios illustrate why rings pose special hazards.

1. Some people remove their rings prior to washing their hands but then place unwashed rings back onto fingers, thus recontaminating freshly cleaned skin areas--because pathogens may be lurking on and under ring surfaces.

2. Regular hand washing is not effective in removing organisms that live on rings. While hands may be clean, rings may not be. Rings have many small openings and cavities that surface cleaning may not penetrate--never mind the underside side area under any stones and the underside of the band.

Ring Cleaning Tips

• Use a brush or an unused toothbrush to get into all the nooks and crannies.

• Submerse rings in a cleaning solution and allow them to sit.

A Word About Rings and Rashes

All those prongs and crannies on your rings are perfect places for germs to lurk. And while you can wash away germs from your fingers and hands with a little soap, water, and diligence, the same cannot be said for your rings. Bacteria, grime and dirt build up in all the prongs, crannies and crevices--those hard to reach places that surface cleaning misses.

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Bacteria-laden grime can also cause rashes to break out where the ring touches your finger. A rash is a red flag that your rings need attention.

At the very minimum, you should have your rings professionally cleaned several times a year. This can also be done at home by submersing your rings in a cleaning solution and allowing then to soak in it. Doing this counters a build-up of undesirable organisms.

Is it Safe to Eat That?

If someone hasn't washed under their rings, after using the bathroom, any food they touch may end up contaminated with bathroom germs.


Bathrooms Pose Additional Hazards


Germs Lurking Under Ring Bands

Every time I see someone preparing food with rings on their fingers, I shudder, thinking about the germs lurking under their ring bands, germs that will migrate into food their hands come into contact with.

Germs from outside and inside the home can piggyback on rings.

For those in a household who prepare food, it is critically important that they always remove rings and wash their hands before food preparation.

People May Wash Their Hands But Neglect Washing Under Their Rings


Reminders About Rings and Contamination

  1. Remove rings before using the toilet. While this may seem obvious, this extra precaution has never occurred to some people because they mistakenly believe that washing their hands afterwards is enough.
  2. Wash rings and hands before leaving the washroom.
  3. Wash hands and rings immediately after returning home from outside trips. Rings can pick up unwanted "house guests" by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.
  4. Remove rings prior to preparing food. Even if hands are freshly washed, rings can be transmission agents for any number of organisms, especially because they come into direct contact with food. Remove rings and wash hands before touching food.

How Critical?

Because microorganisms are invisible, they are easy to forget about. Many people are unaware of just how much sickness is related to lack of hand washing, how much risk there is of disease transmission, and how this plays such a role in mortality rates.

Practice Proper Hand Hygiene to Protect Against Sickness

Vigilance is necessary to protect oneself and others from illness. Good hand and ring hygiene necessitates attention to and cleaning of actual rings and skin areas where rings are worn.

Learn More About the Benefits of Hand Washing

Rings and Germs--Sources and Resources


1. A Prospective Comparative Study of the Relationship Between Different Types of Rings and Microbial Hand Colonization Among Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurses

2. The Number and Type of Microorganisms on the Ring Finger After Handwashing

3. Wedding Rings are not a Significant Source of Bacterial Contamination Following Surgical Scrubbing

3 (b). Hand Hygiene for Health Care Facilities

© 2013 Athlyn Green


Athlyn Green (author) from West Kootenays on April 10, 2013:

Hi Danielle, You are probably right about that but after researching this information, I have been ever more vigilant and I rarely ever get flu now. Germs in dirt, such as kids play in, are probably not as harmful as the influenza and other viruses that can be passed from one person to another.

danielleantosz from Florida on April 09, 2013:

eww! But I am of the mind that germs tend to build immune systems in children. My mum was one of those "BLEACH ALL THE THINGS" mums, and I find I get sick more often. What thoughts do you have? (obviously infections of cuts and such aside. )

parwatisingari from India on March 08, 2013:

very informative and put in simple straight language.

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