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    Home > Our Expertise > What Are Germs?

    What Are Germs?

    While good germs can help our bodies stay in balance and build our immune systems, bad germs can cause a breakdown in our bodies, leading us to feel unwell.1,2

    Germs are everywhere. They live both inside and outside the human body, some living in your gut to help with healthy digestion, while others exist on your skin.1,2 While most bacteria can be good for us, bad bacteria can make you unwell.3


    What do germs look like?

    You may be wondering “What do these germs look like?”. But, if you were thinking of trying to spot one, don’t forget that we can’t see them with the human eye.3 In fact, they are so miniscule that we’re unable to see them without a microscope!


    Where do germs come from?

    It’s almost impossible to avoid germs because they’re all around us. You can find germs – or microbes as they’re sometimes known – in the air, on food, on plants and animals as well as in soil and water. In fact, they’re present on pretty much all surfaces (including on and inside our own bodies!).1,3


    How do germs spread?

    Germs can spread in various ways. Germs are often spread through direct or indirect contact, but they can also be spread by circulating air.1


    Spread through the air

    Germs can be spread by sneezes or coughs or even just talking and breathing.1


    Spread directly

    Germs can spread through direct contact with something contaminated (such as holding someone’s hand). They can also spread directly through sweat, saliva and blood.1


    Spread indirectly

    Germs can spread indirectly, typically by touching something contaminated that someone else has touched, like a surface or object.1


    How long do germs live?

    How long germs live depends on a variety of factors; from the type of germ to the nature of its environment – for example, the temperature, humidity and surface on which the germs are found. All of these things make it extremely difficult to estimate how long it takes for germs to die but many germs of concern can survive on certain surfaces for between a few hours to up to several days.4


    Where can germs be found?

    As germs are invisible to the naked eye,3 it helps to know the most common places that they could be lurking. Here are some of the spaces that germs tend to hide, as well as some ideas on how to kill germs and how to avoid them.


    Public places

    Your office: High-touch surfaces such as shared office supplies are at a higher risk of harbouring germs.5 Disinfect your workspace by wiping the surface with Dettol Antibacterial Disinfectant Surface Cleaning Wipes, carefully following the directions for use. Leave surface to dry.

    Airplanes: Germs can spread easily on a flight and in several ways, including through close contact and small particles in the air.6 We recommend disinfecting your seat area with Dettol Antibacterial Disinfectant Surface Cleaning Wipes when you board, including the arms, tray, window and other surfaces you touch.

    Movie theatres: As a movie theatre is a confined space where the air is shared by everyone, the possibility of germ transmission is increased.7 Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly whenever you get a chance.8 When in an enclosed space for long periods, wearing a face mask can help to reduce the spread of germs.

    Restaurants: Improperly washed – or unwashed – hands can cover food in germs during meal preparation. Not to mention, raw or undercooked foods can expose an entire kitchen to germs.1 Always wash your hands with soap and water and use hand sanitisers when soap and water are not available.10 Try to choose your restaurants wisely.

    The doctor’s office: You are sharing a small space with unwell people, after all, so chairs, doorknobs, toys and the like can become contaminated.7,11 Try to avoid touching shared surfaces and wash your hands every chance you get, or use hand sanitiser when soap and water aren’t available.8 If you’re taking your child, consider bringing their own toys and books from home instead.8

    Always read the label and follow the directions for use.



    Doron S. International Encyclopedia of Public Health 2008;273–282.


    Zhang YJ, et al. Int J Mol Sci 2015;16(4):7493–7519.


    NCBI bookshelf. What are microbes? Last updated: August 2019.


    Kramer A, et al. BMC Infect Dis 2006;6:130.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cleaning and disinfecting your facility. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html (accessed July 2022).


    Pavia AT. J Infect Dis 2007;195(5):621–622.


    Moon J, Ryu BH. Environ Res 2021;2020:111679.


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When and how to wash your hands. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html (accessed July 2022).


    Catching A, et al. Sci Rep 2021;11(1):15998.


    Therapeutic Goods Administration, Hand sanitisers: Information for consumers. Available from: https://www.tga.gov.au/hand-sanitisers-information-consumers (accessed July 2022).


    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How infections spread. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/spread/index.html (accessed July 2022).