Hi, I have some bad news to share with you all. Oh god, guys this is bad. Real bad. So bad I am pulling this face at the computer as I write. A level of repulsion that only a gif can truly capture.

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There’s something you’ve probably heard before, but you can’t remember from whom and you never thought to check if it was true or not. You buried it deep in the back of your brain, because it was too gross to think about. Here’s the myth I’m talking about: that there are more germs underneath your fingernails than there are on a loo seat.

Well folks, I did a little digging and it turns out, it’s not a myth. It’s a fact. A really, really gross one.

Scientists at Birmingham’s Aston University tested the fingernails of 100 men and women for potentially harmful bacteria. It turned out 24% of the men and 15% of the women had bacteria that could cause diarrhoea and vomiting lurking underneath their fingernails.

How did these bacteria get there? Well, we used our hands for pretty much everything, and while we wash our hands (hopefully) regularly, bacteria can still get trapped under fingernails where they can grow and flourish – like Neville Longbottom in Herbology.

But what’s worse is, I’ve barely scratched the surface of things that are dirtier than a loo seat. Here are four of the most… well, gross.

Your phone

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In a 2013 study, British researchers swabbed 30 tablets, 30 phones, and an office toilet seat. The tablets had up to 600 units per swab of staphylococcus (also known as staph, which can cause severe stomach sickness) and the phones had up to 140 units. Meanwhile, the typical toilet seat had less than 20 units. This shouldn’t be that surprising since 75% of people say they use their phones or tablets while on the loo. *studiously avoids eye contact*

Your clean washing

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“But my washing is clean,” I hear you saying. “I know it’s clean because I just bloody washed it!” I know, I know, the world is unfair. It turns out, a load of knickers will transfer at least 100 million E. coli bacteria – the nasty one that gives you diarrhoea – to your clothes. Maybe we’ll put that wash on again…

Your handbag

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If the bottom of your handbag looks anything like mine, this one probably won’t come as that much of a shock to you. At any one point in time there are destined to be crumbs, an open sugar packet, three mints, a tampon and some unidentifiable sticky substance at the bottom of my bag.

When British researchers studied 25 handbags, they found that the average handbag is three times dirtier than a toilet seat. Brilliant. While handles carried the most bacteria, items inside the bag were still pretty grim —hand and face creams and lipsticks were the dirtiest. Maybe it’s time throw out that New Look backpack you’ve had since 2012? Maybe.

Your keyboard

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I’m shuddering typing this. When British researchers swabbed 33 keyboards in a London office, they found that there were up to five times more germs hiding in between the cracks of keys the the germs of a toilet seat. We’re feeling less like QWERTY and more like queasy.

If, after reading this, you’re considering submerging all of your electronics in a bath full of Dettol, breathe. We’ve been living with germs for ages, and we’re all FINNNNNNEEEE.

The main takeaway from all this? Loo seats aren’t exactly the pinnacle of hygiene, but maybe we need to stop giving them such a hard time. In the mean time, let’s all take a solemn vow right now to never, ever, chew our fingernails again.

Source: Reader’s Digest  

Image: Katie Edmunds

For Christmas this year, some people got bikes or new phones or cosy jumpers. Some people got a nice candle or earrings or a generic voucher from a relative that doesn’t know them that well.

Me? I got conjunctivitis.

Conjunctivitis is basically when the thin layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye becomes red and inflamed and, as a result, causes your eye to produce manky yellow pus that makes you want to crawl under the covers and hide. This option was made even more tempting by the fact that one of my eyes was literally sealed shut so I had to ply it open with the same precision I usually reserve for plucking my eyebrows or nibbling around the edge of a Kit Kat until only the wafer is left.

Conjunctivitis is not a disease suited to the festive period. Conjunctivitis in mid-February? Fine. You can hunker down and avoid seeing people for three straight days if needs be. Conjunctivitis in July? Easy breezy, chuck on a pair of sunglasses and you’re good to go.

But at Christmas, there’s nowhere to hide. You have to go to the party at your neighbours’ house. You’re expected at your cousin’s place to play endless games of charades. You’re practically legally obliged to see your grandparents. And then, on top of that, you have to see the family friend you used to have a crush on, knowing that for the next year, the image that they’re going to have of you in their mind won’t be of you in a nice sequinned dress, but of you with puffy red eye that periodically fills with gummy snot.

Almost every every single conversation I had over the four days while my eyes looked like the final, haunting scene from a horror film that keeps you awake at night was some variation of this:

Person: Hello!

Me: Hi – oh no, I wouldn’t hug me, I have conjunctivitis (lifting up my sunglasses and pointing at my gammy eye. Why conceal something when you could draw attention to it, right?) 

Person: (pulling a face and taking a step away from me) Oh. That’s… (person searches frantically for a word to say that isn’t ‘gross’ or ‘repulsive’) …unfortunate.

Me: Yeah, it’s all full of pus. And I can’t really see out of it at the moment so your face is slightly blurry.

Person: Oh.

Me: But you look great blurry. Er, not that you wouldn’t look great if you were, um, un-blurry.

Person: Is it contagious?

Me: Oh, it’s super contagious.

Person: (taking another step away from me) I mean, it’s not *that* bad.

Me: Really? I’m paranoid I have pus on my eyeball at all times.

Person: (pulling awkward face).

Me: I have pus on my eye don’t I?

Person: Only a bit. Well, actually quite a lot. But, er, Happy Christmas! (awkwardly pats me on the shoulder and makes a hasty escape).

Me: Brilliant.

After four days of avoiding any contact with anyone and baffling my family by wearing my sunglasses indoors, my conjunctivitis cleared up. Mercifully, I don’t seem to have passed on good ol’ pus eye to any of my loved ones – and let me tell you, I have never appreciated my normal, un-gummed eyes more.

Hopefully next festive period, the only thing I’ll be spreading is Christmas cheer.

We’ve all had moments in life when we’ve had to take ourselves aside for a quiet word, like an umpire at a rowdy netball match, and tell ourselves to get it together. You find a reflective surface, look yourself dead in the eye and say ‘it’s fine, don’t worry… BUT that life fail you just did probably could have been avoided, so it’s time to rewind and take a little look at where it all started to go wrong.’

For me, one of those reflective moments began at a buffet table in Slough.

I am not proud of this. A few years ago I was at a friend’s birthday party with the most glorious, beige buffet spread imaginable. I’m talking 12 crisp flavours and sticks with cubes of cheddar, not even bothering with the pineapple – these hosts knew what we all wanted. Needless to say, I had my fair share of white dip that evening. After the night died down, a few of us moved on to a party at another house down the road.

For an hour or so we danced, made friends with the adorable house dog and annoyed the neighbours by discovering the trampoline in the back garden. Then a couple of us wanted to call it a night, so the host (read: kid whose parents’ house we were staying at) said we could stay in her baby brother’s bedroom. Snuggled into the tiny human-sized Spongebob duvet, I’d just began to drift off when I realised I needed the loo.

That’s when it happened. Angry at how I’d just treated it, my body completely betrayed me and, locked in the family bathroom, I produced the biggest poo of my life.

My life, people. It was so big it didn’t even splash, because there was no water left in the loo – it had sort of plugged the hole at the bottom. Like a rock.

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First, I tried like a fool to flush, but obviously that just made water sit on top of The Rock and almost flood the bathroom.

Panicked, with members of the growing bathroom queue now banging on the door, I began my search for tools; shampoo, nail varnish remover, cotton wool… My hand even hovered over the collection of family toothbrushes (could I use them as tiny spades?!) until guilt got the better of me.

Then I spotted them: baby wipes. Diving across to the windowsill, sweating face glowing orange in the cul-de-sac street light, I created a glove out of the wipes, smothering my hand with them, holding the ends in place between my fingers.

After double checking for leakage holes, I plunged my hand into the loo and retrieved my poo. But this nightmare was far from over – how was I going to smuggle it out past the waiting crowd?

Obviously, I had to wrap it. With one baby wipe gloved hand cradling Rocky and the other wedged inside a roll of toilet paper, I whipped my hand round in circles until it was mummified. Then stuffed it inside my rucksack and fled the bathroom.

I darted into the Spongebob bedroom, shut the door and lent against it for a while to catch my breath. Was I done? Could I go back to my old life now? I thought I could. In the ultimate ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ moment, I put the rucksack containing my poo corpse in the corner of the room, slid back into bed and tried to nod off.

Obviously, it was no use. No one can sleep soundly with a giant poo in the room, it’s haunting. I opened my eyes a crack and the rucksack was staring right at me.

Fast forward 10 minutes and my best mate caught me trying to dig it a grave in the front garden. She then pointed to the wheelie bin right next to me, where we threw it in and pinky-promised to never speak of it again. She laughed, I died a little, and we retell the story every Christmas.

Say goodbye to period stains

Your period is over for another month! Arrivederci. Au Revoir. Adios. Auf Wiedersehen. Hwyl fawr, baby. *waving emoji*

Except, you might find you’re left with a few…  um, souvenirs of those magical days. In your knickers, on your sheets, inside your pyjamas, maybe even an unlucky sofa cushion – we’ve all been there. Honestly, we have.

But fear not, these aren’t the kind of weird souvenirs that your aunt brings you back from Torremolinos and asks to see every time she comes around. No, these souvenirs are ones you are fully allowed to ditch.

First up…

Don’t panic. We know this feels easier said than done, especially as you shove your pants into your sleeping bag in horror and race to your friend’s bathroom for an emergency laundry session. But this happens to everyone, we promise. There is barely a woman in the UK right now that doesn’t have a slightly stained pair of ‘period pants’ somewhere in her underwear drawer.

TL;DR? Here's the important stuff:
  • Do not panic. This happens to basically everyone.
  • Try holding the stained area taut under cold running water for a few minutes. If it refuses to budge, try rubbing in soap or bodywash and rinsing again.
  • If that doesn’t work, give salt, contact lens solution, baking soda or lemon juice a go. Or just ’fess up and ask a laundry whizz for some help – you’ll survive, we promise.

Bottom line: you should never have to be embarrassed about nature doing its thing. No one should ever make you feel bad about leaks and stains, no matter how expensive the bedding. If anyone does, the shame is aaall on them.

But because you can’t keep buying new underwear and life is too short to walk around with a bottle of Vanish in your bag, here are some DIY methods that might help in a sticky situation…

Keeping it old school

To remove blood stains from lightweight fabric such as knickers or sheets (i.e the main culprits), try holding the stained area taut under cold running water for a few minutes. If the stain is refusing to budge, add whatever soap or bodywash you can find nearby and massage it into the stain, then try again.

Sometimes the best solution really is the simplest. Or the simplest really is the best. We can’t remember which way that saying goes.

Everything but the kitchen sink

No joy? Don’t worry, there are a lot of other options.

Have any salt handy? Sprinkle some (okay, a lot) over the stain and give it a good, hard scrub. Rinse it off and wash the fabric as normal.

Or if you’re out of salt and happen to have some contact lens solution (saline) handy, you can use that instead. Mind blown.

For a darker fabric, have a rummage around your kitchen cupboard for some baking soda. Mix it with water to form a paste and then spread it on the fabric. You should probably allow it to sit for at least half an hour, so you have plenty of time to watch another episode of PLL, but you can leave it overnight if you prefer and then wash the item as usual.

Or for light-coloured clothes, you can also try a more tropical vibe. Squirt some lemon juice on the stain and leave it in the sun for a while before washing. But this could cause discolouration on darker items, so test it on a tiny bit of the fabric first.

Still code red?

Sometimes stains can be stubborn, so it might take a few tries before everything’s back to normal. And even if you can’t get all of the stain out, don’t worry too much. Sometimes it’s more of a ‘see you around’ than a proper goodbye.

Let’s think of those stains as ‘period ghosts’. Aw.

Image: Katie Edmunds

There is nothing in the whole world as satisfying as cleaning your ears out with cotton buds.

Yes, I understand that I am not supposed to. I understand that it actually just pushes the earwax further down my ear drum. I understand that cotton buds themselves even urge you not to clean your ears with their product.

I even understand that I might be damaging my ears, one cotton-tipped stick at a time (the NHS website pretty clearly tells me I am).

But.

In my defence, IT FEELS SO GOOD.

When I get out of the shower, I like to have a rummage around my ear. I have a very particular technique. I start with my outer ear (I like to collect whatever tube grime, conditioner and general city muck that might have found its way into the ridges). Obviously, the more gunk I collect, the more satisfied I feel. Like blowing your nose or cutting your nails, quantity is key.

Then, when I’m satisfied, I flip the bud to use the clean end and start in on my inner ear. This is where the real enjoyment lies. This is the nirvana of the ear-cleaning process. Because our ears are full of sensitive nerve endings, it feels like you’ve had an hour long massage in the space of two seconds.

To me, cleaning my ears feels better than coming home, taking my hair out of a particularly tight pony tail, slipping off my shoes and unclipping my bra – which is obviously the holy trifecta of relaxation. Even better than that.

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If you wondering how I enjoy something I know is bad for me, I say to you: have you eaten so much you feel sick? Like, you know you should stop eating because you’re almost definitely going to spend the next hour clutching your tummy and groaning but, well… the food is delicious and surely one (ok, five) more bites won’t make it that much worse, right?

Or, have you ever stayed up too late watching TV or reading a book? (If you’ve ever watched Pretty Little Liars or read The Hunger Games, I know the answer to this is yes). You know you’re going to be tired in the morning. You know that when your alarm goes off you are going to immediately be filled with regret. And yet, you start the next chapter. You click the tempting, ‘play next episode.’

Sometimes humans are short-sighted and decide to do the thing that might make us feel crappy later, but feels oh so good right now.

That is exactly how I feel about cleaning out my ears. Yes, I might get an ear infection. Yes, I know the wax is meant to be there. I know all of these things… but oh, it feels so damn good at the time.

Image: Getty

My feet used to be covered in warts. Not like, in a dainty sort of, “look at the tiny little wart and its tiny little wart friend!” sort of way. This was like an army of warts had exploded on my right foot. And then had decided to migrate to my left foot and set up camp there too. Because… I don’t know, symmetry?  

Warts are unwieldy creatures. They have no determinable purpose other than alerting us to the existence of witches. They don’t hurt or itch or ache, they’re just ugly. That’s it.

When you get warts, you ask yourself “why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?”

Well… I mean, like, there was this thing. I suspect my infestation of warts was some sort of karmic payback for the time when I was six and I pointed at one of my classmate’s dad’s and asked him why he had warts on his face. My mum promptly steered me away from said warty dad, but the damage was done. The wart gods had heard me and the wart gods never forget.

So when I was in year nine, I got my first wart on the bottom of my foot. From there, they seemed to reproduce like rabbits. Significantly less cute and fluffy rabbits. At peak wart I think I had about 78.

I went down all the usual routes. My mum bought some wart stuff from the pharmacy. I diligently applied it morning, noon and night, but my warts were stubborn. They weren’t willing to call it quits that easy.

Then she tried to cut them off. With scissors. They grew back and now they were angry.

So we went to the doctors to have them burned off. The doctor was confident, but he didn’t know my warts like I did. My warts were the Katniss Everdeen of warts. Nothing would kill them.

When traditional medicine failed, I did the only logical thing: I listened to old-wives’ tales. My best friend’s mum told me that warts could be got rid of by covering them with a banana peel for a few days. So, because high school isn’t hard enough, I decided to be the kid with a banana peel in her shoe. For a week.

I would eat a banana for breakfast and then would slip the peel into my sock and go about my day.

Geography? Sure.

Maths? Why not.

P.E.? Despite being aware of the absurdity of taking off my school shoes and replacing them with trainers, all the while having a (now very brown and putrid-smelling) banana skin in my sock, I did it anyway.

The banana peel method made no discernable difference to my warts or my life, aside from the fact that I ruined five pairs of socks and smelled potently like banana for a week, so after that debacle, I decided to leave my warts be for the moment. They had defeated me with the same tenacity that helped Katniss eventually defeat President Snow.

Instead, I tried to get used to them. I stopped peering at them disgustedly and tried to see patterns in my warts that might make them look pretty, like constellations in the night sky.

They didn’t. They looked like I had 78 warts on my feet.

But eventually, I got my happy ending. With the help of a very unlikely ingredient, I went into wart remission.

It’s a solution you won’t find in any NHS pamphlet or on any WebMD page and by telling you, I am aware I risk angering the wart gods – but for you, dear reader, that is a risk I am willing to take.

So what’s the secret? Patience? Magic? 

Nope – Japanese miso paste. Seriously. There’s one old-wives’ tale you don’t have to take with a pinch of salt.

Image: Getty

Warning: reading this will cause itching.

Every summer, my friends and I would become inseparable. We would have marathon sleepovers, bouncing from house to house. We would monopolise each living room with a tangle of pillows and mattresses before falling asleep curled around each other like a whole drawer of spoons.

We shared meals and clothes and sun cream, which was nice. We shared hairbrushes and pillows and towels, which was not.

One summer, we noticed that our heads were itchy. Not in an absent, scratch-and-it’s-over way. But more like, I-want-to-dig-my-nails-into-my-scalp-and-gouge-out-entire-chunks-of-flesh sort of way.

In a hugely unsurprising turn of events, we all had head lice.

It was impossible to identify who patient zero was. Not only did we all have lice, but all of our siblings had lice too. As did an unsuspecting and completely horrified parent or two.

Looking back, I realise this is the closest I have ever come to being part of an epidemic. Lice were everywhere. All across our neighbourhood, towels, duvets, pillow cases, bed sheets, dresses and t-shirts were washed twice and hung to dry in the harsh Australian sun. Finally, the hole in the ozone layer could do something useful for us.

Hairbrushes and combs were left to soak for hours in the sink. Ha! Take that lice.

Cowboy hats (they were in that year, don’t judge me) and miscellaneous sporting caps were thrown out in a bug-induced panic.

Next we assembled, like some sort of Ghostbusters team, in my next door neighbours’ garden. We came armed with nit combs, loo roll and a bottle of conditioner each.

We sat in our bikinis, one behind the other, like a weird mix of a beauty pageant and a conga line. The process began. Apply entire bottle of conditioner to the person in front’s head. Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’ Comb a section of hair. Wipe comb on loo roll. Say ‘ew.’

We were like a colony of less sophisticated monkeys, simultaneously thrilled and disgusted by the entire ecosystem going on in our lemon-bleached locks. We dispelled hundreds, if not thousands of lice from our heads along with alarmingly thick chunks of hair.

The idea was floated that we should just shave our heads and be done with it. We all murmured assent. But we knew none of us was ever going to part with our hair, even if it was so infested with lice that we could have named one after each member of the Kardashian/Hadid/Jenner clan going back five generations and still have plenty of lice left over.

Instead, we carried on with our grooming in companionable silence that was occasionally interrupted with a ‘Woah! Look how big this one is!’ and we would pass the impressively large lice around like some sort of repulsive trophy.

It wasn’t a particularly glamorous experience and if I could have avoided it, I probably would have. But I’ve done some reading on ‘grooming behaviour‘ and Wikipedia (don’t judge my sources either) tells me that an animal helping another animal clean itself is a form of social bonding that helps build trust. And I kind of know what they mean.

It’s that same feeling as when your mum paints the fingernails on your right hand, or your friend braids your hair. That feeling of someone else loving you enough to want to take care of you. And on the flip side, you trusting them enough to not screw it up.

The lice went away eventually, as lice generally do. But the friends? Well, they’re stuck with me forever.

Image: Getty