5 Second Rule Myth Bust

Rug Doctor associates are passionate about clean! In fact, we exist to empower people with clean. This week, Amy Howell, General Counsel at Rug Doctor and a loyal member of the Institute of Clean, shares a story of her investigative skills to myth-bust the 5-second rule for her Book Club. We thought it was worth sharing with our readers. Enjoy!*

Photo by Jill Broussard

Many non-book related topics (#mommyfails) end up reserved for Book Club discussions, making our less-than-stellar parenting moments seem normal. The list of ‘when no one is looking’ confessions is often laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes even a little a-w-k-w-a-r-d.

‘I drop the kids off at the gym childcare and read magazines and blogs in the locker room,’ Lily said matter-of-factly.

I confessed, ‘Maddox won’t eat any fruit but apples, so I tell him pears are apples from outer space.’

Valerie smiled and said, ‘I have an irrational fear of a surprise shark attack during Asher’s swimming lessons.’

Cathy chimed in as well. ‘If Holland drops her nuggets on the floor, I happily eat them while she’s not looking,’ she said. ‘The 5-second rule. Right, Amy?’

I gave Cathy a blank look. I work for Rug Doctor, so people automatically assume I know what I’m talking about when it comes to cleaning. Many times, they’re right. But not this time. In an effort of obscuration, I replied, ‘The germ king is a harsh king, but a fair one.’ There was a short awkward silence, and luckily the conversation changed to less serious matters.

Monday at work, I hit up our Institute of Clean. I had to prepare for next month’s Book Club. First, I looked at Rug Doctor research surveys about germs on floors. I found that:

  • Hard floors top the list of dirtiest areas, because people aren’t cleaning effectively. Why? Because mopping leaves behind 30 times more soil than spray-and-vac cleaning, a ‘no-touch’ method with the ability to truly clean hard floors.**

Second, I found a study from the Aston University in Birmingham, U.K., which measured how quickly two common bacteria strains hop aboard food dropped on tile, linoleum, and carpet. The results showed that:

  • Time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food; and
  • The type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than 5 seconds.

Aston University’s Professor Hilton says: ‘Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk, as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however, the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a consensus that it is purely a myth . . . We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor, with carpet posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food.”

The Aston team also surveyed the number of people who employ the five-second rule. The survey showed that: 87% of people surveyed said they would eat food dropped on the floor, or already have done so.

Next Book Club, I listened to the conversations of what it is we dreamed of for our lives. When it was my turn, I told my friends I wanted to hike Machu Picchu, eat pizza in Italy for two weeks, and then mumbled almost under my breath that I had an answer to Cathy’s 5-second rule question.

‘Sampling food from the floor comes with a risk, but more so on laminate or tiled surfaces. Especially if you are still using mops versus something like Rug Doctor’s FlexClean® that truly deep cleans your hard floors. FlexClean washes and scrubs away germs, tough dirt, stains, odors, and sticky substances with a motorized brush and uses powerful suction to extract the dirty water. FlexClean is designed to clean carpets as well! It’s really all you need to deep clean all the floors in your home.’

‘That’s soooo interesting, Amy,’ Cathy said as she twirled her long, black hair around her finger. ‘Okay, Smarty Pants. I keep vendor business cards in my car to use as emergency tongue scrapers. Have anything in your Institute of Clean about that?’

‘Eww!’ we all groaned.

*Names have been changed to protect the amazing moms that shared their confessions.

**Source: Global Scientific Study, 2008