Secret Swabs - Purses

On a nice afternoon, Action News Five watched and waited outside the Benjamin Hooks Library.

We waited for women who were holding purses.

As you would imagine, it didn't take long to find them.

Action News Five asked various women, "What kind of purse do you have?  Do you take it everywhere with you?"

Whether you call it a purse, pocket-book, or handbag...Many women never leave home without one or the items it holds.

Memphian Tehya Barnes tells Action News Five what items she carries in her purse.  She says, "Toothbrush, wallet, deodorant--any type of personal items I have."

But from bathroom floors to unwashed hands--purses come in contact with plenty of potential filth.

Barnes continues, "I think about it all the time"

That's why we decided to put them to the SECRET SWAB find out what kind of secrets Mid-South purses are hiding.

Woman after woman allowed Action News Five to freely swab their purse.

Zella McDonald of Memphis asks, "What do you hope to find?  MMM, nothing!  But as I say--germs are everywhere."

Many women were afraid about what we might find.

Amanda Williams of Memphis says, "I think you'll find something--I just hope it's not the worst you find."

Action News Five's Secret Swab scientist, Connie Cook, put the sponges we used on the purses through a litany of tests.

Bacterial colonies are grown on these special plates.

Overall, the purses we tested turned out pretty clean.

Cook says, "I don't know whether to say that's a representative sample, but it's nice--it's reassuring a little bit."

Turns out, there were no significant levels of E-Coli or Coliforms--both of which come from fecal matter.

One purse did have more than 60 bacterial colonies of Staphylococcus Aureus.

That comes from the nasal membrane and can cause serious illness or infection if exposed to a scratch or cut.

Cook continues, "I mean, there's going to be background bacteria and I wouldn't consider that a health issue at that level."

Cook says it's good advice to keep your purse away from dirty surfaces.

You may want to wipe it down occasionally with soap and water or a anti-bacterial wipe that won't damage the material.

Cook continues, "Most people keep them on their shoulders because of security--so you're not much letting them out of your sight very much."

Some of the woman who helped Action News Five with our random "not so secret" Swab Test were already careful.

One woman says, "I'm pretty cautious about where I place my purse."

Others can rest easy.

Their purses passed!