15 Myths Behind the 5 Second Rule

Can you remember the first time you heard someone say “5 second rule!” and watched them ceremoniously pick up whatever fell on the floor and shove it in their mouth? In that one brief moment, you were introduced to the concept that if something doesn’t lie on the ground for more than five seconds, it’s immune to anything gross and is still considered “safe.” Safe, in this case, equates to: it’s cool to go ahead and eat, drink, or continue to use said item.

Just like many other strange things you were told as a child (here’s lookin’ at you, weird Uncle Albert), unfortunately the 5 Second Rule isn’t factual, as much as we’d like to believe it so.

Here are 15 myths behind the 5 Second Rule…

1. My floor is pretty clean anyway

You swept it last week, right? Or was it last month? But either way, it’s probably fine, right? Unfortunately…no. Bacteria and all sorts of other germs can live on surfaces for very long periods of time, even if you think you keep your place pretty clean and tidy. Ew.

Smith1972 / Shutterstock.com
Smith1972 / Shutterstock.com

2. Dry food doesn’t pick up germs

You’re right in thinking that foods with higher moisture content pick up bacteria more readily, but your cracker is still not immune. Our friends on the TV show Mythbusters found that even a dry saltine picked up contaminants when left on the floor for just a few seconds.

That being said, they didn’t appear to test what happens if you blew on it before eating it. (Just kidding — see #11.

)

Sergiy Kuzmin / Shutterstock.com
Sergiy Kuzmin / Shutterstock.com

3. There can’t be that many nasty bugs in my house, right?

Most of the time, we drop food onto the floor (see #4

) and have reason to worry, but even food that lands on our countertops or kitchen table can pick up gunk. Salmonella, E. coli, and Staphylococcus aureus are all germs commonly found in our households and if you’re not one to dust regularly, there are thousands of different types of microbes your food could pick up. Surfaces that are moist or are touched regularly (like kitchen sponges and door handles) are the highest offenders for germs.

Phil McDonald / Shutterstock.com
Phil McDonald / Shutterstock.com
1 of 5