I don’t believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in the five-second rule. It turns out I’ve got science on my side.

If you’re clumsy like me, you may know that the five-second rule means that when you drop food on the floor you can wait a total of five seconds to pick it up and eat it before it becomes too disgusting to consume. For a while it seemed like an old wives’ tale, but a scientist from Aston University tested to see if some version of the five-second rule actually was true. Surprisingly, it is.

Microbiologist Anthony Hilton and his students experimented to see how much E.Coli and Staph bacteria adhered to food after it had been dropped on the floor. While it does depend on the texture of the food and floor, the less amount of time on the floor does make a difference for sticky food.

NPR’s ‘The Salt’ puts it best:

“For dry foods, like cookies and toast, waiting a full 30 seconds didn’t make much of a difference in the number of critters that jumped on, microbiologist Anthony Hilton and his students reported this week on the university’s website. The team hasn’t published the data yet. So the findings are still preliminary and need to be confirmed. But the conclusions make sense: If you snatch up a wet gummy bear three seconds after it hits a tile or laminate floor, it will pick up much fewer microbes than if you wait 30 seconds — at least for the two bacteria examined, E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. And for carpet, you’ve got an even longer grace period. It didn’t matter whether the food was wet or dry, the surface spread the least germs, even over the full 30 seconds, the team found.”

So, the next time someone derides you for eating a cookie off the floor, just remind them that the five-second rule is more than just a theory.

Source: io9