Cleaning & Organizing
14 of the Most Germ-Ridden Spots in Your Own Bedroom
You don’t have to travel far to come in contact with germs. In fact, plenty are living right in your own bedroom.
Carpets and floorsMikhail Klyoshev/Shutterstock
Believe it or not, the average carpet contains about 200,000 bacteria per square inch. That’s nearly 4,000 times more than your toilet seat! But that’s not all. “If you don’t vacuum, heavy dirt gets ground in and light dust sits on top,” Carolyn Forte, the director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, tells Good Housekeeping. No matter how much foot traffic your carpets or floors get, you should vacuum and mop at least once a week.
Not only are your curtains exposed to sunlight and other elements on a regular basis, but they’re also magnets for dust and grime. Joss & Main style director Donna Garlough recommends washing them at least twice a year. Cotton drapes just need a rinse in the washing machine, while silk, linen, or synthetic ones should go to a dry cleaner. Here is exactly how often you should be cleaning everything in your house.
Grubby hands touch your bedroom’s doorknob every day, making it a hotbed for germs. The solution: “Hand washing remains the gold standard” for keeping any frequently touched surface clean, says Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona. “However, if it is not done the right way for at least 15 to 20 seconds and at least a few times a day, then we can re-contaminate our hands again the moment we touch the next surface.” In addition to using good, old-fashioned soap and hot water, Dr. Gerba recommends trying Zoono GermFree24 Hand Sanitizer, which kills germs for up to 24 hours.
Fun fact: If your mattress is more than ten years old, you’re probably bunking with more than ten pounds of dead skin cells. And to make matters worse, dust mites love munching on all that dead skin. Sharing a bed with these critters is more than nasty; doing so can also be harmful for your health. “The proteins in dust mite feces can cause allergic reactions like watery eyes, a runny nose, and, in severe cases, asthma attacks,” says John Rukel, creator of Pillow of Health. As a rule of thumb, you should replace your mattress every seven to eight years. Don’t miss these other 14 bedroom items you really should have replaced by now.
Do you keep makeup in your bedroom? Beware of each item’s expiration date. When scientists at London Metropolitan University tested five common beauty products (blush, lipstick, lipgloss, foundation, and mascara), they found that the out-of-date cosmetics contained high levels of bacteria known to cause meningitis and staph infections. Reduce your exposure to germs by getting old makeup products out of your bedroom—and out of your home. Toss any that are more than a year old. Find out more of 22 germiest things in your home.
Your mom might have been onto something when she pestered you to clean your room. Aside from looking messy, all of those scattered, dirty clothes collect dust, bacteria, and mildew, which can take a toll on your immune system. Keeping your bedroom tidy will reduce your risk of getting sick.
According to the CDC, about 80 percent of infections are picked up and spread by our hands. But we often forget to clean the surfaces that our hands touch the most, including the light switches in our bedrooms. Give those grimy spots a quick wipe down at least every two weeks. Don’t miss these 17 other things you’re forgetting to clean—but shouldn’t.
Snuggling with Fido has several proven health benefits, but he does more harm than good when sleeping in your bed. While outdoor pets can harbor tick and fleas, even indoor pets expose us to fecal matter and bacteria, Dr. Gerba says. Try investing in a pet bed to prevent your four-legged friends from disturbing your beauty sleep. Find out how your pet’s food bowl could be making you sick too.
While lamps are common features in any bedroom, you probably don’t think about all the dirt and grime they attract. Yet high levels of dust can trigger allergies and other health issues, so make sure to give your lamps some attention during your regular cleaning. Pro tip: Use a lint roller to remove dust from those tough-to-clean lampshades.
Experts say you are currently sleeping with 1.5 million dust mites every night, and they won’t go away just because you’ve made your bed. Unless you change your sheets frequently, they can also become a breeding ground for bacteria. The CDC recommends washing your sheets in hot water once a week to keep dust mites and germs away.
In a 2016 study by Amerisleep, pillowcases that went unwashed for only one week accumulated 17,442 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Luckily, the organisms found on pillows are typically harmless. “You’re more likely to become uncomfortable sleeping on a pillow before you reach a point where you’re going to get a serious infection from it,” Jack Brown, PhD, professor emeritus of molecular biosciences at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, tells fitnessmagazine.com. Still, experts suggest washing your pillowcases once a week to avoid illness. Watch out for these signs you need to replace your pillow ASAP.
Like doorknobs and light switches, your alarm clock is touched on a daily basis—but doesn’t receive nearly enough attention when you clean. “Between our cell phones, alarm clocks, drawer handles, closet door knobs, nightstands, and more, there are many surfaces in the bedroom that we touch daily, unwittingly introducing germs from our hands,” Dr. Gerba says. Disinfect your clock regularly to keep bacteria, mold, mildew, and fungi at bay. Learn what the germiest spot in your whole house is.
If you sleep in the same pajamas every night, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, a survey by Ergoflex revealed that men sleep in the same pair of pajamas for 13 nights before washing them, and women averaged 17 nights. And it gets worse: Those reused jammies can harbor loads of dead skin cells and bacteria, including E. coli. To stay healthy while you snooze, experts recommend tossing your PJs into the hamper every three days or so.
Most of us sleep with our smartphones sitting on our nightstands. But have you ever stopped to think about how dirty your phone actually is? A 2013 investigation from consumer watchdog group Which? found that most tablets contain up to 600 units per swab of Staphylococcus aureus (also known as staph), while the average phone has up to 140 units. The typical toilet seat, by comparison, has less than 20 units. All the more reason to wipe down your mobile device on a regular basis. Learn which other 10 things in your house are making you sick.