22 Germiest Things You’ll Find in Your Home
While germs are everywhere, most are harmless. In fact, studies suggest that we need to be routinely exposed to germs, especially early in life, to develop immunities. Still, some germs can cause serious illnesses, and it’s smart to keep bacteria at bay by routinely disinfecting the dirtiest places in your home.
When you leave dirty dishes in the sink, you’re creating a perfect petri dish for bacteria, which breed in damp, warm places. Even when you’re careful about rinsing dishes and loading them immediately into the dishwasher, food particles are left behind in the sink, aiding and abetting the formation of illness-causing bacteria which could include E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella. Clean and sanitize your sink every other day by scrubbing off deposits, then filling it up with water and adding a little bleach for a five-minute soak. Got scratches in your stainless steel sink? Here’s how to remove them.
Door handles get touched by everyone coming and going in the home, making them the Grand Central Station of bacteria. Even though door handles seem dry and innocuous, they can still support live bacteria for up to 24 hours. You can disinfect door handles with antibacterial wipes, but an easier way to reduce contagion is to use handles made from copper or its alloys, bronze, and brass. They’re naturally antimicrobial and can kill pathogens quickly, often within two hours. Don’t miss these other everyday items that are actually dirtier than a toilet seat.
You know that slimy surface on your dog’s water and food bowls? That’s called biofilm, which is a quasi-scientific term for “germy coating.” In addition to colonies of innocuous germs, biofilm can harbor dangerous organisms such as E. coli, listeria, salmonella and legionella. Experts recommend not using plastic bowls, which have tiny nooks and crannies where bacteria can thrive. Instead, use stainless steel or ceramic. Biofilm is tough to remove, especially if it’s been accumulating. First, break up the coating by scrubbing the bowl with salt on a dampened paper towel. (Use a utility or bathroom sink, if possible—not your kitchen sink.) To disinfect, clean the bowl with a solution of one tablespoon bleach in one gallon of water. Or just run the bowl through the sanitizing cycle of your dishwasher. Then be sure to clean the bowls every day. Find out more about how your pet’s bowl could be making you sick.
This should surprise no one. Your toilet bowl teems with germs—about 3.2 million bacteria per square inch. And when you flush, the turbulence spews tiny particles of water-borne feces into the air in a noxious blast called an aerosol plume, which can rise as high as 15 feet. Modern low-flow toilets have reduced this effect somewhat, but to keep your bathroom cleaner, just close the lid on your toilet before you flush. Soft-close toilet seats can be closed with only a nudge, which means less handling. Here’s how to replace a toilet seat.
It gets handled daily, but does your remote control ever get cleaned? Probably not, if you’re like most people. Like other objects frequently touched by human hands, TV remotes are crawling with germs and viruses. To clean your remote, remove the batteries, then wipe it down with a moist (but not drippy) antibacterial wipe. Use an alcohol-dipped cotton swab to clean the edges of the buttons. Did you know you can usually fix a remote control when it stops working? Here’s how.
Most people never think about their coffee maker until they need caffeine. But this continual neglect makes a coffee maker one of the dirtiest places in a home. The dark, damp recesses of its reservoir are a perfect breeding ground for germs. So every month, run your coffeepot and filter basket through the dishwasher for a sanitary cleaning. Then put four cups of vinegar in the reservoir and run a brew cycle without a filter. When finished, flush the coffee maker with four cycles of clean water. Or you can do without a coffee machine entirely by making this pour-over coffee maker yourself.
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When was the last time you disinfected your handbag? Never? That’s what makes a purse one of the dirtiest places in your home. A handbag gets set down everywhere, including on public restroom floors, and is rarely cleaned. Shockingly, the levels of bacteria found on a purse rival that in a toilet. In fact, one in five handbags harbors enough bacteria to be considered a health risk, with handles being the dirtiest part. So, empty your purse periodically and clean the inside and handle with an antibacterial wipe. Also clean lipstick, sunglasses, keys and everything else that’s typically kept inside. Learn how to make a purse rack and other ways to store seasonal clothes.
You’re not wiping kitchen counters with an old sponge, are you? A kitchen sponge is one of the dirtiest places in your home. Just one square inch can contain 54 billion bacteria cells—about the same density of germs found in feces. Yuck! Running it through a dishwasher doesn’t help much. The best way to decontaminate a sponge is to microwave it at full power for two minutes, which will kill 99 percent of germs and spores. Eventually, everybody’s microwave gets a little crusty. Here’s the best way to clean a microwave and 10 other places in your kitchen.
Did you know bacteria and viruses—including the norovirus, which causes stomach flu—can survive on carpeting for a month or more? That’s nasty enough, but carpeting also collects dead skin, dust mites, mold spores and other allergens. To keep contaminants at bay, vacuum at least weekly, and get your carpets professionally cleaned every six months or annually. Here are some more things in your house that could be making you sick.
While your dog is frolicking at the dog park or in your yard, he’s tracking through some nasty stuff you really don’t want in your house. And yet, you can bet you’ve been living with it. Dog beds can be infested not only by bacteria from trace amounts of feces on your dog’s pads, but also from parasites, such as ringworm, hookworm, roundworm, and fleas. Make sure you wash the bedding frequently and that your dog receives flea and tick preventatives. And though they may not love it, bathing your dog regularly helps reduce contaminants in your home. For dogs with persistent skin infections and allergies, daily baths are even more effective than antibiotics. Don’t miss these 14 incredible cleaning tips every dog and cat owner should know.