15 Household Spots You Should Be Cleaning

There are about 150 different species of bacteria found on the average human hand – some harmless, some beneficial and some capable of causing serious illness. Germs get spread every time you touch something.  On average, about three hundred different surfaces get touched every thirty minutes.  Regular household germs are thought to be responsible for causing over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of diarrhea and 50-80 percent of food-borne illness.  Frequent hand washing is probably one of the simplest and most effective strategies for keeping household germs at bay.  Another is ensuring germ hotspots get cleaned regularly – here are fifteen household sources that are easily overlooked.

    1. Toothbrush

      According to researchers at the University of Manchester in England, your toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and staphylococci (Staph) bacteria, including fecal germs. Every time you flush, bacteria are released into the air and can travel up to five feet away. The fix: Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more frequently if bristles are frayed, if you experience illness or your immune system is weakened.  For an electric toothbrush, replace the head as frequently as you would a regular disposable brush. Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult brushes. If possible, store your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet (it still needs to be upright) or at least as far away from the toilet as possible.  Allow your toothbrush dry between uses (some people have a different morning and a bedtime brush).  Close the toilet lid when you flush.  Avoid using toothbrush protectors as they can harbour bacteria.

    2.  Toothbrush holder

      Given its location in the bathroom (and close to the toilet), it comes as no surprise that the toothbrush holder also showed high levels of bacteria (27% coliform, 14% staph, 64% had mold/yeast contamination).The fix: Either wash manually in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher twice per week. Better yet, get rid of it and store your toothbrushes (upright) in a covered part of the bathroom (like the medicine cabinet).

    3. Bath Mat

      Bath mats sit on the bathroom floor (one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom) and provide a moist dark environment where mold spores, bacteria and fungus can thrive and survive for weeks.  The fix: Launder mats once per week on the highest heat and with bleach (follow manufacturer’s instructions).  Launder separately from bedding or other clothes.

    4. Hand towels

      Towels are such great bacteria traps because every time you use a towel, you transfer your natural skin bacteria, and any other germs you’re carrying, onto their surface. Towels are made to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great when it comes to discouraging bacterial growth.  Face, hand and bath towels spread bacteria and viruses among family members who use the same towels.  To add insult to injury, most people don’t wash their hands properly – so you end up rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment. In one study, nearly 90% of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria and about 14% carried E. coli. The fix:  Use your own individual towel (for face, hand and bath).  Wash all towels after two days of use, in hot water and bleach for best results.

    5. Loofah

      Like a kitchen sponge (full of holes and crevices), your loofah is a prime place for germs to accumulate.  It picks up germs from your body, plus anything it might contact from shower surfaces.  Using a germ-ridden loofah sponge can also contribute to acne.  The fix:  It is probably better not to use one at all, and swap it out for a washcloth instead.  But if you must, rinse them with super hot water at the end of a shower, allow them to dry between uses and always, always replace them every three months.

    6. Tub & Shower

      Your bathtub may have 100 times more bacteria than the trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted by the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. The fix: Disinfect tubs and showers twice per week to get rid of dead skin cells left in the tub that can carry germs too.

    7. Sponge

      Your kitchen sponge is ironically the germiest item in your home.    In a recent study, 77 percent harbored coliform bacteria, and another 86 percent contained yeast and mold and another 18 percent contained staph bacteria. Bacteria flourish in moist environments offered by kitchen sponges and rags.  Using a dirty sponge or rag to wipe kitchen counters only transfers bacteria from one place to another.  The fix: Sponges should be replaced frequently, ideally weekly. Use a clean rag every day or two.  Dry sponges and rags between uses (ensure they are free of organic debris before drying). Kitchen rags and towels should be laundered in hot water with bleach for best results.

    8. Coffee Maker

      Fifty percent of reservoirs swabbed for the study had mold and yeast, and nine percent had coliform bacteria.  The fix: A simple way to disinfect it while also removing mineral buildup? Fill the water chamber with half vinegar/half water, then “brew” a pot halfway. Turn the pot off and let it sit for 30 minutes before finishing the brew. Run a clear water mixture through next (do this step twice) and you’ll have a clean coffee pot ready to brew delicious coffee.

    9. Oven handles/light switches/microwave screens

      Since a lot goes into cooking a meal/food preparation- handling uncooked meats and unwashed produce, cutting boards, opening cabinets/refrigerator/oven/microwave, it is easy to see how germs could be transferred from one surface to another.  The fix: Disinfect frequently used kitchen surfaces, especially before and after meal preparation   Keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar and clean rags on the counter for easy access.

    10. Kitchen faucet

      After you handle raw meat in the kitchen, naturally you turn on the tap to wash your hands, and may not realize the transfer of bacteria that are left on the faucet (this also holds true for bathroom faucets)  More than half of faucets in American homes are covered in bacteria.The fix: Disinfect all surfaces regularly using hot water and soap or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

    11. Dishwasher

      Dishwasher detergents are designed to clean your dishes, but are not effective in keeping the insides of the dishwasher sanitized.  Food particles, soap scum and grease cling together and create an ideal breeding ground for various microorganisms.  In one study, 62% of the dishwashers tested positive for fungi, 56% of which were black yeasts. The fix:  Regularly run your dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and don’t forget to clean out the trap regularly.

    12. Remote

      The TV remote – gets dropped on the floor, coughed on, sneezed at and handled by every household member.  A remote control’s surface were found to be one of the germiest surfaces in the household (consider this when travelling in hotel rooms too). Almost half of remotes tested were contaminated with cold viruses.  The fix:  Clean the remote regularly using a microfiber cloth, a solution of 50/50 rubbing alcohol/water, a toothbrush to clean with and a cotton swab.  Buy a remote with a flat design for easier cleaning.  When travelling (remotes to be shown second only to a bathroom counter in the average hotel room for bacterial counts), don’t use the remote and use the TV on/off button instead.

    13. Makeup and makeup Brushes

      With every touch, you transfer all of the microorganisms from your skin into your product.  Same holds true for any brush or applicator.  So over time, your makeup becomes a ripe source of  microbial contamination, which gets spread around with every time you doll yourself up. 60% of women rarely wash their makeup brushes, if at all.  One survey revealed that 39% of women wash their brushes less than once a month and 22% admit to never washing them.

      The fix:  Clean your makeup (think pressed powders, foundation, metal tools and makeup bag liniing) with a small spray bottle filled with isopropyl alcohol (allow to dry before using) on a weekly basis.  Use alcohol wipes for items like lipstick, concealer, eye and lip liners and metal tools.  Wash makeup brushes and sponges brushes in warm soapy water on a regular basis. Discard and regularly replace expired products (every three months for mascara, every six months for liquid liners and foundations and every year for gloss, creams).

    14. Purse/Backpack/Computer Bag

      One study of office workers found that women’s purses were one of top three dirtiest things they touched throughout the day, with E. Coli on 25 percent of purses tested.  This holds true for any type of bag that is being used on a daily basis.  The fix: Don’t rest it on the bathroom floor, use the hooks provided in public restrooms whenever possible.  Clean the bottoms of all bags regularly with a disinfectant wipe (vinegar and water will suffice) every few days.  Purchase bags with a non-permeable fabric on the bottom for more effective cleaning.

    15. Keyboard/Tablet/Smartphone

      For most people, the cellphone is probably the one items that gets touched the most.  One study found one in six phones was shown to be contaminated with fecal matter (we have our own unwashed hands to blame).  The fix:  Power down the device once per week (more during cold and flu season) and wipe with a disinfectant cloth.

Tasleem Kassam