No matter how well we clean, there are places in our homes swimming with bacteria, germs, dirt, and all kinds of invisible particles. And the craziest thing is that these sites are hiding in plain sight. For instance, how often do you sanitize the water dispenser or wash the knobs on your stove or your knife block? A month ago? Never?
We’ve put together a list of the most common areas so you can pay attention to them when next you do a thorough house cleanse.
- Handles and switches
One of the worst hotbeds for germs in the home are handles and switches, which are touched frequently but cleaned very infrequently. The refrigerator door handle, the toilet flush handle and light switches are a few common examples.
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get in the habit of cleaning handles and switches as part of your regular cleaning routine. Use a piece of cloth dampened with your favourite cleaning product to wipe down handles and switches as you go about your household cleaning.
- Your Toothbrush
This is something you put in your mouth twice a day, but do you ever think of all the germs lurking on it? If the germs from your own mouth weren’t enough to contaminate your toothbrush, the germs from your toilet certainly are.
Research has found that flushing the toilet sends a spray of bacteria and virus-contaminated water droplets into the air. These germs can float around in the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush before landing on surfaces – including your toothbrush.
Place your toothbrush where it can air out and dry between uses — but not too close to the toilet. Also, replace your toothbrush often, particularly after you’ve been sick, and close your toilet lid before flushing.
- Toothbrush holder
Still speaking of the toothbrush, the household item with one of the highest germ counts is the toothbrush holder, with 3,318,477 average normalized microorganisms per 10 square centimetres.
Now is a great time to switch to a toothbrush holder that’s easily washable. You should rinse and wipe it with a disinfecting wipe, also once or twice per week.
Also, always make sure you replace your toothbrush after you’ve been sick.
- Dish sponge or rag
According to NSF International, an independent public health & safety organization, conducted a study in 2011, this is the germiest item in homes. In their research, NSF found coliform bacteria — a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli and is an indicator of potential faecal contamination — on more than 75% of dish sponges and rags.
To clean a wet sponge, place it in the microwave for two minutes once a day. You should also replace it often.
- Kitchen sink
Although the kitchen sink doesn’t have the most microorganisms per square centimetre, it’s still one of the worst offenders on the list. NSF researchers calculated the kitchen sink hosts 31,905 average normalized microorganisms per 10 square centimetres.
At least once or twice a week, you should wash and disinfect the sides and bottom of the sink. You should also sanitize the drain and the disposal by pouring a solution of 1 teaspoon household bleach and water down the drain.
If you picture what goes on in your kitchen, it’s not really a surprise NSF found coliform bacteria on the countertops in 30% of the homes tested. Interestingly enough, coliform bacteria can be traced to a wide array of food items like raw meat & unwashed produce.
Countertops should be washed daily. Once you’ve finished preparing your food, wash the countertop with hot soapy water. Then, rinse it with clean water, and apply a bleach-and-water solution or a store-bought sanitizing agent that’s recommended for countertops.
- Bathroom faucet handle
The researchers found coliform bacteria on 9% of bathroom faucet handles, staph on 5% of them, and yeast or mould on 27% of them. That’s still not nearly as bad as in the kitchen but it shows you take the time to thoroughly clean the faucet, too.
Fortunately, faucet handles in the bathroom and in the kitchen (where, yes, you should also be cleaning them) are relatively easy to disinfect. You can clean regularly with a disinfecting cleaner or even disinfecting wipes.
Another germy spot to pay more attention to is your stash of electronics. Remote controls and computer keyboards, which your whole family probably handles, can contain thousands of bacteria, including some of the same varieties spotted on kitchen sponges.
Make a habit of using wrung-out disinfecting wipes to sanitize remote controls, keyboards, video game controllers, the keyboard mouse, and smartphone or tablet covers. Once a week is good enough.
- Bath towels
There’s nothing more comfortable than a fluffy towel after a bath but you need to pay close attention to make sure yours aren’t harbouring all kinds of gross microorganisms. When towels stay damp for 20 minutes or longer, that allows mildew and bacteria to breed.
Each time you reuse a towel that’s already harbouring unsavoury organisms, you’re increasing your chances of developing allergies, rashes or even contracting a more serious infection.
Make sure your setup enables your bath towels to dry out quickly after they’re used. A stand-up or wall-mounted rack is more effective than a set of hooks on the back of the door.
After you’ve used the towels three or four times, you should wash them in hot water.
Do you and your family walk in the door and immediately drop your bags on the dining room table or the kitchen counter? Don’t. Most bags have tens of thousands of bacteria on the bottom alone. Some of them even have millions. Think about all the places your bag has been.
Try misting your bags with a fabric-sanitizing spray or disinfecting wipes weekly. And if you have a leather bag, clean it with a product that’s specially formulated for leather. When you’re carrying your bag around throughout the day, be mindful of where you’re setting it down.
Lots of germs are harmless, many are even good for your health – which is why those in your home haven’t really knocked you out of commission yet. Still, it’s important to pay attention to these highlighted areas every time you clean.