With my husband starting radiation and chemotherapy for brain cancer soon, his immune system will be virtually nonexistent the entire time. I was given a stack of pamphlets, booklets and instruction manuals about how to clean house for someone so susceptible to infections. “Yeah, got it,” I figured, “I’m kind of a clean freak already, right?” So I started thumbing through the literature, expecting to feel smug about what I great job I’m already doing. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Chances are, you’re overlooking these 10 places, too!
Clean these germy, filthy places stat!
- Kitchen sponges: Like most people who use kitchen sponges, I already know to get my sponge wet and microwave it for two minutes every day to kill bacteria. What I hadn’t thought about: how nasty the sponge-end on the dish-washing wand gets and, since it’s plastic, it can’t be nuked. The solution: dunk it in a cup of straight white vinegar for 10 minutes every day to kill bacteria and germs.
- Kitchen towels: We all know to replace our dish towels at least once a day, but did you know that they still harbor bacteria if they’re not washed in hot water? Now, think of all the times you’ve tossed them into a cold cycle with your bathroom towels or other clothes… then used them later to dry your dishes. Ew, right? Also, if your family (like mine) insists on washing their hands in the kitchen sinks despite how many times you’ve bellowed, make sure they use a separate towel to dry their hands or you’ll be wiping your dishes with whatever they didn’t wash away.
- Faucets and sinks: According to a 2008 study by the Hygiene Council, there’s not much difference in the bacteria on kitchen and bathroom faucets. They’re both filthy! Think your hands-free faucet is cleaner? Think again. Even more disgusting: according to the same study, the kitchen sink (you know, where you drop food sometimes while you’re rinsing it) has 100,000 times more bacteria than the one in the bathroom. How to fix it? Wipe faucets at least once a day with my homemade disinfecting wipes, or spray with a 50-50 mixture of water and 3% hydrogen peroxide.
- Handles and touchscreens: Yes, your phone’s touchscreen is disgusting, but that’s not the only one harboring germs. Think about how often you touch the cupboard, drawer, refrigerator, microwave or oven handles while cooking. And don’t forget that microwave touchscreen! Clean them with disinfecting wipes at least once a day… more often when you’re cooking raw chicken or eggs.
- Remote controllers (tv, game, stereo): I used to think the claims of how filthy remotes get was all hype. Then I watched my son pet the cat, sneeze, wipe his nose, shovel popcorn into his mouth and then go back to playing his Playstation 3 game. After a quick reminder about proper hygiene, I looked it up: most TV remotes test positive for the cold virus… along with e. Coli! Clean them with a disinfecting cloth, using a soft bristled toothbrush to dislodge debris before giving them another good swipe.
- Light switches and doorknobs: Just about everyone in your house touches these throughout the day, often right after they come home from germ-infested places like the grocery store (use those free disinfecting wipes on the cart handles!) or school. Wipe them down regularly with a disinfecting cloth. Daily, if someone in your house has a cold.
- Tubs and showers… including the shower curtain: We all enjoy a nice, long shower after working hard in the garden, or a good hot soak in the tub following a particularly difficult workout. Now, think about all the dead skin cells, bacteria and other things coming from our bodies and splattering or sticking to those surfaces. Gross, right? No wonder the average bathtub is even dirtier than a trash can! Clean your tub and shower weekly using my printable weekly bathroom cleaning routine, then run the shower curtain through your washing machine’s gentle cycle using hot water, soap and 2 cups of white vinegar. Keep the germs at bay by spraying daily with a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar so you don’t have to worry about catching something from your tub next time you need a few minutes to yourself.
- The washer and dryer: Your washing machine is basically a bathtub for your dirty clothes and, like a bathtub, it collects dirt, grime and bacteria. If you don’t use hot water to clean your whites, towels and underwear, you’re also transferring that stuff to your dryer… as in, it’s probably full of e. Coli, too. Clean your washing machine and your clothes dryer at least once a month… more often if your children are still potty-training, or you have someone in your house who’s immuno-compromised, too.
- Everything in your bathroom: True, it’s not as filthy as your kitchen sink, but it’s still gross. And I’m not just talking about the toilet, either. Every time the toilet flushes, water droplets fly into the air. When someone in your home has a gastrointestinal upset, that flush can spread illness-inducing germs up to 10 inches above the toilet… and those germs can be detected in the air as long as 90 minutes later. So next time you’re cleaning your bathroom, pay attention to the walls around and behind the toilet, and don’t forget to wipe down the toilet roll holder, too!
- Your vacuum cleaner: Okay, this one surprised me at first, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense. Vacuums don’t just pick up dust (which, as we all know, consists largely of dead skin cells) and pet hair. We use them to clean up food crumbs, too. As a result, their brushes, hoses, belts and bags are great breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty things which, unless you have a HEPA filter on the vacuum exhaust, get spewed back into the air the next time you use the thing. Keep your vacuum clean and be sure to change the bags or empty the bin often.
Grossed out yet? Then don’t even think about how yucky your credit cards and wallet are. No, seriously, one of the pamphlets from the doctor instructs me to use an antibacterial wipe to clean credit and debit cards weekly, along with the interior of the dollar bill area in my husband’s wallet!
What other germy, filthy places in the house do you need to pay extra attention to? Share in the comments!