Don’t feel bad if this list of germy places in your home contains a few surprises for you.
When my husband started chemotherapy, a healthcare worker handed me a stack of pamphlets about how to clean the house for someone with a compromised immune system. “Yeah, got it,” I figured, “it’s literally my job to know this stuff.”
I started thumbing through the literature, expecting to feel smug. By the third page, I felt like I knew nothing at all about dealing with household germs.
Maybe you’re in for a few surprises about germ hot-spots in your home, too.
10 Germy Places In Your Home
1. Kitchen Sponges
Kitchen sponges get nasty. Even if you know to get yours wet and microwave it for two minutes daily, you’re only killing some — not all — potentially harmful bacteria.
Every few days — or more often during cold and flu season — you should disinfect your sponge with bleach.
- Measure 2 cups of water and replace 2 tablespoons of it with bleach. This creates a 1:30 bleach and water solution.
- Rinse and squeeze your sponge, then put it in this bleach solution for 10 minutes. Remove your sponge and discard the bleach water.
- Wring out your sponge, rinse it well, and wring it out again. Set it aside to dry.
Replace your sponge every couple of weeks, even if you’ve been diligent about disinfection. (Here’s what to do with old kitchen sponges.)
2. Kitchen Tea and Hand Towels
You already know to change your kitchen towels at least once a day, but they still harbor bacteria if you aren’t laundering them in hot water.
Just think of all the times you’ve washed them in a cold cycle with bathroom towels and used later to dry your dishes. Ew, right?
- Launder all towels in either hot water or cold water with bleach.
- Tumble them in the dryer for 45 minutes, or line dry them in bright sunlight for added disinfection.
- Also, make sure your family knows not to use the dishtowel to dry their hands.
3. Faucets and Sinks
According to a 2008 study by the Hygiene Council, there’s not much difference in the types of bacteria on kitchen and bathroom faucets — they’re two of the most germy places in your home.
In fact, according to the same study, the kitchen sink has 100,000 times more bacteria than the one in the bathroom. So, clean your faucets and sinks daily.
- Wipe the area first with a soapy microfiber cloth to remove surface grime, then spray a store-bought or homemade disinfectant spray to saturate the area.
- Wait 5 minutes to let the disinfectant kill lingering germs. Then, using a fresh cloth, clean the spigot, faucet handles, sink basin, and the area around the drain.
ouchscreens, Buttons, Handles and Knobs
Year-round, our hands come into contact with all sorts of potentially contagious bacteria and viruses. If we touch a doorknob that’s been recently used by someone with a bad cold, for example, any germs they left on it get transferred to our hands — and to any surfaces we touch next.
You can’t go around cleaning and disinfecting every elevator button, ATM control pad, or checkout counter that you see. Still, you can reduce the transmission of illness between family members by cleaning germy places in your home.
Use a store-bought or homemade disinfecting wipe on these surfaces daily, and even several times a day during cold and flu season:
- Your phone
- Microwave touch screens
- Buttons on ice and water dispensers
- Refrigerator and freezer handles
- Kitchen cupboard handles and drawer pulls
- Oven knobs
- Doorknobs — especially those on exterior and bathroom doors.
5. Remote Controls
Most TV remotes test positive for the cold virus along with e. Coli. That’s pretty disgusting when you think about how often people snack in front of the television. That popcorn you snacked on while binge-watching a show probably came with a side of all sorts of nastiness you weren’t aware of.
- To clean your remote, wipe it with a damp, soapy microfiber cloth to loosen and get rid of grime. (Use a soft-bristled toothbrush if there’s gunk stuck around the buttons.)
- After cleaning, use a disinfecting wipe all over the remote and let it air dry.
TIP: Next time someone in your house stays home sick, slip the remote control into a resealable plastic bag before they use it. The remote can still control the TV, but you can keep it from spreading their germs by removing the bag and discarding it when they’re done watching television.
6. Light Switches
Just about everyone in your house touches a lightswitch at some point during the day.
The ones near your entrances are dirtier than bedroom light switches since we often get home with all sorts of germs on our hands. And we don’t even want to talk about the bathroom light switches.
Wipe all of them at least once a week with a disinfecting cloth, and daily during periods of illness.
7. Tubs and Showers
Shower walls and tub floors are germy hotspots despite being inundated regularly with soap and water. In fact, the average bathtub is even dirtier than a trash can.
That’s because the dead skin cells, skin oils, stray hairs, and all other the stuff we’re washing off our bodies get mingled with the fats in soap and shampoo, then create a biofilm that serves as a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Clean the bathtub every time someone takes a bath. If it’s only mildly dirty, you can just use soap and water with a microfiber cloth.
- If someone in your home has been sick or has skin issues, you should follow that with a disinfectant to kill lingering germs.
- For shower walls and surrounds, use a daily shower spray to combat germs and control mold and mildew.
8. The Washer and Dryer
Your washing machine collects dirt, grime, and bacteria from your clothes, towels, and bedding. If you only use cold water to launder, you’re also transferring that stuff to your dryer, so it’s probably full of e. Coli, too.
To control germs in your washer, run a full cycle using hot water at the maximum fill setting once a week. Add 2 cups of distilled white vinegar after the machine fills. Do not launder any clothing or add detergent during this cycle — it’s purpose is to dissolve residue and kill germs in the machine and drain.
To control germs in your dryer, clean the inside of the drum and the door with a disinfecting wipe once a week. Be sure to wait until the dryer is completely cool to do this.
9. Everything Near Your Toilet
Flushing spreads germs throughout the air which can be detected for close to 90 minutes. Being diligent about closing the lid definitely helps, but many people — especially kids — don’t remember to do it.
So, it’s vital that you don’t keep toothbrushes, drinking glasses, contact lens cases, or other such things within six feet of your toilet.
And the next time you’re cleaning your bathroom, pay attention to the walls around and behind the toilet. Wipe down the toilet roll holder, too.
10. Your Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuums are great tools to pick up dirt, dust, and pet hair — along with food crumbs, dead skin cells, and anything else on the floor. But this also means that vacuum brushes, hoses, belts, and bags are among the germy places in your home.
- Follow your vacuum manufacturer’s recommendation to clean or replace the HEPA filter regularly, so it can keep contaminants from spewing back into your air.
- Be sure you wash the dust bin, hoses, and attachments every couple of weeks, too.