It's a sad reality, but few people have the luxury of giving the house a regular deep clean, and then maintaining that level of cleanliness. Unfortunately, the longer you go without cleaning (and we don't just mean tidying up, but really cleaning), the more mold, yeast, bacteria and overall grime can accumulate. And some parts of your house are more prone to getting full-on nasty than others, including all those places that we never think to clean, but should.
Bacteria, when provided with a warm, damp environment, can double in number every 20 minutes. A study from Charles River Laboratories found that germs including staph, salmonella, E. coli and more than 300 other types of bacteria are basically all over your house. Read on to learn which parts of your house are home to the most germs, but one word of advice: You're probably going to want to stock up on disinfecting wipes, bleach spray (or all-natural cleansers like baking soda and vinegar), rubber gloves and heavy-duty scrubbers by the time you're finished reading.
If you're not using two different cutting boards for meat and vegetables, it's time to start. Cross-contamination is a real issue with cutting boards, and you should wash them thoroughly with soap and water after each use (it doesn't hurt to give them a rinse before you use them, as well). Because wood is porous, it's best to use a plastic cutting board for raw meat. Once it gets riddled with knife marks (also known as bacteria traps), it's time to throw that cutting board away and get a new one. You might not even realize it, but your cutting board could be making you sick.
Bathtub or shower
The bathtub and shower are where we clean all the grime off of ourselves, and not all of that dirt is going to make its way down the drain. Even if you thoroughly clean your tub or shower every couple months, you should still wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe after a few uses.
You know that rag you've been using to wipe down your counter and dry your dishes with? It's not doing anything but pushing bacteria around, and also absorbing a lot of it in the process. Wash your kitchen rags and dishcloths every time you do the laundry.
Refrigerator door handles can quickly get dirty (think of all the hands that touch it!), but the inside of refrigerators need to be cleaned thoroughly and regularly as well. Things spill, vegetables rot and odd stains appear. And even though it's cold in there, it can still be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Salt and pepper shakers
Salt and pepper shakers rarely get a thorough cleaning at your home (or even in restaurants), even though they are usually sitting right on the table. No one wants to have to get up and wash their hands quickly after salting their steak, so make sure you keep those seasonings clean.
Kitchen sinks - including the faucet and tap handles - can become full-blown bacteria colonies over time. Most of us know by now that we should never wash our chicken because it can splash bacteria all over, and that any dishes left sitting in the sink for too long can downright fester. But how often are you actually giving your sink a full scrubbing? Old food particles can cling to the drain and sides of the sink, but the bacteria isn't always visible. Clean the sink as you would clean a steel bowl (with dishwashing soap and water) every time you do the dishes.
Just like its name implies, a sponge is literally, well, a sponge for germs, and is one of the biggest hidden sources of bacteria in your home. If you're using it to clean cutting boards that have come in contact with raw meat, then salmonella can be lurking (and growing) in those deep, dark crevices. Keep a separate sponge for washing raw meat from cutting boards, and replace your everyday sponge every couple weeks or monthly depending on how often you use it. You can also wet it and microwave it for a minute and a half (although the smell isn't pleasant), or just toss it in the dishwasher.
Think about it: You touch light switches every time you walk into a room, so don't forget to clean them. They're gathering all the dirt that's been on your hands.
If your sink has a disposal, then you probably know that some strange odors can emerge from it on occasion. If it starts to get a little funky, the best way to clean it is to pour half a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar. Give it a couple minutes and rinse it out with hot water, then grind up half a lemon for good measure.
Canned foods are the staples of any pantry, but they're basically useless without a can opener, an essential kitchen tool. Unfortunately, every time we use a can opener, the blade comes in contact with the food inside, and they're rarely, if ever, washed. Mold, yeast, and even salmonella and E. coli can develop if it's not kept clean, so give it a thorough scrubbing after each use.
If your whole family drags their hands along the stair railings every time they go up or down the stairs, then you're going to want to wipe them off with disinfecting wipes regularly, more often if a family member is sick.
The knives you're sticking into your knife block may be clean, but those deep recesses might still be harboring mold, yeast and bacteria, especially if the knives are still a little damp when you're putting them away.
If it hasn't become painfully obvious by now, a basic rule of thumb when it comes to domestic hygiene is that the more hands that come in contact with something, the more bacteria it will accumulate. Wipe down your TV remotes (and phones, for that matter) with disinfecting wipes as often as possible, especially if you use them while eating.
Over time, your mattress can accumulate a lot more dead skin cells and dust mites than you care to imagine. We're not saying you need to replace your mattress every six months, but we recommend vacuuming it regularly and spot cleaning any stains.
Your kitchen counter may look clean, but it could be harboring dangerous coliform bacteria. Spray it with disinfectant regularly, and if you drop a piece of food onto it, toss it in the trash.
It's tough to think about, but toothbrushes are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria because they are warm and damp. And you rub it all over your teeth every day. The American Dental Association recommends you replace them entirely every three to four months.
Clean machinery is one of the secrets behind the best coffee shops in America, but most people don't clean their home coffee makers as often as they should. The water reservoir in your coffee pot is damp, dark, and the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Clean it regularly by pouring equal parts water and white vinegar into the reservoir, letting it sit for 30 minutes, then turning on the coffee maker and running it like you would if you were making coffee. Give it a rinse, and you're good to go.
Stop the presses: Your garbage can is dirty. Seriously, though, when was the last time you thoroughly scrubbed down any of your garbage cans? Even if you use can liners and trash bags, some grime is bound to get through. The kitchen garbage can is the dirtiest one of all, so take it out back once a month, spray it with a bleach solution, and hit it with the hose.
Kids and pets aren't exactly renowned for their meticulous hygiene, so the toys that they play with (and occasionally put into their mouths) can easily become completely germ-ridden. You probably don't need to pay as much attention to your dog's chew toys, but it couldn't hurt to wipe down your kid's toys regularly.
Like light switches, doorknobs see a lot of hands but not much disinfectant.
Makeup can easily accumulate bacteria, and just think of how often it touches your face. If you store it in your bathroom, the warm, damp atmosphere doesn't help. If you're not mindful, makeup can transmit skin and eye infections fairly easily, so store products in a dry place, wash your brushes once a week, replace all your makeup every six months and toss eye makeup if you've had an eye infection.
Think about all the times you touch the buttons on your microwave. Now think about how many times you clean the buttons on your microwave. You should probably give the whole surface of your microwave a once-over with a disinfecting wipe regularly, so you don't get your hands dirty before digging into some perfectly popped microwave popcorn.
Did you know that a carpet can hold up to eight times its weight in dirt and dust? Be sure to vacuum twice a week.
Do your doggo a favor and wash your pet's food and water bowls like you would any other dish every other day or so.
You think about cleaning your toilet as often as possible, but the area around your toilet should get a thorough scrubbing as well. No need to get into the finer details of why. Surprise, toilets are also among the dirtiest places on an airplane, too.
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