Think you don’t live in filth and squalor? Think again. Turns out, when it comes to household germs and bacteria, none of our homes or offices cleans up very nicely. Don’t believe us? Here are ten places where harmful bacteria and toxic germs can hide in your home, and ten serious solutions for killing them (and not with kindness):
1. Kitchen Sink, Drain, and Faucet
The Dirt: The average kitchen sink is dirtier than most bathrooms. Up to 500,000 bacteria per square inch can be found in the drain alone. We may wash our hands after touching raw meat, but sometimes we touch the faucet with those dirty hands and bacteria can linger long after we’ve washed and dried. So don’t ignore the faucet when cleaning your sink.
The Bright Side: Clean the kitchen sink, drain, and faucet with an antibacterial product after preparing or cleaning food, especially fruits and vegetables, to kill pathogens like salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli. You can also wash the sink with a bleach and water solution once a day and allow the solution to run down your drain to properly sanitize the sink.
2. A Load of Wet Laundry
The Dirt: Thought your wet laundry was clean? Think again. Anytime you transfer cold, wet laundry to the dryer, you’re getting E. coli on your hands. One infected undergarment can spread bacteria to the entire load.
The Bright Side: Run the washer at 150 degrees and wash whites with bleach, which should kill 99.9% of bacteria. Move the wet laundry to the dryer as quickly as possible, so bacteria can’t multiply. If you can, wash underwear separately and dry it for 45 minutes.
3. The Bathtub
The Dirt: Hard to imagine that the one place you go to get clean can contain 100 times more bacteria than the inside of a trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted by the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston. Whirlpool tubs are even worse: Texas A&M University microbiologist Rita Moyes, Ph.D. tested 43 water samples from whirlpools, and all 43 contained mild to dangerous bacterial growth. Nearly every sample showed bacteria from fecal matter; 81% had fungi, and 34% contained staph bacteria.
The Bright Side: Experts recommend cleaning and disinfecting your tub or shower with bleach after every use. If you have that kind of extra time (lucky you), or better yet, a full-time housekeeper, spraying the area with a bathroom cleaner, scrubbing the tub with a soft-bristled brush, and rinsing with water is all you need to do. And the more frequently you clean the tub, the easier the job will be.
4. TV Remote
The Dirt: If you touch the clicker when you’re sick(er), chances are cold viruses can be transferred to its surface. This is especially true with the TV remote control, which can easily be coated with viruses, dirt, and dust.
The Bright Side: A disinfectant wipe, or alcohol and cotton swabs, are a great way to clean off a frequently handled remote.
5. Light Switches
The Dirt: Have you ever really cleaned the light switch? If not, you’re ignoring one of the most frequently touched objects in your home. A bathroom light switch can hold as much bacteria as a trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted at Simmons College in Boston.
The Bright Side: Wipe down light switches once a week with regular disinfectant wipes, or clean more frequently if house guests are ill in order to prevent the spread of germs.
6. Kitchen Cloths and Sponges
The Dirt: Think of how many times you touch and use a kitchen cloth or sponge every day. We dry our hands, wipe up spills, and dab at wet dishes. When kitchen sponges were put to the hygiene test, 70% contained high levels of bacteria, according to the Hygiene Council.
The Bright Side: Send dish towels to the laundry room at the end of the day, and put your sponges through the dishwasher. If you don’t have the luxury of a dishwasher, discard sponges after a few uses, or soak them in a one-part bleach, ten-parts water solution.