Germs are everywhere, whether we like it or not. Some germs are harmless and actually good for our health, but other germs are dangerous and can lead to infectious diseases and illnesses. We've compiled a list of 17 common bacterial hotspots in your home, and offer a simple solution of how to clean it. Get your antibacterial wipes, vinegar, boiling water, toothbrush and antibacterial soap ready — time to get cleaning!
1. Sponges: Bacteria love to grow in dark and moist places, and can easily get caught in tight, small places. Sponges are an ideal environment for bacteria, so it's important to clean it. How to clean it: Aside from using antibacterial sponges and dish soaps, you can clean your sponge by soaking it in a bleach solution for five minutes, or microwaving it on high for two minutes — the microwave method has been known to kill 99 percent of bacteria!
2. Kitchen buttons, knobs, and handles: We touch buttons, knobs and handles in the kitchen more than we realize, so it's no surprise that our hands have bacteria on them. How to clean it: To minimize the risk of spreading germs from our hands to raw produce or uncooked foods when cooking, try using a disinfectant on any frequently used kitchen surface several times a day. Make sure to do this before and after preparing a meal, and always keep antibacterial wipes in a convenient location.
3. Cutting boards: Cutting boards are a hotbed for cross-contamination, and there is much debate about which material serves as the best option for cooking purposes. One study shows that 18 percent of cutting boards harbor potentially dangerous coliform bacteria. How to clean it: If you have a plastic board, keep it clean by regularly running it through the dishwasher or cleaning it with near-boiling water. If you have a wooden cutting board, microwave it (but not for too long!).
4. Drip coffee maker: Home coffee makers don’t get hot enough to kill bacteria growing in the wet, dark environment of the water reservoir or the internal piping. How to clean it: Run a mixture that consists of 50 percent water and 50 percent white vinegar through the machine at least once a month; that will help to inhibit the growth of mold and some bacteria. Let the mixture run through, then switch it off an hour before finishing the cycle. (via Greatist)
5. Pillows and sheets: That fluffy feather pillow of yours can be home to several types of allergy-inflaming fungi. Not only do we spend hours sweating, shedding skin and drooling all over our pillows, they also create an ideal living environment for dust mites. In addition to all the reasons why it is important to wash your pillow, your body can sweat up to one liter of sweat per night. Ew! How to clean it: Try using anti-allergen covers to help protect the pillow from outside germs getting in. Wash and dry your sheets on the highest heat available, and try to regularly bleach them if possible. Studies show that a hot wash and a dose of bleach helps to kill bacteria on the cloth and in the machine itself. (via Greatist)
6. Bath mat: As mentioned, bacteria love to grow in dark, damp environments. Bathroom floors have been shown to be one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom, so it’s important to know how to clean it! How to clean it: Wash the mats at least once a week on the highest heat and with bleach (if possible). Keep it separate from any bedding or clothing. (via Greatist)
7. Makeup and makeup brushes: Cosmetics have been shown to spread germs that have led to other serious consequences. Eye makeup is the one that generates the most attention for cleanliness — one study even found that within three months of using mascara, 40 percent of the tubes had creepy critters inside.. Eek! How to clean it: Replace your eye makeup every season, toss lotions and liquid foundations out every six months, and try to purchase fresh powder-based products, lip sticks, and nail polish every two years. (via Greatist) Click here to read more about the average shelf life of cosmetic products.
8. Toothbrushes: Some studies have found that toilets can spew bathroom-related bacteria into the air when flushed — gross! With that in mind, it is extremely important to clean your toothbrush. How to clean it: The American Dental Association recommends that you rinse toothbrushes thoroughly after use and allow them to dry completely afterwards. It is also suggested that you replace your brush every three to four months. Don’t share your toothbrush with anyone, and if you want to clean the brush, try rinsing it in a milk bleach solution or run it through the dishwasher. (via Real Simple)
9. Towels. When you reuse a damp bath towel, you are putting towel that was used to take dead skin and bacteria off your body, which defeats the purpose of using it to finish getting clean after a shower. Every time you reuse a tainted towel, you may be increasing your chance of developing allergies, rashes or something potentially more serious. How to clean it: Try switching out your towels at least once a week and allow them to completely dry after using them. Antimicrobial towels can help to cut down on smells, but can also make you forget to clean them — so regardless of what kind of towel you have, make sure to clean it thoroughly! (via Real Simple)
10. Contact lenses. A study found that more than 80 percent of tested contact lenses were contaminated with bacteria even after being cleaned with no-rub solution and hydrogen peroxide. How to clean it: Wipe out your contact lens case after each use and replace it every month. You can even try to soak it in near-boiling water for a few minutes to clean it. If you have a hydrogen peroxide cleansing case, allow fresh solution to sit in the case for 24 hours before using it. (via Greatist)
11. Headphones: Using these little guys for just an hour has shown to coat a layer of bacteria from the ear on them. How to clean it: If you have headphones with detachable rubber buds, remove them and soak them for 15 minutes in a vinegar and water solution and let them sit for 10 minutes before using them. If you don’t have rubber buds, use a gentle mixture of soap and water and use a clean toothbrush to remove any bacteria from the grill. (via Greatist)
12. Handbags: Okay ladies, we all know how important it is to carry all of our important necessities in our handbags, but think about all of the places it's been placed on (i.e., restaurant floors, locker rooms, grocery carts, and more!). How to clean it: Besides being smart and not placing it on dirty surfaces, regularly clean the exterior with disinfectant wipes. If your bag is washable, put it through the laundry at least once a week. (via Real Simple)
13. Phone: Your phone is another hotspot for bacteria; cell phones have even been cited as a risk for infections! Dirty hands could be a reason to blame for this, but nevertheless, should not be ignored. How to clean it: Power down your phone and wipe down with a disinfectant wipe. Easy peazy.
14. Yoga mat: Okay, all you aspiring yogis, if the thought of how disgusting a communal yoga mat hasn’t registered in your mind, it’s time for a reality check. Outbreaks of ringworm, staph infection, and now some cases of herpes have sprung up thanks to communal mats. Some claim that the growing popularity of yoga is linked to a new surge of plantar warts and athlete’s foot. How to clean it: Bring your own mat, especially if you're going to a hot yoga studio. To keep clean, pick a side of your mat that will always be used face up. A routine Clorox wipe-down can also help. Make sure to hang mats up so that both sides can dry completely, and scrub it down with a little bit of soap and water.
>> Shop: 20 Cutest Yoga Mats
15. Gym bag: Packing gym clothes into a dirty gym bag seems pointless since it’s being surrounded by grimy filth. Some researchers believe that dirty gym bags are responsible for spreading infections. How to clean it: Store dirty clothes in a separate mesh pouch or sealable plastic bag for transporting. Make sure to keep the bag off of the locker room floors, which are known for harboring infectious microbes. Give it a once-over wash with disinfectant wipes and wash it using the hottest setting. (via Greatist)
>> Read more: Great Bags to Carry From Work to the Gym
16. Water bottle: Coliform (which is associated with E. coli) can coat the inside of reusable plastic bottles if they’re not cleaned properly. How to clean it: Choose a wide-mouthed bottle since it’s easier to clean and dry, and aim for a hard material that won’t get scratched during intensive cleaning. Aside from regular washing, soak bottle in a bleach solution for two minutes per week, then rinse and dry completely. Click here to learn more!
>> Read more: 26 Water Bottles That Will Blow You Out of the Water
17. TV remote: If you’re lounging around, eating snacks and hanging out, there’s a good chance that germs from your hand will spread all over the remote. When you do this, you're leaving behind nourishment for bacteria to grow! What to do: Wipe down remotes with a hard disinfectant of antibacterial wipes. Make sure to do this more frequently if there is a sick person in the house or if there are illnesses going around. (via Real Simple)