Get this: Even if you drink green juice, work out daily, and take vitamins, you can still get sick—all thanks to hidden germs hiding all over your home.
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“Germs can survive for a longer period of time on non-porous surfaces (like stainless steel and plastics), than porous surfaces (such as fabrics and tissues),” said Dr. Rossana Rosa, M.D., of UnityPoint Health. “It’s estimated viruses can live anywhere from one to seven days on non-porous surfaces.”
A 2014 study found more than 340 different bacteria on 30 different items in a single environment (ew), which means it’s time to move cleaning higher up on the weekend to-do list. Here are 7 places where bacteria loves to thrive, and what you can do to get rid of it for good.
Source: Dieter Vander Velpen
1. Handles, knobs, and switches
Think of all the times, in a single 24-hour period, you open doors, use appliances, and adjust lighting. Every single time you take one of those actions, and touch everything from a handle to a knob to a switch, you’re spreading grime, dust, and bacteria. Gross, right? Luckily, there’s an easy fix: Use a disinfectant wipe for small but obvious places throughout your home (like the toilet bowl flush handle, all light switches, stove knobs, microwave, and refrigerator handles and doorknobs). Tip: Be sure to apply a new cloth or cleaning wipe every time to minimize germs moving from one place to another.
How to get rid of germs: eco-friendly wipes, non-toxic disinfectant spray
2. Electronic and digital devices
You’re on your smartphone, tablet, and computers 24/7, which makes these devices yet another common place for dangerous bacteria build-up, like E. coli. On the same list? Remote controls, something everyone typically touches at home when it’s not buried in the couch or on the floor. To stay germ-free when using your devices, first simply wash your hands more. (I know, it seems so obvious, but we’ve all seen *that person* who leaves the bathroom without touching the soap and water.) Then, know how to clean each device properly. You can easily sanitize your phone with special wipes for electronics or by using a cloth-water-alcohol solution, while keyboards require more of a “clean and shake” method.
How to get rid of germs: microfiber cloth or non-corrosive electronics wipes
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3. Scarves, hats, and mittens
I live in the Midwest, which means scarves become a necessary accessory to every outfit from October to March. And one time, someone asked if I washed my scarves, to which I was like A) never . . . ?! and B) oh wow, I’m disgusting. From then on, I washed my scarves every week or so to balance out the number of times I sneeze, drop food, and cough on them. The same goes for hats, mittens, or any other piece of semi-exterior clothing you wear regularly.
How to get rid of germs: wash 3-5 times a season with gentle laundry detergent (and if you’ve got knit materials, be sure to hand wash!)
4. Pet bowls and toys
My three-year-old pug Stanley has a major thing for stuffed animals; he carries three of them around all day long while I’m at work. After watching him lick, sniff, and chew on a fluffy teddy bear, I realized recently that his toys, too, needed a good cleaning once in a while. If you own a pet, make sure to toss any of their fabric-based toys in the washing machine and wipe down rubber toys with sanitizer. Also, clean out pet bowls using hot water and soap at least once a week to avoid any bacteria growth; water dishes are susceptible due to standing water, and most pet bowls are on the floor, where dirt tends to quickly collect.
Source: Parachute Home
5. Makeup, gym, and reusable grocery bags
Let’s say you buy eco-friendly cosmetics, hit up the gym before work every morning, and tote your own reusable bags to the local farmers market. All good, but how often do you clean the bags themselves? If the answer is “not very often,” start adding this one to your usual routine. Reusable grocery bags are great for the environment, but also a place where food bacteria can breed, so be sure to either wipe down or toss these in the wash every other week. (Here are some quick tips on how to care for nylon, insulated, fabric, and recycled plastic bags.) You can apply a similar strategy to your makeup and gym bag(s), which also functions as a reminder to check any past-due expiration dates and remove stinky clothes from lingering.
How to get rid of germs: good old soap and water, or laundry detergent on a low cycle
6. Towels and toothbrushes
If you rely on a semi-annual dentist visit to replace your toothbrush, think again. The American Dental Association recommends replacing it every three or four months, or as soon as the bristles are frayed. This admittedly always seemed like overkill to me, until I thought about this fact: You put a toothbrush in your mouth several times a day, and then you rinse it and put it away wet, which is exactly where bacteria thrives. In other words, spend a couple extra bucks every quarter to buy a new one.
As for towels, you can certainly use them a few times before washing, but remember with each use, you’re shedding skin cells. Change hand or kitchen towels every one to two days, since they are high-use items and at higher risk for germs. Wash all towels weekly.
How to get rid of germs: for towels, wash in warm water then tumble dry on low heat, and avoid overloading your washer. for toothbrushes, rinse with warm water to remove food particles or just go buy a new one (do not microwave to sterilize!)
7. Almost your entire kitchen
Obviously food particles exist everywhere in your kitchen, which makes it the most common place for germs to spread, particularly yeast, mold, and salmonella. A couple key areas to regularly deep-clean: spice rack, salt and pepper shakers, cutting boards, coffee maker, and the sink area (tip: don’t just rinse your sink, actually wash it). Microwave dish rags and sponges on a daily basis to kill germs—for reference, a 2011 study said held more than 75 percent of salmonella, E. coli and fecal matter—and replace monthly.
Knowing where germs live is one thing, but getting rid of them is another. Dr. Rosa says the most effective way almost seems too simple: soap and water. And there’s no need for special antibacterial soap either.
“While killing some germs requires bleach-based products, most germs are easily eliminated with soap and water. Keeping your home clean is important, but hand hygiene is even more so. The most important thing people can do is to wash their hands, especially after using the restroom, before preparing meals, and before eating,” Dr. Rosa says.
How to get rid of germs: wash your hands, use DIY all-natural cleaning products