Your Sunday clean may have you vacuuming up dust, running a mop across the floors, tidying up clutter, and wiping down surfaces, but there are certain spots in the home that get neglected in the weekly clean time and time again — spots that actually harbour the most bacteria.
You’re thinking of the toilet, but, in fact, the loo doesn’t hold a candle to some other, more surprising germ-filled zones in the home that includes the kitchen and door handles, plus the personal items you use and put near your face every day like your smartphone (it’s bad, you guys. Please wipe your phone down).
And while not all bacteria are bad for you, the ones that are (staph, yeast, mould, E. coli, salmonella and fecal matter, for example), can typically be found dotted around your home on the unsuspecting items we come into contact with every day.
Drawing data from a collection of recent studies on germs in the home, we’re bringing to you the seven germiest places you’d be wise to hit with Dettol right now.
1. The kitchen sponge
Hate to break it to you, but your kitchen sponge — you know, the thing you use to clean your surfaces — is one of the germiest items in the place you prepare food.
A study from 2017 found a whopping 362 species of bacteria living on the average in-use kitchen sponge, 82 million bacteria on just one cubic inch. Further research from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) found 75% of household sponges had particles of salmonella and E. coli.
And unfortunately, microwaving or boiling the sponge won’t do much to stop the spread of germs, so the best thing to do is replace your sponge on a weekly basis.
2. Tea towel
In a similar way to the kitchen sponge, tea towels are a breeding ground for bacteria and mould and yeast. The same NSF study found 86% of families had yeast and mould on their dish rag, which can incite an allergic response in those susceptible.
Experts suggest washing your tea towels every two days and allowing them to dry out completely in between uses. A wet tea towel harbours far more bacteria than a dry one, and in the kitchen, it’s best to dedicate your towels to specific functions ie. drying the dishes or drying your hands.
3. Fridge compartments
They may appear clean, but if you’re not regularly wiping down the inside of your fridge, you’re more than likely exposing your fresh produce to contaminants like salmonella and E. coli. the NSF study found 36% of meat and vegetable compartments in the fridge tested positive for these two nasties.
The solution? Wipe down your fridge interior with disinfectant once a month.
4. Knobs and handles
How often do you actually wipe down your door handles? Probably not nearly as often as you take the rubbish out or vacuum the floor. But when you imagine just how many times your fingers make contact with the doors, knobs and handles in your home, you’ll certainly reach for the spray and wipe.
The NSF study found coliform present on the stove knobs and refrigerator handles in 14% of households, as well as yeast and mould.
5. Buttons and keys
Wiping down your electronic devices isn’t always recommended by manufacturers for the abrasive damage it can do their hardware, but gentle cleaning solutions like electronic wipes are necessary when you look at the germ data from the NSF on items like your phone, keyboard and remote control, which says up to 68% of households have mould and yeast on these surfaces.
Your phone alone is said to have up to 10 times more bacteria than most toilet seats, according to research from the University of Arizona.
6. Bathroom towels
If you’re not closing the toilet lid completely when you press flush, you’re shooting fecal matter out into your bathroom where they’ll eventually land on surfaces like your towels, toothbrush, and makeup brushes if they’re left out in the open.
Of course, these germs will land themselves on your face and in your mouth the second you use your towel to dry your face, use your toothbrush or apply your makeup. The easy solution? Shut. The. Lid. Oh, and maybe get yourself a new toothbrush.
7. Dog toys
The NSF study found pet accessories to harbour some of the most bacteria in the households tested. Pet bowls were found to be a breeding ground of staph bacteria in 14% of household, while pet toys were perhaps the ickiest of all with staph, yeast and mould.
Yeasts and moulds landed on 55% of pet toys, and 14% had coliform bacteria. Best to wash these regularly if you allow your pups to lick your face.