When you think about germ-ridden spots in your home, places like the bathroom or the kitchen might come to mind. Yet one major dirt-collecting culprit is actually lurking in your TV room.
That's right—your remote control is probably a major germ hub. Your channel changer most likely comes into contact with several different hands in one day. The remote falls on the floor, bounces around the couch, and collects dust behind your TV. Add to that the fact that, if you eat in front of the TV, you're touching the remote with your dirty, sticky hands. Upping the ick factor even more, consider that your remote has probably been sneezed on, touched with semi-clean hands, stepped on...you get the picture.
Related: Your home is covered in germs
18 things in your home that are covered with germs
18 things in your home that are covered with germs
Sink: It’s where all your kitchen dirt goes (we hope). In fact, it’s home to as many as 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Spray it down often, clean out your food trap, and scrub with scouring powder like Bon Ami at least once a week.
Cutting boards: Whether you’re chopping meat, veggies or fruit, your cutting board could be Ground Zero for foodborne illness. Prevent cross-contamination by dedicating one board to meats and another to produce. And always wash your board ASAP after using it—especially if you were working with raw meat. Researchers at UC Davis also recommend plastic cutting boards over wood, because they’re easiest to sanitize—they can go in the dishwasher. Clean a wooden cutting board with soap and warm water, dry it quickly, and seal it with butcher-block oil whenever you notice the wood is drying out.
Countertops: All the action—chopping, mixing, drink-pouring—happens here, so of course they’re covered with little particles of everything. First off, cut the clutter to give crumbs and germs fewer places to hide. Then wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth after every meal.
Fridge shelves and drawers: Your refrigerator is home to both raw and cooked foods, and if it’s disorganized, they probably come in contact now and then. Store raw meat in a plastic bag to serve as an extra barrier, and stop spoiled food from turning into science experiments by throwing it away as soon as you notice it. Another cool trick we use at our house: Empty and wipe down the shelves and drawers whenever you do a big grocery shop.
Sponges: They’ve been banned from commercial kitchens—ban them from yours, too. But if you must use a sponge, rinse it with hot water after every swipe. At the end of every day, get it wet and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. Toss it after a few weeks (one week if you’re missing the daily sanitizing routine).
Dish towels: If you rush through washing your hands, some germs may still be hanging out on them and you’ll transfer those germs to the dish towel. Change dish towels a few times a week, and wash them with hot water when you do the laundry.
Makeup brushes: They touch your face every day, coming in contact with oils, bacteria and dead skin cells. Wash them with mild soap whenever you notice makeup buildup.
Towels: Like dish towels, they pick up any germs left after a shower. Plus, if your bathroom has poor air circulation, towels may get musty if they stay damp too long. Wash them in hot water at least once a week.
Tub: The equivalent of the kitchen sink for your bod, the tub takes in a lot of grime. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth every day and get rid of mold spots with baking soda or vinegar. (Find dozens more ways to clean with baking soda here.)
Floor around the toilet: It gets splashed, plain and simple. For starters, make sure to put the lid down every time you flush. Clean up noticeable spots right away and scrub with bathroom cleaner at least once a week.
Faucet handles: You touch these before your hands are clean. ‘Nuff said. Wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth.
Toothbrush holder: It’s all about gravity: Many of the germs on your toothbrush drip into the holder. Rinse it out daily—do double-duty while you’re brushing your teeth with the other hand. Then sanitize your toothbrush holder in the dishwasher (if it can take it) or give it a good scrub with soap and water.
Electronics: Smartphones, keyboards, mice, the remote control (OK, let’s be real: 17 remote controls)—germy fingers come in contact with them all the time. In fact, the National Institutes of Health recently found that cellphones are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats. Wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth as often as possible. Don’t forget to remove any cases so you can clean underneath.
Doorknobs, handles and light switches: Even if your hand only touches these items for a fraction of a second, that’s enough time to transfer bacteria. Once again, a quick wipe-down with a damp microfiber cloth will do.
Shoe rack: Footwear is a huge culprit for bringing germs into your home, so it’s no surprise that their storage unit is a bacterial breeding ground. Put some elbow grease into cleaning this one and wipe it with bathroom cleaner—you never know what somebody stepped in.
Carpets and rugs: Even if you’re using the no-shoes rule, carpets suck up every crumb, dead skin cell and germ that hits them. Vacuum weekly and spritz high-traffic areas with a carpet sanitizer. If you can toss rugs into the laundry, do it.
Bags: Your purse holds money (super dirty!) and your kid’s lunch bag holds food (raise your hand if you ever forget to clean it out over the weekend). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning these to keep them in the best shape.
Toys: No matter whose toys they are—your kid’s or the dog’s—they probably spend a lot of time in somebody’s mouth. Consider what they’re made of, then clean accordingly, tossing them in the laundry, dishwasher, or wiping with a cloth.
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Another contributing factor is the fact that this gadget gets dirty—and it doesn't often get clean. Think about it: When's the last time you cleaned your TV remote, if ever? If you did, you probably noticed that getting it truly clean was no small feat. Remotes are full of little nooks and crannies around the buttons, making cleaning them a challenge.
Combine all these dirty truths, and a single push of a button could be all it takes to catch a cold from a germy remote, according to the University of Virginia. And that's just in your home. When you travel, you'll want to be even more wary about touching the remote, because TV remotes are one of the dirtiest items in hotel rooms, by far. You know nothing about the cleanliness habits of the previous hotel guests, and probably don't want to find out the hard way by getting sick.
It might seem that something with the word "washer" in its name would be as clean as a whistle. Nope. The dishwasher is one of the dirtiest spots in the kitchen. Food particles that remain on the dishes after loading create a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can make you sick. Reviewed.com recommends multiple methods for keeping your dishwasher safe from troublesome germs, including one technique that involves a jar of Tang drink mix.
Door handles, light switch plates, and knobs
It's hard to go anywhere without touching a door handle, switch plate, or knob. Then think of the hordes who have been there before you. Light switch plates are especially troublesome because of all the nooks and crannies. Do everyone in the household a favor by routinely using a safe disinfectant on these surfaces. If out in public, consider using the paper towel you dried your hands with in the restroom to open the door before throwing it away -- or carry wipes.
Spring is a good time to go through your pantry and refrigerator in search of foodstuffs that were shoved to the back an untold number of months ago. Check for shelf-life dates to determine what is still safe and what is not. Although many dry and canned products (rice, pasta, spices, tomato sauce, beans, and the like) and refrigerated standbys (salad dressings and condiments) have lengthy shelf lives, this can lead to a false sense of security. If you can't read an expiration date or just aren't sure, abide by the old maxim: "When in doubt, throw it out." Eating expired food can put you at risk for gastrointestinal distress and other uncomfortable illnesses.
Towels and sheets
We get up close and personal with sheets and towels at least once a day, allowing them to pick up germs, allergens, dirt, and other bits of nasty. Hygiene experts recommend changing sheets and towels every seven to10 days. Getting into a routine, maybe picking one day of the week as "sheets and towels" day, can help reduce the spread of germs and the likelihood of anyone at home getting sick. If you are sick, make sure your towel is yours only for the week and wash it as soon as you feel better.
Bed pillows and mattresses
Pillows and mattresses accumulate dust, dead skin, sweat, drool, and germs. Replacing pillow cases and sheets takes care of only part of the problem. The accumulation of these particles in the place where you rest your head every night can cause repeated allergy flare ups, which can lead to prolonged medication and doctors' visits. Most bed pillows can be cleaned fairly easily. A Bowl Full of Lemons provides a tutorial for keeping pillows fresh and germ-free. Prevention also recommends replacing pillows every year and a mattress every nine to10 years (more often if you aren't sleeping well).
We're all guilty of taking the cell phone into the kitchen, the bathroom, the grocery store, and sometimes even (gasp) the public restroom. In the many miles this mobile device traverses daily, it picks up more than the 25,000 germs cavorting on a toilet seat, according to Clean Link. And after you've been sick, do you clean the phone?Geeksugar offers tips for thoroughly cleaning all your portable devices.
Purses and wallets
Much like cell phones, purses and wallets travel with us everywhere. According to Huffington Post, the bottoms of women's purses pick up bacteria that can cause a variety of illnesses, from colds to diarrhea. Regularly replacing these items is one way to limit the germs' impact. Dr. Oz suggests wiping down the contents of your purse with antibacterial wipes and not bringing it farther than the front door to avoid the risks of exposing other areas of your home (especially the kitchen).
Because bacteria thrive in damp places, your morning cup o'Joe may be at risk for contamination. Keeping the coffee maker clean means more than running water over the components; scrubbing with soap and water is necessary to remove harmful germs. Fox News says a weekly breakdown and cleaning is optimal, with a monthly run-through using a vinegar solution for further protection.
For something that is used in your mouth at least twice a day, a toothbrush is not all that clean. WebMD cites research from the University of Arizona Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science that found that drops of bacteria can float around the bathroom for up to two hours after the toilet is flushed. To prevent germs from settling on your toothbrush, flush the toilet with the lid down, keep toothbrushes as far away from the toilet as possible, and replace them often. Replacing a toothbrush following an illness is an easy way to avoid renewed exposure to the germs.
Keyboard and mouse
Those of us with desk jobs are constantly going from car to computer, bathroom to computer, lunch to computer, and so on. By the time your hands hit the keyboard and grab the mouse again, you've likely accumulated quite a few germs. Never mind all the crumbs dropped in between the keys after scarfing down lunch or a snack. Hand washing is the No. 1 protection against transferring bacteria to and from computer components. Also make sure to clean the keyboard and mouse frequently.