Regardless of how diligent your cleaning routine is, there are probably at least several items in your house that may be in need of some elbow grease. While we can’t entirely eradicate germs from our homes, it is important to clean these often-overlooked items to ensure the health of our households.
Reusable Grocery Bags
Reusable grocery bags are certainly good for the environment, but they could compromise your health. According to a recent study, 97 percent of consumers never wash their bags. About 50 percent of the bags tested contained coliform (fecal) bacteria, and 12 percent contained E. coli.
Washing them after each use is the key to stopping contamination from vegetables or raw meat. Cloth bags can go directly into the washer and dryer, and recycled plastic bags can be wiped down with hot soapy water or treated with a disinfectant spray. Researchers also advise using each bag for only a single purpose—carrying raw meat, carrying vegetables, transporting laundry, or as a miscellaneous shopping tote.
Your shower is a place you go to get clean, not to pick up germs, but… a study at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that 30 percent of showerheads tested positive germs that can cause lung infections, in addition to other bacteria and fungi.
Since some microbes may be resistant to chlorine, the best way to clean a showerhead is to soak it in a diluted vinegar solution and then scrub the deposits away with an old toothbrush. Plastic showerheads are more prone to bacterial buildup than metal ones, so people with compromised immune systems are advised to consider switching if necessary.
Did you know that your computer keyboard could harbor five times as many bacteria than the average toilet seat? Bacteria that include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E. coli, and staph.
First, eliminate dirt and crumbs using a vacuum cleaner or compressed-air canister, and then use a solution of diluted dishwashing detergent or isopropyl alcohol to swab down the keys with cotton balls or cotton swabs. (Make sure you disconnect the keyboard first.) Repeat these steps with the mouse and any remotes in your home. (Remember to remove any batteries first.)
In addition to lending warmth to your rooms, drapes and curtains are a magnet for dust mites, pet hair, mold, dander, and debris of all kinds. If someone in your house suffers from indoor allergies, cleaning the curtains regularly can help reduce allergen buildup. Simple panel curtains can usually be washed and dried at home and then steamed to release wrinkles. There are certain types of draperies you should take to a dry cleaner or other cleaning professional, including lace curtains, designs with embroidery or appliqué, those with pleats or complicated fabric construction, and draperies that are too big to fit into your washing machine.
In between washings, vacuum curtains with a hose and brush attachment at least once a month to prevent debris from building up.
Given that the kitchen is usually the dirtiest room in the house (yes, even dirtier than the bathroom) it’s no surprise that trash cans can become laden with germs. The can itself comes into contact with all manner of germ-infested items – dirt, dust, old food, raw meat, decomposing vegetables, moldy leftovers, cat litter, etc.
Clean the trash cans at least twice a month to prevent the spread of germs like E. coli, salmonella, trichinosis, and simple cold and flu bugs. Small pails can go into the dishwasher; wash large cans with hot water and a mild bleach solution or with a product designed for pet messes, which contain enzymes to break down bacteria.
While not a pleasant fact, studies consistently show that over 90 percent of shoes carry traces of fecal bacteria on the soles. After washing, you may consider leaving shoes at the door.
Vacuum mats with fabric tops before washing to remove dust and loose dirt; you can wash rubber-backed mats in the washing machine. The easiest way to clean any doormat is to spray it down with a garden hose or use the pressure washer at a car wash, using a small amount of soap or detergent. Allow the mat to air-dry completely before putting it back into service.
This one is often overlooked by even diligent cleaners. Toothbrush holders can quickly get moldy and gross, especially since it’s drenched in a warm water a few times a day. Depending on what it’s made of, you can either throw it in the dishwasher for a good cleaning or clean it with a microfiber cloth and solution.
Pillows and Duvets
You probably clean your pillow cases and sheets, but what about the pillows themselves? Though home to dust mites, dead skin cells, and more, most pillows can be machine-washed and –dried – just make sure to check the label first! S
Set the washer on the gentle cycle and wash the pillows in hot water with a mild detergent. You can throw two regular-sized pillows in together to keep the load balanced, but you should really only wash one king-sized pillow at a time. Put them through the rinse cycle twice to get the soap out, and place them in the dryer with two clean tennis balls on low heat.
Wipe down the blades regularly with a duster or a damp microfiber cloth to prevent dust from swirling around in the air.
Bathroom Exhaust Fan – If you have one of these in your bathroom, you might not realize how dusty and dirty it gets over time. Remove the vent and wash it with warm soapy water regularly to keep it squeaky clean.
A/C and Heating Vents – Just like your bathroom exhaust fan, it’s a great idea to clean these vents frequently. In addition to creating a cleaner home environment, you’ll also help improve the efficiency to your system!
Are there any other overlooked harbors for germs that you would like to add?